POSITIONS OF NEED VERSUS POSITIONS OF GREED
If there was ever a prime example of a "what have you done for me lately?" thought process, it would have to be the love affair this year between Ohio State fans and the Ohio State coaching staff. The tears weren't even dry yet on the Circuit City national championship trophy before the complaining started about our "pathetic failure at recruiting" – to quote one of the pithy critics.
Now, I'm in a position of knowing virtually everything that is important in Ohio State football, so perhaps I have a peculiar advantage over everyone else. Yes, that's right, the coaches confide in me, and Bill (oops, I mean Coach Conley) tips me off on whom he's going after and when they commit. Andy Geiger and Coach Tressel answer my exhaustive and aggressive e-mails as to future strategy and the look of our team many years down the road.
Armed with all that power (I wish), I thought I would share some particularly powerful insights with the rest of the Buckeye Nation. And we could play a little Last Year/This Year/Next Year with our recruiting strategy. Yes, Buckeye fans, that's the good news: there is a strategy in this recruiting stuff…
First off, as we further analyze the Last Year/This Year/Next Year formula, we have to focus on two factoids in our overall analysis. The questions are:
1. Who are the three biggest recruits we have coming in for next season?
2. Who will have the most impact over the next number of seasons?
And the answers are:
1. The most important players coming in next year are Will Smith, Michael Jenkins and Darrion Scott. Here are three guys that are All-American candidates right now and potential first round NFL draft choices, to boot. These guys will make a huge impact next year. Can you say the same about Prescott Burgess, Michael Bush or Shawn Crable?
2. The most long-term impact? Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio. And we know they are coming back for a few years.
My transparent point, here? We just won a national championship with a group of kids that were playing .500 ball before the "new program" took root. If Tressel ends up with all second-tier recruits this year (just to frame an example, of course…), we'll still do well next season. In fact, all he recruited at Youngstown State was second-tier recruits. And he brought home four big banners.
There. I feel better now. So, back to my thesis…
If you look at players – or even recruiting years – in a vacuum, you get distorted views of both. It's easier to look at the Big Picture and try to sort out the logic. That's why you have to look at Last Year's haul of recruits, This Year's targets and what's potentially available Next Year.
As obvious examples of the process, you can't load up on all positions every year. Last year's Texas team – which some rated as the best recruiting crop in the nation – had seven out of 24 kids who were defensive linemen. OSU, as a comparison, basically fielded an entire team (running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, five offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, three-four linebackers and four defensive backs). That allows the staff to be much more selective at individual positions this year.
So don't think in terms of "greed", think in terms of "need".
OSU needed linebackers last year and they got four. OSU needed cornerbacks this year and we've gotten four. Etcetera. Let's meander over to the individual positions, look at how they stand and look at how we stand.
We needed one last year and got Clarett. We needed none this year but that might change because of the Riley transfer. We'll need two next year if we don't take one this year and we're already well in on Delbert Ferguson. Good job…
We needed none last year and that's what we took. With the premature losses of Kline and Stead (presumably…), we are thin now but both players have lots of time left. Next year? We need at least one. Maybe it's Cedric Scott, who will begin his gray shirt campaign in 2003. Good job…
We needed two last year and got two potential stars. One star seems in the Krenzel mold but with a better arm (Zwick) and one is simply a fabulous athlete (Smith). We needed depth this year and got Boeckman, who could be a Krenzel/Zwick type player or who could be a tight end/punter. We could also get another fabulous athlete in Michael Bush. We need none next year so look at any quarterback that's being recruited as a kid that can play more than one position. Good job…
We needed one last year and got RJ Coleman, who might become a tackle. We needed one this year and got Irizarry, who might have become a Hurricane (or Lion or…). Even with Louis, we'll probably get Marcel Frost. If so, we will need another next year and he will probably come from outside Ohio. Good job…
Last year's thinnest position, Tressel and Co. got five commits, four of who should be starters. The fact that Derek Morris will start for someone else is not necessarily the fault of recruiting. Mangold and Sims have already started and Datish might be the best of the bunch. With the ploy of re-positioning guys like Coleman, Schafer and Penton (not to mention Cotton coming in and Barton), we have re-stocked just fine. And next year could be the mother lode in Ohio as we have shots at Person, Massey, Braxton, Armstrong, Clowser and Rehring. Good job…
Are you kidding me? We had the best defensive line in America in 2002 and it might be even better in 2003. Last year, we brought in Joel Penton, Jay Richardson, Quinn Pitcock and Tim Schafer. Pitcock is so highly valued that two high school scouts we spoke with think he will be in the NFL in another couple years. Richardson was described by one OSU coach this year as being a "bigger Will Smith". We are so stacked at this position that Penton and Schafer might move to the offensive line. Yet, we continue to load up with the very talented David Patterson and talented Brandon Maupin on the inside as well as the exciting Stanley McClover on the outside. With the possibility of a Crable or a Frost in the wings, life is good here. Next year? Chad Hoobler and Mike Massey are targets that should keep this pipeline full-to-overflowin'. Good job…
This was a position of need in 2002 and OSU addressed that need by bringing in the best linebacker class in the country. AJ Hawk could be a Spielman-like star before he's done; Coach Dantonio raves about both D'Andrea and Carpenter; and Stan White will eventually play at LB, FB, or TE. This year, we filled in eventual depth needs by taking the under-appreciated Reggie Smith (2003's AJ Hawk) as well as Curt Lukens who has the potential to move up to outside LB. Next year, we will need at least two more and one of them will be All-World Marcus Freeman. The other should be the best we can find from out-of-state. Hey – why not take two? Good job…
As we rotate these positions, I'm not nit-picking who plays corner and who's a safety. And, as with linebackers last year, this was a position of need for the 2003 class. So how did we do? With Guilford, we would have (arguably) the best defensive back recruiting class in the nation. Start with Donte Whitner, who might be starting himself as a freshman. Add in Ashton Youboty, Dareus Hiley and Tony Gonzalez who all made Top 100 lists this year. Then there's Curt Lukens and Guilford. Plus, Nate Salley and EJ Underwood will be forces with which to reckon, as well as a potential nickel back in Tyler Everett. Whoa, baby. Let's not forget next year when we are a virtual lock to glom onto Ted Ginn – a kid who will be one of the top 2-3 corners in the country. And Brandon Underwood is a comer, as well. Good job…
Let's see – we had the best punter and best field goal kickers in the nation this year. So, that's a good start. We have highly recruited fifth-year-senor BJ Sander waiting in the wings to punt and we have Josh Huston backing up both Nugent and Sander. Don't fully discount Todd Boeckman who punted well under trying conditions last year. This year/next year? I really wanted to land the "next Andy Groom" in this class to get him acclimated. I think that might be Adam Graessle but if we don't get our kicker this year, we'll probably take two next year and nurture them a bit. Good job…
I think you now get the gist of the thesis. Good job! Indeed. In fact, if you want to take a more historical perspective on this Last Year/This Year/Next Year stuff, let's look back at some actual facts (the last refuge of the truly uncreative, in my estimation…).
Class of 2002
In Duane Long's Fabulous Ohio's Future Stars magazine, he lists an annual – and final – Top Ten assessment each year. Here is the final 2002 list, in order, with the OSU commits in red:
- Maurice Clarett
- Mike D'Andrea
- Quinn Pitcock
- Justin Zwick
- Mike Kudla
- DeShawn Wynn
- Doug Datish
- Roy Hall
- Bobby Carpenter
- EJ Underwood
I think you might detect a pattern here. And the one "miss" (Wynn) was not heavily recruited because we didn't need him and he was a, well…difficult recruit. Even if you go with OFS's next ten, OSU got four out of the ten.
Class of 2003
Same criteria – same analysis:
- Donte Whitner
- Louis Irizarry (Yes, he's back from black!)
- David Patterson
- Prescott Burgess
- Brady Quinn
- Brandon Maupin
- Dareus Hiley
- Shawn Crable
- Ernie Wheelwright
- Sian Cotton
We could have eight out of ten on this list if Crable comes aboard and we can find room for Wheelwright in this smallish class. As for Burgess? We lost a good one but I'm not sure it was due to anything that the coaches controlled. Quinn? A lifetime Notre Dame guy who won't see much action there if Brian Brohm enrolls in 2004 as expected, and Brady possibly wouldn't have seen a lot of time as a Buckeye with the competition here, either.
Incidentally, four of the "next ten" are Buckeyes with the exception of Frost who might not fit into this year's restrictions.
Class of 2004
I go out on a limb here (now, that's unusual…) speculating twice because 1) we have only done the first round of interviews and 2) because this is not Duane's final list (hey – these kids do have a year more to play in high school!). But, here's how I see the Top Ten shaping up with the "red kids" being what I think are highly likely "gets" in what could be e terrific OSU recruiting class:
- Delbert Ferguson
- Ted Ginn
- Fred Davis
- Marcus Freeman
- Chad Hoobler
- Ben Person
- Ray Williams
- Michael Massey
- Darryl Clark
- Anthony Turner
Right now, seven out of ten are odds-on Buckeye favorites, and all of the truly top kids. Williams could become the DeShawn Wynn of this class, Massey has brothers who played at both Michigan and OSU so it's too tough to call early, and Clark might not be needed, plus he might be replaced on this list by St. Iggy's Brian Hoyer.
By the way, in the "Next Ten", we are in good shape with six of them, already…
Can I be the first to say: Good job?
To sum up…there has been an unwarranted gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over losing Prescott Burgess to Michigan. Granted, it hurts that this kid is real good and that he defected to Michigan, of all places. But, people, please try to keep this in perspective. Prescott was filling in a position of greed and not of need. And we have virtually every other recruit over a three-year period that we really wanted.
I'm as needy as the next guy when it comes to OSU football. But I vow not to be quite so greedy in 2003!
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