It was like standing up against the wall and having someone shoot at you. Luckily, I was wearing my scarlet-and-gray bulletproof vest. But the slugs nearly knocked me down, anyway.
"Did we get James Lee?"
"No, he went to Georgia" Pow!
"Well, how about Devin Stearns?"
"Huh uh. He committed to Cal." Bam!
"I know the coaches really really wanted Turk McBride. Did we get him?"
"No, he went to Tennessee." Oof!
"And…and…and Aaron Sears?"
"Tennessee, too." Ouch!
"Gosh, I'm scared to ask, but with Spielman on our side, I felt pretty good that we would get Shawn Crable, right?"
"No can do, Bucky. He opted for Michigan." Wham!
"All right, at least we kept all the verbals. After all, it was a great class, no matter what the other …"
That's it. I'm asking no more questions. The news just got worse and worse as the day went on last Wednesday. A number of us had used the unfortunate phrase "Even if we don't get a single other commitment…", but we didn't actually believe that would happen. It was like Michael Jordan missing seven straight free throws. It was like Matt Zahn passing up a smorgasbord. It was like LeBron James resisting temptation. I mean, what are the odds?
Quite good, as it turned out. Actually, it was like every OSU recruiting expert being wrong all day long. Same odds. And for the previous two weeks, as well. We will never know if my prediction that OSU would take 19 in this class was even close. There weren't 19 kids available to take!
But so much for the hysteria. As we will discuss later, we didn't need much and we got a lot. And as Coach Tressel said sincerely, "If we could only get 12 kids from Ohio, these are the 12 we wanted".
I now feel the wrath of my own bucket of bullets. But as that famous offensive line coach, Sinead O'Connor once remarked: I do not want what I haven't got.
* * * * *
No position represents more "sudden impact" than the linebacker position. Think Andy Katzenmoyer and Corby Jones, for example.
And while we are thinking about linebackers, think again about the great class of linebacker recruits we brought in last year, including Hawk, Carpenter, D'Andrea, Kudla and White. Arguably, the best linebacker class in the country in 2002.
Well, if that was the best class in the country, then this year has to be the most creative class in the country.
First, we "stole" Reggie Smith, a kid not on the regional or national radar screens. Coach Ginn rhapsodizes about Reggie, and Ginn isn't even his coach! With some acclimation time, Smith could be a real gem.
Secondly, we invaded the Marines and worked with Corporal Cliff Reynolds to walk on. Duane Long has seen Reynolds on film and thinks he could be "big time" once the rust comes off. This kid already has a great attitude that should pay dividends by itself.
Thirdly, we weren't done with our military incursions as we went to the Air Force and surprised Everyone-Who-Knew-Anything by transferring in Anthony Schlegel. This kid is already Big Time. He was captain of a good Air Force defense as a sophomore. He is a national record holder as a weight lifter; and an AAU heavyweight wrestling title-holder, to boot. And a tackling machine. While we have to wait until 2004 (or beyond, if he red shirts…) to see him on the field in action, we'll get a pretty good taste when he shows up for practice.
And finally, we get a "free look" at Cedric Scott who is gray shirting and then coming in for the 2004 class. He could be a fullback or a linebacker but he is yet another creative example of a way to build solid depth. If he is anywhere close to the quality of older brother Darrion, we have another steal.
* * * * *
Sudden impact players from the Class of 2002…Those of us whose lives hang precariously on the whims of recruits always think that a high school player is going to come in and change the basic character of our team in a massively positive way. In retrospect, that seldom happens.
So who were the Sudden Impact recruits for last year?
Without a doubt, Maurice Clarett fits every definition of Sudden Impact. He not only allowed the offense to "flourish" in 2002, he also took up a disproportionate amount of headline ink. He was everything we fantasized he would be. And he was more.
After Clarett, though, you get into some gray area in defining the other Sudden Impact recruits. I would propose props to AJ Hawk, Rob Sims and Nick Mangold, for sure. First off, no one thought they would even play this year and they played strong games that were invaluable by the end of the season. We had Nick and AJ in our Bucknuts Radio Hour Studio last Commitment Day and they both assured us they planned to red shirt!
After the four freshmen mentioned, the rest of the contributors were basically special teams' guys: Carpenter, D'Andrea, Kudla, Everett, etc. We got some mop-up play out of this group but all we could conclude was that these guys each had potential.
So, with one guy who exhibited incontrovertible Sudden Impact and with three more that had Some Impact, I have concluded this:
We won the national championship!
And we did it without a bunch of new guys contributing. So why all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the most recent class? I dunno…Check back with me in a couple of years!
* * * * *
Despite the previous meandering analysis, I suppose we need to address the Sudden Impact potential of the 2003 class and we need to do it immediately. Why? So that everyone can forget my prognostications by the time they become relevant. Hey – that's the luxury of being a "recruiting expert"! Did you see some of the bold assertions made within 24 hours of the actual commitments last Wednesday? Obviously, if you had, you wouldn't still be reading this now…
Sudden Impact guys for 2003
Why? Firstly, because we don't have the need. Now, that's nice. Secondly, we've got that terrific group of red shirts who will show their true colors before almost all of this new group hits the field. But down the road, how about…
Sudden Impact guys for 2004
In 2003, I think Whitner might be a starter. That's saying a lot and that's true Sudden Impact material. I think Irizarry could get a lot of PT but be more of an "AJ Hawk" impact than a "Maurice Clarett" impact.
In 2004, Patterson will be in the mix and Hiley is so good that he has to play somewhere. And Youboty should at least see the field, at least in nickel and dime spots. I am hedging on Schlegel because there is a school of thought that he could red shirt that year (and then play into his thirties…), as the fabulous freshmen from 2002 play their way through.
Guys who won't emerge, then, until 2005 or later…
And that's the point of this thesis. Almost all of the action we saw on Commitment Day has some seriously delayed ramifications. Do you think that if James Lee or Shawn Crable or Aaron Sears or Stanley McClover or Michael Bush were in this collective that they wouldn't also be on the Guys who won't emerge until 2005 or later list? So quit worrying.
In 2005, we will see:
So relax. Enjoy your national championship. They don't come around that often, you know. And remember my overall thesis:
It's the 99% of recruiting experts that gives the other 1% a bad name.
Ouch. With this Bucket of Bullets, that has some sudden impact, too…
E-mail Mr. Bucknuts at email@example.com