OSU recruiting in Wayne's World

College football kicks off this weekend. And so does Ohio high school football. So what does Mr. Bucknuts choose to talk about with such a propitious week looming on the horizon? That's right – the tie that binds college and high school football together: recruiting!

Actually, from the way it is evolving, recruiting has become somewhat of a third sport all unto itself. And from the results that are shown in occasional years, I am no longer sure that there is a pure correlation between so-called high school talent and the so-called talent we see in college. With a life of its own and a world of its own, recruiting has become like unions were in the 70's (no, I am not talking "amateurish"…). Unions didn't reflect management and didn't reflect the workers, they just reflected their own bureaucracy and own agenda and…

But I digress.

With recruiting, we see the harvest but we rarely take a look at the planting of the seeds or the nourishing of the roots. We see the Chris Simms and Manning families, the can't-miss prospects who wend their way to stardom under the magnifying glass. But it's only in retrospect that we might ask, hey - how come we got Moherman and Priestly from California but we missed Ragone and Roethlisberger from right here in Ohio?

Or even more graphically – how does a Matt Zahn (the classic "can't-make" kid) get recruited out of St. Henry? Is it payback for something else? Or pay ahead? This is the same St. Henry that produced one Jim Lachey and two Hoyings and Hartings and the newly-recruited Todd Boeckman. Surely, recruiting is a relationship sport, and the wooing of athletic director/coach/father Tim Boeckman is part of the overall gestalt.

Check out St. Ignatius, a treasure trove of college bound talent. For years, it seemed as if this nine-time state champ had more kids leaning to Notre Dame and Michigan than it did to OSU. This year's Buckeye commit, Tony Gonzalez even told us that there wasn't any pressure to go to Ohio State because most of his friends were Michigan fans? Michigan? In Cleveland? What went screwy in Cleveland over the years?

Well, last year we could have taken Nate Szep or John Kerr from St. Iggy. Some pundits said we should have taken both. But, instead, we have this year's Gonzalez. Will that get us next year's budding superstar, DE Michael Massey? Wait – isn't that the brother of Pat Massey, who spurned OSU two years ago to become a hated Wolverine? Well, yes it is…

Which brings us back – despite the circuitous path – to Wayne's World. No, not the comedy of Mike Myers and David Spade, although some recruiting strategy could provide outstanding comedic fodder (think Richard Washington and Buster Davis, most recently…).

No, this is the world of Wayne High School, a Division I powerhouse in Huber Heights, a brick home suburb of Dayton.

A couple years ago, Wayne almost "shocked the world" by winning the state heavyweight football championship (they were runners-up). That was (and still is) under the newly arrived tutelage of Coach Jay Minton. Is there an OSU connection with Coach Minton? You betcha. This is the same Coach Minton who came from Boca Raton, Florida and coached the Bellisari brothers. Boca Raton to Huber Heights is an interesting migration pattern. Coach Minton got a big assist in the search process from Coach Pagac of OSU, giving Minton a big-time recommendation.

Listen – Pagac and OSU did Wayne High School a huge favor. Jay Minton is a class act and an outstanding coach. He is a prototype of the "great high school coach" to whom you want your kids exposed. The process here paid big dividends all around.

And it should – in theory - pay dividends for OSU recruiting, as well. Coach Minton had a good relationship with ex-coach John Cooper and a great relationship with Jim Tressel (which Ohio high school football coach doesn't have a great relationship with Tressel?).

So when John Hollins, a terrific "hands receiver" wanted to go to OSU from Wayne, he got a special look. And when John ran a 4.5 forty at OSU camp, he got an offer. Previously, Will Allen came from Wayne to OSU as well. So you would think the pipeline was open and flowing.

Then came the curious case of Ashton Watson. You know how the press asserts that "Coach Tressel has gotten everyone he wanted from Ohio"? Well, he didn't get Ashton Watson. Despite the usual politicking and counsel from coaches and talks with Will Allen and John Hollins, Ashton surprised the cognoscenti and committed to Michigan State.

What happened? We can only speculate. But here is a scenario: John Hollins is probably seventh on the receiver depth chart behind Vance, Jenkins, Carter, Gamble, Childress and Chattams. Plus, the incoming receiver duo of Holmes and Hall look awful good. And then there is Zwick's Massillon target Devin Jordan who has already committed for the following year…And how about Will Allen? This kid is a special talent and will see lots of action in nickel and dime packages but he isn't going to start over Mike Doss or Donnie Nickey. So he gets a shot next year as a senior (if he can stay ahead of Brandon Mitchell, Nate Salley, Prescott Burgess….).

Maybe the Master Strategy didn't fire on all cylinders, this time. Perhaps that pipeline got a little clogged. Let's face it: schools do still offer marginal kids scholarship opportunities to keep up good relationships with each other. You certainly see less of that going on since schollies got reduced to just 85 a few years back.

And where is all this headed? It trickles down to a kid who has bona fide superstar potential: Marcus Freeman. Just how good is Marcus Freeman? To quote the prophet, Duane Long, in the most recent issue of Ohio's Future Stars: "Tom Cousineau, Chris Spielman, Andy Katzenmoyer, Mike D'Andrea, Marcus Freeman…this is the next one in that line of great Ohio linebackers". Our scout from Bucknuts says that Freeman is now 6'2" and weighs 235 and bench pressed 460 (that is not a typo). He will be just a junior this year and is rated the second best player in his class in the state of Ohio behind wunderkind Ursuline running back Delbert Ferguson.

Now here's the kicker: when Marcus was asked who his college leader might be, he said…"Michigan". What! This isn't Cleveland! We've done our homework here and paid the price and…

Yet, in Wayne's World, it doesn't always come out the way it looks on the basement tapes. There is plenty of time to turn this kid's head (and lots of folks working on it, unfortunately!) but you just can't fill out a formula and make it all fit.

Summary points…Recruiting has always been tough and not a "sport" for the overly sensitive. For OSU, it is getting tougher. Walt Harris is all over Ohio from his perch at Pitt. Willingham is a huge competitive step up from Bob Davies. Michigan has a coast-to-coast operation and Ohio is magnified in its gun sites. Michigan State has been making in-roads. And now even the Florida schools are spending more time with Ohio kids.

You have to be triply thankful for Coach Jim Tressel in these trying times. He has an unusually glorious relationship with Ohio high school coaches, earned over the years by working it hard. I shudder to think where we would be headed without this new relationship building. And without the divine guidance of Bill Conley, who built many of those relationships to begin with.

Yet, there are those Wayne's Worlds out there that could resist the most careful planning and artful long-time strategy. Follow along with the bouncing ball the recruiting story of Marcus Freeman!

Now party on, Garth…

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