From The Pages: Early Verbals In History

With Ohio State's class of 2009 already sitting at 23 verbal commitments as the calendar flips to July, we got to wondering just how unprecedented it was to have so many so early. An exhaustive look through the BSB archives shows just how out of the ordinary this year is by comparing it to past seasons. Take a trip down memory lane with this premium link.

Most people who have followed Ohio State recruiting for some time know that having a class of 23 verbal commitments before the calendar even flips to July is unheard of.

But just how does Ohio State's haul so far compare to past years at this time? The pages of BSB shed some light on the situation.

Looking back through the last 13 years of Buckeye football recruiting under Jim Tressel and John Cooper, Ohio State has had a total of 73 commitments as of the July issue of the paper, which traditionally has been printed right around the opening few days of the month (for example, this year's was printed Tuesday). That's an average of 5.6 commitments per year at this time, or about one-fourth as many as the Buckeyes have now.

In fact, the most verbals Ohio State has had in that span as of the beginning of July is 11, which was achieved with the class of 1999 in July 1998. The second-most belonged to the megaclass of 2002, which already had 10 members as of July 2001.

In other words, the current group of recruits Ohio State has put together is historic by a wide margin.

The month of June was a crazy one for the Scarlet and Gray. No June in the past 13 years included as many commitments as this past month in 2008 in which the Buckeyes pulled in eight new players. However, the run of six commitments in a week has been matched before.

Below is a year-by-year look since 1995 of the recruiting process of the Ohio State football team as of the July issue of BSB, which now serves almost as a quaint reminder of how things used to be as the recruiting world continues to move at warp speed.

2007 (Class of 2008) – nine verbals
Though the Buckeyes were sitting pretty with nine verbal commitments, the third-most in the past 13 years, much of the attention was focused on one player who had not made up his mind – and was in no hurry to do so.

That player, of course, was Terrelle Pryor, whose quixotic path to a college decision ended finally in March when he signed with Ohio State. But in June 2007, the five-star quarterback was at Ohio State for a June camp at which he met with Tressel and men's basketball coach Thad Matta.

"I feel like Ohio State's probably where he will end up," Mike Adams said of Pryor at the time. "Time will tell."

Adams was one of three highly ranked offensive linemen who had committed to the Buckeyes, joining Michael Brewster and J.B. Shugarts, who had pledged just after the spring game. All were in town for the Buckeye camp.

Other commitments included kicker/punter Ben Buchanan, wideout DeVier Posey, tight end Jacob Stoneburner, linebacker Andrew Sweat, running back DeVoe Torrence and hybrid end/linebacker Nathan Williams.

BSB included profiles of additional defensive players on the recruiting radar at the time, including Quinton Coples, Garrett Goebel, Willie Mobley, Keith Wells, Brendan Beal, Steven Filer, Etienne Sabino, Shayne Hale, Brandon Harris and Dan McCarthy.

2006 (Class of 2007) – three verbals
Ten days before Ohio State's second advanced camp of June, defensive back Donnie Evege became OSU's third commitment of the class of 2007.

Other than that, almost all was quiet on the proverbial western front. After defensive back Nate Oliver's commitment right after the previous signing day in February, the only other person to pledge his services to the Buckeyes in the meantime was big-name tailback Brandon Saine.

However, a number of names were on the radar, four of whom had earned offers based on their performance at Ohio State's late-June camp: running back Boom Herron, wideout Dane Sanzenbacher of Toledo Central Catholic, defensive end Solomon Thomas of West Chester Lakota West and athlete Devon Torrence of Canton South.

2005 (Class of 2006) – five verbals
Though the cover of BSB trumpeted the verbal commitments of future Buckeye hoops stars Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. of Indianapolis Lawrence North, the football team was humming along with five commitments of their own, two of whom had committed after Ohio State's June 25 camp.

The more local of those players was Clayton Northmont defensive back Kurt Coleman, who assembled members of the Buckeye coaching staff and his parents in order to deliver his commitment.

"I went in there and I told everyone I wanted to be a Buckeye," Coleman told BSB at the time.

The other verbal came from Georgia quarterback Antonio Henton, who committed during the camp and reaffirmed it once returning home to see his parents.

The pair joined three Ohioans in tight end Jake Ballard, linebacker Ross Homan and running back Chris Wells.

The Buckeyes were interested in offensive linemen from either end of the state in Connor Smith of Cincinnati Colerain – who told BSB he didn't have a leader at the time – and Bryant Browning of Cleveland Glenville, who had just completed the Ted Ginn Sr. bus tour.

2004 (Class of 2003) – six verbals
New recruiting coordinator John Peterson completed his first year of running Ohio State's camps with six verbals commitments, one of which was a direct result of a June 26 senior advanced camp.

The player who issued that commitment was wideout Brian Hartline, who parlayed a standout performance at the camp into a scholarship offer a night later and a verbal commitment the day after that.

"I'm going to miss some of (the recruiting process) because it's always fun being pampered through the whole process, but I was getting torn so many different directions that I just want to concentrate on my season," the glib Canton GlenOak star said.

Safety Jamario O'Neal was the only other of the six verbal commitments who was not a linemen. On the offensive side of the ball the Buckeyes had pledges from Alex Boone and Jim Cordle, while Todd Denlinger and Ryan Williams had committed on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive end Lawrence Wilson of Akron received an offer at the camp as well.

2003 (Class of 2004) – seven verbals
The latest to join the party was Lakota West lineman Steve Rehring, who was among 3,800 campers to spend part of their summer at Ohio State just months after the Buckeyes won the national championship.

Rehring's offer was issued while he was in attendance at an OSU camp, prompting the massive lineman to get chills.

"I just thought to myself right then, ‘If they offer me a scholarship, this is where I want to be,'" he said.

Columbus tailback Erik Haw told BSB he was on the precipice of becoming a Buckeye after the staff extended an offer thanks to his 40-yard dash time of 4.21 at the camp.

One of the most impressive signal callers at OSU's camp was Brian Hoyer of Cleveland St. Ignatius, while defensive lineman Alex Barrow and linebacker Brandon Smith worked out.

2002 (Class of 2003) – two verbals
Things were fairly quiet, but one player pierced the silence when he accepted an offer following Ohio State's June 27 camp: defensive back Curt Lukens of North Canton Hoover.

"I really thought there was a pretty good chance this would happen," Lukens said.

Lukens joined defensive back Tony Gonzalez as verbal commits. Lukens, quarterback Brady Quinn, defensive lineman Brandon Maupin and defensive back Ashton Youboty were four players to receive offers following the camp period. Quinn wasn't the only quarterback at the camp; Todd Boeckman also was in town, and the St. Henry native hoped to make a quick decision.

2001 (Class of 2002) – 10 verbals
The cover of BSB proclaimed "It's Raining Verbals!" after six players committed around the time of the annual event, a phenomenon that would repeat itself seven years later.

Those six players were offensive linemen Rob Sims, Doug Datish and T.J. Downing, linebacker A.J. Hawk, defensive end Jay Richardson and cornerback E.J. Underwood. BSB compared the occurrence to the years under Cooper, who was known for accepting early commitments during the spring and summer months.

The sextet joined running back Maurice Clarett, quarterback Justin Zwick, tight end R.J. Coleman and defensive end Joel Penton in what was shaping up to be a blockbuster class.

Other key prospects at the camps, being run by Tressel's staff for the first time, were defensive linemen Mike Kudla and Tim Schafer, wideouts Reggie Corner and Andre Chattams, offensive lineman Nick Mangold and quarterback/defensive back Troy Smith, who was one of 10 prospects listed simply as "Others of Note."

2000 (Class of 2001) – five verbals
The class jumped from three to five during camp season when tight end Andree Tyree and offensive lineman Ryan Cook committed to Cooper during the final camp the now Hall of Fame coach would oversee.

Despite growing up in London, Ohio, Tyree said that he had been a lifelong Notre Dame fan but committed nonetheless, while Indiana native Cook picked the Buckeyes after visiting Michigan's camp but leaving without an offer.

The class included six verbals if Columbus Brookhaven wideout Rodney Carter was counted, but BSB seemed to think that was not the case. Carter was facing academic issues and his offer was contingent upon him qualifying academically.

He did not sign when February came around.

Other notables that attended camp included local products in running back Mo Hall and defensive end Simon Fraser as well as linebacker Trent Cole. The underclassmen at the camp included Zwick and Bobby Carpenter.

1999 (Class of 2000) – eight verbals
Ohio State's class doubled in June from four to eight thanks to a quartet of commitments, the last three of which came at camp.

First up, however was linebacker Jamal Muhammad, a Georgia native who had never visited Ohio State but felt sure that Columbus was the place for him.

"I thought Ohio State was a really good program and I thought I could not go wrong with them, so I decided to go with them," he said.

Camp yielded three more verbals in the form of wide receiver John Hollins, running back Terry Pogue and linebacker Darrion Scott.

Already in the stable were defensive back B.J. Barre, offensive lineman Larry Kinnard, offensive lineman Alex Stepanovich and defensive lineman Alphonso Townsend.

Pennsylvania quarterback Jeff Smoker was at camp and included Ohio State in his top five.

1998 (Class of 1999) – 11 verbals
Ohio State's football recruiting rose dramatically, just like the Schottenstein Center, which adorned BSB's cover as it neared completion.

As fall camp moved ever closer, Cooper told reporters he was tired of being on the golf course, but he didn't seem to be tiring of racking up commitments. Just as BSB went to press, he added No. 11 as kicker/punter B.J. Sander from Cincinnati pledged his services to the Scarlet and Gray after leaving an Ohio State camp with a new offer.

"I talked it over with my family and called them up the next day and accepted," Sander said.

The previous 10 commitments were quarterback Craig Krenzel; running back Kelton Lindsay; wideout Maurice Lee; offensive lineman Matt Zahn; defensive lineman Tim Anderson; linebackers Pat O'Neill, Fred Pagac Jr. and Matt Wilhelm; and defensive backs Curtis Crosby and Mike Doss.

Krenzel, Doss and Crosby were in the SuperPrep top 101 at the time.

1997 (Class of 1998) – one verbal
The only prep star as of July 1997 to proclaim that he wanted to be a Buckeye was defensive lineman Kenny Peterson.

That doesn't mean that a few players weren't close to declaring their intentions to don scarlet and gray. In fact, one of them – defensive back Nate Clements – had while at Ohio State camp that month, but a return home and a discussion with his father led him to withdraw that commitment so that he could think it over some more.

"He committed without talking it over with his parents," the elder Clements, also named Nate, said. "This is a very important decision and we need a chance to talk it out."

The other player close to a decision was running back Tony Fisher, who had reportedly committed while at camp but told BSB that while he was very interested in coming to Ohio State, he had not issued a verbal.

Standout quarterback/defensive back Steve Bellisari was at camp, while Ohio State also had a June visit from running back Justin Fargas.

1996 (Class of 1997) – three verbals
Ohio State received its third commitment of the year when Columbus-area defensive back David Mitchell was the only one of 1,200 campers that year to pledge to the Buckeyes.

"It was a shock to me because it was so early," Mitchell said. "I thought maybe if I did pretty well during the season, they would offer me."

He joined linebacker Jason Ott and lineman Ben Pulfer.

Notable names to camp at OSU that year who did not verbal included wideout Chris Chambers and quarterback David Priestly.

BSB ran a story on the top quarterbacks in the country, a list that included Californian Greg Cicero and Georgian Daniel Cobb. Both included Ohio State in their top fives, and Cobb put together an impressive performance OSU's camp that year, telling BSB that he spent three days working with QBs coach Walt Harris.

1995 (Class of 1996) – three verbals
A group that would eventually become the No. 1 class in the country numbered three in July 1995, and that trio of commits all made their decisions in June.

The first to make the call was wideout Darik Warnke, who was followed by defensive end Marcus Perez and tight end/defensive end Paris Long.

"The fight song was the first song I ever learned and I guess I have a specific liking to Ohio State," Warnke said.

Offensive lineman Benji Gilbert was reported as a commitment by other news sources but told BSB that, while OSU was at the top of his list, he had not officially become a Buckeye.

One column in BSB expressed shock that Ohio State could have three commitments – with a fourth perhaps on the way – so early in the recruiting season.

My, how the times have changed.

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