"We press on…"
Those three words were Jim Tressel's description of the immediate plans for his football program.
In meeting with the press Wednesday afternoon, the Ohio State head coach was at once enthusiastic about the class of 19 he managed to sign to national letters of intent in the previous few hours and at the same time realistic about what the class could be should one more player he could not refer to specifically were to decide to join up at some point in the future.
That player would be Terrelle Pryor, the five-star quarterback from Jeannette, Pa., whose name Tressel – and likely Buckeye fans across the nation – hoped to have on a letter of intent by the time the coach went to the microphone for his annual signing day press conference.
As it turned out, with Pryor putting off his decision, Tressel could not even speak signal caller's name, but that did not keep the subject of quarterback recruiting from coming up in general terms.
In a perfect world, a reporter asked, would Tressel like to have a quarterback – any quarterback – in the class of 2008? After all, only two scholarship quarterbacks remain on the roster after the transfer of Robby Schoenhoft to Delaware in January, and one of the holdovers – starter Todd Boeckman – will be a senior this fall.
"I think we had planned on having a quarterback in this class and so, yeah, in a perfect - let's make a perfect world, let's get a quarterback in this class, and our plans would be further along," Tressel said in response.
As it is, he still saw a class that was noticeably diverse with three offensive linemen, a tight end, three defensive backs, a fullback, two full-time receivers, another receiver who could also play running back, five defensive linemen, two linebackers and even a prospect who can both punt and kick placements.
"We wanted to get, like we do every year, a little bit of everything so we've got a good offensive front and it all starts with those guys up front," he said, referring to offensive linemen Michael Brewster of Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater, J.B. Shugarts of Klein, Texas, and Mike Adams of Dublin (Ohio) Coffman. "And they're not only going to be the kind of guys that will do a great job in the offensive trenches, but they happen to be the ones that kind of spearheaded the momentum of this recruiting class.
The coach credited Brewster, Shugarts and Cincinnati La Salle wide receiver DeVier Posey for, after making early verbal commitments, helping to sway other top prospects to join them.
"They really created good relationships and did a good job because of their passion for becoming Buckeyes," Tressel said.
While Posey had his signing day ceremony in his hometown, Shugarts and Brewster made their first official appearances as Ohio State football players after enrolling in classes at the start of winter quarter.
They also got a surprise from their new coach when he volunteered them to speak at lectern.
"Since the guy was kind of like the unofficial captain of this recruiting class, Michael Brewster, I'm going to have Michael come up and just give you opening comments as to what he sees," Tressel said.
For his part, Brewster, decked out in a scarlet jersey bearing the number 50, handled the impromptu speaking assignment with aplomb.
"I think this is a real good class, pretty diverse," Brewster said. "We've got a lot of needs. After next year we'll graduate quite a few offensive linemen, so we've got three real good ones coming next year. D-line, we've got five, which is real good. We've got some inside guys, speed rushers."
He then went into prognosticator-mode by labeling Miami (Fla.) Dr. Krop cornerback Travis Howard "the steal of the class."
"No one really knew about him, but after seeing his film, he's definitely a special player, good guy," he said.
Brewster also showed that he is no stranger to the recruiting class ranking game and was not afraid to share an opinion on that topic.
"Everyone talks about, you know, these classes with 27, 28 guys being the No. 1 classes, but I think if you go player for player, talent, you know, person, character, that this class is probably a special one, one of the top ones that has came through here in a while," he said.
"I know there has been some great classes, but I'm real excited about next year and about getting the guys up here this summer, the guys coming in March. So we're going to have a lot of hard work, but it will all pay off."
Brewster then gave way to his roommate, Shugarts, who wasted little time in showing that he could be a candidate to replace departing senior Kirk Barton not only at right tackle but also as someone whose comments will keep his head coach on his toes.
"We have a great class coming in. – not only great players, but these are great people," he said. "Just the fact that we already know each other and we're already coming together as a family, that's what sets us over the top with all these other schools like USC and Florida, so I think it's going to be really special and you can get prepared for a lot of national championships."
That last statement prompted a quick comment from Tressel.
"Easy, J.B.," the coach said.
As for Brewster's comments, those coming in March are Adams and high school teammate wide receiver Jake Stoneburner, Howard along with his high school teammate linebacker Etienne Sabino and Washington (Pa.) Trinity linebacker Andrew Sweat.
All are part of a class that Scout.com ranked, as of Wednesday night, the seventh best in the country and No. 1 in the Big Ten. Tressel's newest haul, with Pryor still out there, edged Michigan, which came in eighth (The Wolverines also remain in pursuit of Pryor).
Filling out the class along with those already mentioned are Ohioans Ben Buchanan, a kicker from Westerville Central, Madison tight end Nic DiLillo, Beavercreek safety Zach Domicone, Washington Court House Miami Trace defensive end Nathan Williams and Cleveland Glenville teammates fullback Jermil Martin and defensive lineman Shawntel Rowell. From out of state come Villa Park (Ill.) Montini Catholic defensive lineman Garrett Goebel, Gulfport (Fla.) Boca Ciega defensive back Orhian Johnson, Eden Prairie, Minn., defensive lineman Willie Mobley, Ft. Washington (Md.) Friendly wide receiver/running back Lamaar Thomas and Gainesville, Ga., defensive end Keith Wells.
Along with the additions made that day, Tressel confirmed three subtractions from his program that have taken place since the Buckeyes lost the BCS National Championship Game to LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 7.
"We've had a couple guys that are planning to graduate that we've talked about: Alex Barrow, Albert Dukes, and Devon Lyons are all planning to graduate," he said, implying that their time as Buckeyes would be complete.