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Buckeyes 2009 Class Tops In Nation
Buckeyes 2009 Class Tops In Nation
Jim Tressel and his Ohio State football staff have landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to the Scout rating service, and they are rated No. 3 by Rivals. Quite an encore by Tressel and Recruiting Coordinator John Petersen to the star-studded 2008 crop, which was a top five class a year ago. Seven Buckeye commitments are in the Scout Top 100 rankings this year, with Dorian Bell (pictured), the linebacker from Monroeville (PA) Gateway the highest rated Buckeye, at No. 19. Buckeye Dan Wismar takes a closer look at the Bucks stellar '09 class.
Jim Tressel and his Ohio State football staff have landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to the
Scout rating service
, and they are
rated No. 3 by Rivals
. Quite an encore by Tressel and Recruiting Coordinator John Petersen to the star-studded 2008 crop, which was a top five class a year ago. Seven Buckeye commitments are in the
Scout Top 100
rankings this year, with
, the linebacker from Monroeville (PA) Gateway the highest rated Buckeye, at No. 19. Alabama and LSU joined the Buckeyes as the top three schools in both rankings.
Ohio State has assembled everything but a kicker in this class, with nationally-rated players in every position group. As talented a group as they are, the current depth in the program will still allow the coaches to redshirt a good number of them. As always though, the cream will rise to the top, and the best, or most fortunate, will find their way to the field as freshmen this fall.
DB's - (4)
Among the most fortunate may be the incoming group of defensive backs. Having lost three of their top four 2008 cornerbacks, the Bucks might look to Bell's Gateway teammate
to help at the corner spots sooner instead of later. Brown, (#74 in Scout Top 100) is an explosive athlete, and the offensive coaches may win the tug-of-war for him to play at wide receiver. But Brown demonstrates the size, length, agility and ball skills to help at cornerback right away if that's the direction the coaches choose to go with him.
And they are also excited about Clarke, a natural cornerback with great hips and cover skills, who might just turn into another steal by Tressel of an underrated corner from the Mid-Atlantic region....(see Malcolm Jenkins). Or not, of course. Recruiting is notoriously an inexact science, as it involves teenagers.
Tressel's 2009 Buckeyes will also begin the season fairly unproven at safety behind starters Russell and Coleman, which could give Pickerington's
a shot at cracking the depth chart over the returning backups. My guess is that Brown and Clarke will contribute as freshmen, and possibly also Wood, (6'2" 185) a big, rangy hitter and the nation's 12th-ranked safety, who should help on special teams. No slouch either is Barnett, the 10th ranked cornerback by Scout, who hails from Clayton Northmont, also home of starting safety Kurt Coleman.
Special teams is the route to playing time for young defensive backs, and some of the new guys always stand out there. The path to the playing field will have more obstacles for the true freshmen at some other positions.
WR's - (3)
Pure speed was an element missing from the starting OSU wide receivers in 2008, and even though they say speed's not everything in a wide receiver...well...it's not nothing either. The post-Brians era begins in Columbus, and there is lots of speed returning in the Buckeye wide receiver group, with Ray Small, DeVier Posey, 'Flash' Thomas, and Taurian Washington sure to get lots of playing time. And Dane Sanzenbacher and the big redshirt freshman Jake Stoneburner are weapons in their own right. But speed kills, and this year Tressel and his staff are adding two legitimate burners and the son of a legend to the receiver corps.
The speed element comes in the form of Painesville Harvey's
, (6' 1", 180, 4.45) and
(5'11", 170, 4.4) from Grand Ledge, Michigan, the nation's 30th-ranked wide receiver. Fields is a three-sport star, a long-striding glider of an athlete who was rated among the top 40 receivers in the country. And I recently heard it said of Jackson that the day he arrives on campus, he'll be the fastest Buckeye player. Time will tell on that, (and Brandon Saine may have something to say about it) but as with the DB's, the kick return teams could land one or both of these guys on the field, even with the depth at the WR spots. Thomas did an acceptable job in the second half of last year returning kickoffs, but it's an area in which the team could use an upgrade, because they haven't performed particularly well at it since Ted Ginn left town.
Given the Buckeyes team need for speed, it's ironic that the incoming freshman with the slowest 40 time of the three might be the one who contributes earliest. The receiver in this class best prepared to play college football right away may be Ft. Lauderdale Aquinas star
(6' 3", 185, 4.6). And that's because he's been coached all his life by his dad, Buckeye legend
...and it turns out Duron's game resembles the old man's. He's got great size....he's a polished route-runner with good deep ball skills....and his hands are what you'd expect from the son of the man with the greatest hands I have ever seen. After the post-season all star game in Florida, where Duron made a strong impression on coaches and scouts, his ranking rose into the top twenty receivers nationally. (#93 in Scout Top 100 overall) It's possible though, that
all he'll be able to do is catch touchdowns
LB's - (5)
The Buckeyes loaded up on linebackers in this class, and the group is headlined by
, an outside linebacker and a gifted athlete who played running back on his high school team, and has elite speed for a linebacker. Bell is another standout western Pennsylvania recruit by Tressel, who has been eating Penn State and Pitt's lunch for a couple of years in PA, snagging Terrelle Pryor and Andrew Sweat last year and coming away with Corey Brown and Bell this year, along with Pryor's high school teammate, running back Jordan Hall. The returning depth at the wide side ('Will') linebacker spot is adequate with Moeller, Rolle and Hines, but it's still a good bet that Dorian Bell gets some significant playing time as a freshman.
The rest of the incoming linebacker group project more as inside players, and
is certainly one to watch. Klein (6' 2", 225, 4.57) was ranked as an "athlete" by the scouting services, which tells you something about his versatility. He played running back in high school as well as linebacker, and has enough speed to play outside even though his experience is in the middle. Bill Greene of BuckeyeSports.com, who appeared on the
most recent Buckeye Friday webcast
, and who has seen a lot of Klein, thinks he has James Laurinaitis-type ability, and has huge upside potential. Klein is already enrolled and will participate in spring football.
Another inside linebacker,
joins the Buckeyes from Louisville (Ky) Trinity. Whiting (6' 1", 226, 4.59) is the 29th rated ILB by Scout, and is more of a power player in the middle, with a compact frame and strong tackling ability. Two other inside linebackers are joining brothers already on the OSU roster. Coldwater's
follows brother Ross to Columbus, and
from Pickerington joins his brother, offensive guard Justin, who transferred last year from Michigan and sat out the 2008 season. Both Homan and Boren are inside run-stuffing guys more than they are coverage players. Both played fullback in their high school offenses, but at the moment are projected to be on defense for OSU.
RB's - (3)
One area where the incoming freshmen may be pressed into service right away is at running back. Boom Herron returns as the presumptive starter, but he has never functioned as an every-down back at this level, and the Bucks have no proven running backs returning behind him. So far, junior Brandon Saine has been inconsistent or injured, and has yet to show the running back instincts to complement his great open field speed. All of which means that the two highly-rated running backs from Florida in the new OSU class,
, will be counted on to share the rushing load almost immediately in the fall. Pryor's Jeannette, PA teammate
rounds out an extremely good running back trio for the 2009 class.
Berry (5' 11", 195, 4.45) from Miami Palmetto, is the nation's 3rd ranked running back by Scout, (#69 in Scout Top 100) and he brings a bit of a different dimension to the OSU running game. Berry possesses both excellent speed and the power and strength for running between the tackles, but what grabs the eye watching his film is his tremendous acceleration through the hole and into the second level of the defense. He has good lateral quickness too, and finishes with power through the tackler. Out on the edge on an option with Terrelle Pryor...watch out!
Carlos Hyde is a bigger back (6' 0", 225, 4.5) who put me in mind of Keith Byars when I first saw his high school film, because he showed power and quickness at the same time. He also shows me the good feet and lateral mobility that Byars (and Beanie Wells) had. I don't think Hyde is another Wells. Those guys come along once a decade or so. But he can be an option when the Buckeyes are looking for a bigger back than Herron or Berry in short yardage.
Hall is smallish (5' 9", 170, 4.48) but fast and versatile. He's an excellent receiver and it appears he might eventually help the team in the return games, or as a third down back. Of the three, Hall would seem to be the best bet to redshirt, but the lack of depth at RB may allow him to play.
DL's - (4)
The defensive line group appears to be one of the strengths of the 2009 recruiting class, but it is also an area in which the Buckeyes are returning a lot of talent and depth from the 2008 roster. So even though two of the four defensive linemen arriving in Columbus next fall were ranked in the top 30 players overall in the nation, it's conceivable that all four could be redshirted for the 2009 season.
The Buckeyes didn't have to venture far to land two outstanding defensive end prospects for this class.
of Garfield Heights (#22 in Scout Top 100) is considered one of the top defensive ends in the nation. Fellows (6' 5", 255) committed early to Illinois, but saw the light as the recruiting season went along, and decided to become a Buckeye. He possesses that rare blend of speed, size, and athleticism that every major program is seeking for pass rushing duty. Plus he's a good enough run defender to eventually be an every down player.
from Glenville, is the other defensive end in this class. Newsome (6' 3", 230) has good quickness and ability to penetrate and pursue. He could probably benefit from a year in the weight room to add strength as a run defender.
At the defensive tackle spot, the Bucks again stayed close to home, adding two northeast Ohio standouts to the class.
, from Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, is a nationally known prospect (#27 in Scout Top 100) whose weight room exploits are already the stuff of legend, and his tremendous upper body strength should serve him well as an inside defender for OSU. As a high school student, Simon (6' 3", 285) already has a personal best in reps (48) in the 225 lb. bench press that is better than any college senior has
done at the pre-draft NFL combines. (You might want to read that last sentence over again, for effect.) Now, that doesn't automatically translate to success on the football field, but it's a heck of a good start for a defensive tackle. Simon has by no means peaked physically, and will try to develop more power in his lower body as he works toward playing time in Columbus. He looked immovable at times in last month's Army All-American game, working against the best prep offensive linemen in the country.
, a two-way tackle for Aurora H.S., was a first team all-State performer, and is slated to play on the defensive side of the ball for Ohio State this fall, although that is still subject to change. Bellamy (6' 4", 270) has good feet and a quick first step off the ball, and possesses above average speed for a defensive tackle. With names like Larimore, Denlinger, Worthington, Heyward, Rose, Goebel and Mobley ahead of him on the OSU depth chart, Bellamy is a likely redshirt prospect.
OL's - (4)
Last year's heralded offensive line recruiting class of Mike Brewster, Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts was a big step toward a much-needed upgrade in that area for the Bucks, and now Coach Tressel and his staff have followed it up with another strong group of O-linemen for 2009. It's likely that all three of the above will be starting (C, LT and RT respectively) for OSU in 2009 as sophomores, but any or all of the four incoming freshmen linemen could be pushing for spots in the two-deep right away. Another new face in Columbus, incoming transfer Justin Boren will almost certainly be starting at one of the offensive guard spots in the fall.
was the last player to commit in this year's class, but from the start it was clear that Ohio State was his likely destination. After all, he's from (Cleveland) Glenville, and Coach Ted Ginn Sr.'s program has been a reliable feeder to the Buckeye football team over the years. But Hall (6' 6", 300) has the talent to play for any school in the country, and because his offer list looked like college football's Who's Who, the Buckeyes never took his commitment for granted. He may eventually play at guard, but chances are good that he'll start out as a backup at one of the tackle spots, and he has an opportunity to crack the two-deep by Labor Day.
Most observers agree that the Buckeye offensive line has lacked a "mean streak" in recent years, and their recruiting this year seems to address that shortage. Both
arrive in Columbus with reputations as guys who will play "through the whistle" as they say, and bring a little bit of "nasty" to their games.
Mewhort, (6' 6", 285) from Toledo St. John's, probably projects as a tackle at the college level, although he displayed his versatility by starting and playing very well at center in the Army All-American all-star game last month. He was rated the 11th best OT in the nation by Scout, and his large frame looks like it could easily add 20-30 pounds as he matures and gets stronger.
Linsley (6' 4" 285) is a powerfully built young man, who excelled in the shot put in high school, and shows excellent lower body strength and leg drive as a run blocker. Probably slated to play guard for the Buckeyes, Linsley also shows the lateral mobility and quickness to get to the outside on pulling plays. He was rated the nation's 12th best guard by Scout.
, from Bellbrook, OH, is the other offensive lineman in the class of 2009, and is perhaps the most raw of the O-line recruits. But Longo (6' 5", 260) was hardly an under-the-radar, small school Ohio player, as he collected offers from the likes of Florida State, Nebraska and Stanford. Another big-frame kid with high upside potential as a right tackle or guard at the college level, Longo is a good bet to get a redshirt year to work in the weight room at Ohio State.
, who transferred in from Michigan after starting for the Wolverines in 2007 and making Honorable Mention All-Big Ten as a freshman, will be an important addition to the 2009 Buckeyes. Boren (6' 3", 320) sat out the 2008 season under transfer eligibility rules, but observers of recent OSU bowl game practices said he may have been the best OSU offensive lineman in those workouts, even though he couldn't play in the game. He's another guy who comes in with a reputation for being a mauler and a brawler on the line...something that could help the 2009 Buckeyes adopt a bit of a new attitude up front on offense.
TE - (1)
The OSU staff recruited just one player at tight end in this class, and even he might not end up playing tight end.
, (6' 8", 255) from Grosse Pointe, Michigan has the frame to be considered as an offensive tackle prospect down the line, but in the short term, he'll provide depth at the tight end spot behind starter Jake Ballard and redshirt freshman Nic DiLullo.
QB - (1)
, from Aldine (TX) Eisenhower, was a last-minute addition to the OSU recruiting class, receiving an offer from the Buckeye coaches just a few days before national signing day. Guiton (6' 3", 190, 4.6) is a dual-threat type QB prospect who was rated the nations 53rd best quarterback by Scout. He is an elusive, mobile player, with an accurate arm, especially on the short to medium range throws. Guiton played at a very high level of competition in Texas high school football, on a team littered with D-1 recruits. He had several other offers, but none on a par with Ohio State, and he accepted the Buckeye offer almost immediately. Some recruiting evaluators thought the Bucks did well to get a QB as talented as Guiton, considering how late in the process they waited before offering.
OSU really needed to get a quarterback in this class, and though it was difficult to recruit a nationally rated one just a year after landing the nation's top QB in Terrelle Pryor, the Bucks came close to getting 5-star Virginia prospect Tajh Boyd to commit. When Boyd opted for Clemson at the last minute, the OSU coaches were left scrambling for a replacement, and someone to give them insurance against injuries to Pryor or backup Joe Bauserman, the only two scholarship QB's on the roster. Guiton fills that slot adequately, and now we'll wait to see just what else he can bring to the party.
Kudos to Jim Tressel and his staff for their second consecutive stellar recruiting class. Though it's impossible to evaluate these kids until after they've been in the program for at least a couple of years, the talent upgrade at OSU is continuing apace, and that can only be a positive going forward. Tressel has been able to maintain his fruitful Florida pipeline (Berry, Hyde, Carter), continue his successful raiding of the best from Pennsylvania (Bell, Brown, J. Hall) and cherry-pick into Michigan for the players he wants (Fragel, Jackson)
Meanwhile, the wall he has built around Ohio barely ever springs a leak. Just one Ohio player that was offered by the Buckeyes defected to Michigan this year. That was Massillon safety J.T. Turner, a great looking player to be sure, but one who just slightly lowers Tressel's robust Ohio batting average.
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