IS THE FENCE AROUND OHIO KEEPING PLAYERS OUT?
For the dozens and dozens of you who read my columns regularly, you already
know that I am in the minority opinion in that I really like this most
recent recruiting class. We didn't need "numbers" and we didn't get
them. We needed help at individual positions and we got the help. We needed kids
with character who would "buy in" to the program. And we got them.
One thing stood out, however, as I ruminated on the composition of the most
recent recruiting class: the continuing absence of out-of-state kids as a
proportion of the total. One could argue the reciprocal; that is, we are doing a
better job of keeping Ohio recruits in the state. And that is the famous Tressel
Fence scenario. There is no question that the Fence argument is a valid one.
Last year, no one other than Ashton Watson sneaked over that fence. We
weren't that high on DeShawn Wynn and pretty much left the gate open for him.
You could argue that Brian Andrews was a fence sitter, but I will tell you there
were other reasons that he isn't a Buckeye (see "Derek Morris" and link to
"parents"…). With the exception of DeShawn last year, how many of the Top
Ten Ohio kids did we get? All of them.
And this year, we got six out of ten. That's not so bad for a class of only
15 recruits. In celebrated style, Burgess and Crable defected to the enemy.
Brady Quinn was a late bloomer who always wanted to go to Notre dame. And Ernie
Wheelwright was simply too much of an academic risk for the Buckeyes. Was I a
trifle disappointed? Sure. Can I live with the results? Absolutely.
But let's track back to my earlier thesis. How many out-of-state kids came
aboard? Just three: Youboty and Schlegel from Texas (one by way of the Air
Force…) and Guilford from New Jersey. And all of the whiffs on signing day
(with the exception of Crable) were all on out-of-staters: McClover, McBride,
Bush, Stearns, Sears and Lee.
To press a point (one that I hope to eventually stumble upon), let's take a
look at the composition of last year's national championship team and the
geography involved. Here goes:
Starters From Ohio
Starters From Out-of-State
To make an objective analysis out of the exercise, that's 26 positions that
have seen starter service this past year. Fifteen (or 58%) are from Ohio and
eleven (or 42%) are from out-of state. Not that bad of a balance.
Now, for grins and giggles, here is the Mr. Bucknuts Projected Chart of
starters in 2004, to contrast a similar analysis:
Starters From Ohio
Justin Zwick (or Troy Smith)
Roy Hall (or John Hollins)
Mike Kudla (or Mike D'Andrea)
David Patterson (or Joel Penton)
Starters From Out-of-State
So, plus or minus a punter, you get the idea. Out of 25 positions, twenty (or
80%) are from Ohio and only five (20%, natch…) are from out-of-state.
Now, before the e-mails start piling in, I am not suggesting that this is
necessarily a trend or that this possible trend even has some irremediable
impact. If the pattern continues, of course, then we have the very definition of
a trend. But if we can win national championships with mostly in-state kids -
then who the hell cares?
But while we are in mid-speculation about the out-of state kids, let's look
more specifically at the etiology of offensive linemen recruiting at Ohio State.
Why? Because this position represents, in a microcosm, the "trend" we are
OL recruiting took a big hit four years ago when Ohio had the best crop of OL
guys that had been produced in a long time. Antonio Hall, Anthony Munoz and Andy
Christopfel were Big Time guys and all of us smug prognosticators assumed we
would land two of the three. At least. Well, we got none. Anthony followed his
sister to Tennessee (she, of course, transferred to OSU just to make the pain a
bit more ironic…), Hall stunned the world by pursuing music (and maybe some
other things…) at Kentucky and Christophel migrated to Michigan. That triad of
tragedy had long-term negative ramifications for the Buckeyes as both quality
and quantity issues arose at the OL position.
This past year, we had so little depth that two walk-ons were in the
two-deep. We recruited out-of-state kids hard to fill in this 2003 class
but lost every one of them to schools that already had lots of O-line depth. Go
figure. Hey – James Lee goes to Georgia where they already had 6 O-line
commitments. And Joel Holler, Aaron Sears, Sam Baker, Cyrim Wimbs/Andrew Bain,
Kyle Thornton, Jerry Sevin and Dan Mazan all went elsewhere, as well. Not to
mention Kenyon Buford, which I won't…
We have an excellent opportunity to turn around the offensive linemen trend
but it won't turn around the out-of-state trend because – for the
first time in three years – we've got some great talent right here in the
Buckeye state. The coaches are especially high on Brandon Braxton, Ben Person
and Chase Clowser. There are 3-4 others who can prove themselves, either at the
OSU camp or during their senior seasons, including Steve Rehring, Brandon
Armstrong, and Ryan Stanchek. You've got to believe, though, that Tressel and
Co. would like the Big Three and then fill in with two nationally dominant
names. Man, that would reverse some trends!
Even though it's not in my nature to be optimistic, I feel real good about
this next class and about the work that is being put in to get more back on the
national scene. Hey – this year was the first in memory that we haven't had
a recruit from Florida. And none from California, either. And
0-for-Pennsylvania, as well. Those are three of the top five states in the
nation for recruiting and the oh-fer stands out in contrast to previous years.
Let's take the most exhaustive peek possible at the early chart of
out-of-state recruits. This is a Mr. Bucknuts specialty, don't forget, to be
Roger Allison LB
Jalen Parmele RB
So, ahem, how shall we leave this position? Slowly, I suggest, by unwinding from previously held misconceptions. If Ohio State takes 24 kids in this next recruiting class and less than eight are from out-of-state, then this is an issue we will re-visit. Because then it is a trend. If we get less than two of the Big Three in-state offensive linemen, then we have another problem. And if we can't land an out-of-state OL guy for the first time in three years (we did get Derek Morris, but just as a tease…), then that's a third problem.
Give the coaches the benefit of the doubt, however. I feel that these trends – just like the absence of a national championship – will be short-lived!
E-mail Mr. Bucknuts at firstname.lastname@example.org