Monday Morning Kickoff: The Heart Of It All
By Tony Gerdeman
* The initial 2014 Rivals recruiting rankings came out last week, and almost immediately there was consternation among Buckeye fans because already two of Ohio's highest-ranked prospects had committed to other schools.
Michael Ferns (ranked second) is a linebacker committed to Michigan, and offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne (ranked fifth) is committed to Notre Dame. The unrest fed people's ongoing fear that Urban Meyer isn't going to focus on Ohio as much as he should.
Meyer offered both of these players well before they committed to other schools, so that ongoing fear continues to be unfounded. Sometimes a kid just doesn't want to be a Buckeye. That's how it has always been and how it will always be.
In fact, since Rivals and Scout's "birth" in 2002, Ohio State has signed either service's top five Ohio prospects just once, and that was Scout's 2002 class of Mike D'Andrea, Maurice Clarett, Quinn Pitcock, Mike Kudla and Roy Hall.
Every other year, however, Ohio State signed between one and four of Ohio's top five. That's 23 out of 24 classes, treating Scout and Rivals separately, where the Buckeyes failed in some way in the Buckeye state.
If Urban Meyer lost two in-state kids because of some pretend lack of focus, what was Jim Tressel's excuse?
There is more than one way to skin a Wolverine, and Tressel's way certainly worked. However, to say that any Ohio State coach is going to neglect the in-state talent is ludicrous and uninformed.
Meyer is going to cast a wider net than Jim Tressel did, but that doesn't mean his boat isn't going to be anchored firmly over the state of Ohio.
* In case you were interested, according to Rivals, Ohio State has landed the top in-state prospect seven of the last 12 years. However, they've only done it twice in the last five years.
Currently, Glenville's Marshon Lattimore is the top-ranked Ohioan for 2014, and he is likely to be a Buckeye. If so, Meyer would end up two-for-two in landing the number one Ohioan in his first two full recruiting classes.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they have much better history with the top-ranked player in Ohio than everyone else does. Here is the list:
2002: Mike D'Andrea (Ohio State)
2003: Prescott Burgess (Michigan)
2004: Ted Ginn (Ohio State)
2005: Alex Boone (Ohio State)
2006: Chris Wells (Ohio State)
2007: Ben Martin (Tennessee)
2008: Mike Adams (Ohio State)
2009: Justin Turner (Michigan)
2010: Latwan Anderson (Miami)
2011: Braxton Miller (Ohio State)
2012: Kyle Kalis (Michigan)
2013: Jalin Marshall (Ohio State)
* If you want to get your foot in the door on a recruiting battle that might last a while, let me point you in the direction of 2015 running back Damien Harris.
Harris is a 5-10 200-pound sophomore out of Berea, Kentucky. He already has verbal offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina. However, it appears that this is going to be a battle between Ohio State and Michigan.
Harris grew up as a Wolverine fan, yet after a recent visit to Ohio State he tweeted that Columbus was by far his best visit. He was named the top sophomore at the Army All-American combine for underclassman, clocking in with a 4.5 forty-yard dash and proving uncoverable in one-on-ones.
He rushed for 1,778 yards and 35 touchdowns last season, displaying both power and speed. He can play in any style of offense, so the two different styles that Michigan and Ohio State employ shouldn't be a major factor.
* With spring football just two weeks away, we are now beginning our position-by-position "Spring Forecasts". Since I am taking the offensive side of the ball, I won't get a chance to weigh in on some of the defensive battles prior to them actually happening.
I should probably just leave well enough alone, but I can't. Everybody loves a spring depth chart projection, and I'm no different, so here is mine.
On the defensive line, I'll go with Adolphus Washington at strongside defensive end, Michael Bennett and Tommy Schutt at the tackles, and Noah Spence at rush end.
Steve Miller could really prove valuable if he shows that he can play at either end spot. It will also be interesting to see what weight Chris Carter comes in at. Ohio State still lists him at 340 pounds, and his coaches have already said that he won't play until he gets down much lower than that.
The linebacker position is a little bit easier. Ryan Shazier will be at the weakside spot. I think the strong side is Joshua Perry's to lose. In the middle, I'm expecting Camren Williams to start off at number one. I may be completely off on that, though.
Almost as important as finding starters, however, is finding backups. There were a lot of linebackers brought in last year, and only Perry worked himself into any real playing time. They need the bulk of the 2012 linebacker class to contribute during the spring, and not simply "win" jobs by default.
If the 2012 linebackers don't step up they will put themselves in danger of being passed by the incoming 2013 linebackers in the fall.
The secondary is a little more cut and dried. C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant will be back at the top of the safety board. Bradley Roby will be atop the cornerbacks list, and Doran Grant should be joining him. The biggest question right now is who will be atop the depth chart at star.
Right now, I'm having a tough time deciding between Corey Brown and Devan Bogard. I think it might start out with Brown, but I like Bogard to eventually win the spot.
Yet as fun as these discussions are, they probably aren't as important as who ends up punting. As far as who that might end up being, it could change by the day.
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