Five-Stars Who Weren’t Stars
By Michael Chung
(Editor’s Note: This is the latest contribution to the-Ozone for Michael Chung. He has provided OSU recruiting information to several websites in the past, but now will be exclusive to the-Ozone as we look to bring more football recruiting coverage in the coming months. You can follow him on Twitter @MChungOzone).
Every Yin must have its Yang.
Urban Meyer has injected much needed life into the Ohio State Football program, and one big area of expertise he has brought is recruiting. His presence was felt immediately, as the 2012 class went from top 25 into the top 5 on many college football recruiting sites.
But as well all know, recruiting is as much an art as it is a science and sometimes lower star players become stars and higher star players fizzle. We will look at some 5-star players who were not stars at Ohio State, with the hope players like Noah Spence and Joey Bosa do not one day fall into this category of players with five-star ratings who were not stars.
DB Jamario O'Neal
Photo by Jim Davidson
O'Neal was labeled Super Mario out of high school and committed to Ohio State before his junior year. Blessed with tremendous speed (4.45 40-yard dash) and size (6-1, 190), Super Mario began to show he was not invincible before coming to OSU when he was unable to shut down future Wolverine Mario Manningham in a high school game.
That’s not to say O’Neal had a terrible career with the Buckeyes. He played 29 minutes his freshman year and became a starter in Week 6 of his sophomore year, but was never the superstar DB that, say fellow Cleveland Glenville 5-star Donte Whitner was.
O'Neal was not a bust and made contributions to Ohio State’s success, but he was not a star for the Buckeyes.
OL Connor Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
In 2006, Connor Smith was the only one of the top offensive lineman in the state of Ohio who pledged to Ohio State. Pickerington product Justin Boren would later transfer, but his decision to attend Michigan turned Smith into a must-get for OSU – and they got him.
Smith made contributions, but never cracked the starting lineup for any extended period of time and was largely used on special teams during his time at Ohio State. He shares that story with a lot of players, but Smith makes our list because he was a U.S. Army All-American out of Cincinnati Colerain back in 2006.
Scout.com rated him the most dominating offensive lineman in the Midwest, but he was not able to be dominant while at OSU. He is commended for not publicly complaining about playing time and being a team player and leader, but no one could argue Smith was a star for the Buckeyes.
LB Mike D’Andrea
Photo by Jim Davidson
D'Andrea was in the same recruiting class as A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter, which is probably the one thing people will always remember about the Avon Lake product ahead of anything he ever did on the field.
Of the three, D'Andrea was easily the most heralded. He was considered to be the nation's No. 1 linebacker prospect and even drew comparisons to legendary OSU linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer. His toughness showed, as he played through a knee injury his freshman season but was never fully healthy to make a contribution
With Carpenter and Hawk having such great careers, one wonders how much greater the defense would have been with a healthy Mike D'Andrea.
DB Eugene Clifford
Clifford was a Parade and USA Today All-American out of high school and also participated in the coveted U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He was not redshirted when he got to Ohio State and played in four games his freshman year.
Clifford was suspended in 2007 for violating team rules, and the next year was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly hitting two employees at a restaurant.
Clifford would eventually transfer to Tennessee State and has had a very good career there. He was undrafted in 2011 and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. He was a good prospect for the NFL, but staying at OSU would have given him a national spotlight.
QB Terrelle Pryor
Photo by Dan Harker
How can someone who won a Rose Bowl and later defeated an SEC team in another BCS Bowl – though the victory was wiped out – be considered a 5-star who was not a star?
Pryor will forever be linked to selling his OSU memorabilia for money and causing trouble for the Ohio State football program. What was once considered a selfish, entitled football player now has new light shed on his circumstances.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter Pryor said the motive behind him selling memorabilia was
"to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent. She was four months behind in rent, and the (landlord) was so nice because he was an Ohio State fan. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and she said, 'My son will pay you back sometime if you just let me pay you back during my work sessions.' She ended up losing her job, and she and my sister lived there. Let me remind you it was freezing cold in November, December, and she's using the oven as heat. That's what I did as a kid. I was telling the NCAA, 'Please, anything that you can do. I gave my mother this so my sister wouldn't be cold, so my mother wouldn't be cold.' They didn't have any sympathy for me. It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans. It's documented. Whenever I write my book the proof will be in there, the receipt that the money I gave my mother was to pay the electric and heat bill. The truth is going to come out one day when the time is right. I don't think I deserved (being punished) in that way, because of the reason I was doing it. I felt like I was doing God's work in a way, and I was getting driven into the ground."
Even though this “new evidence” does not demonize Pryor, the end of his career screams that he did not get the most out of it. Without a doubt, he could have been a candidate for the Heisman his senior year as well as the leader of a potential national championship run.
But he, along with other fellow teammates, endured suspensions; Pryor later left Ohio State for the NFL supplemental draft. Jim Tressel was forced to resign and later retire and Ohio State had its worst seasons since 1897. OSU lost in the Gator Bowl while being banned from a bowl in 2012 season.
Not the makings a 5-star who was a star.
RB Maurice Clarett
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State fans can only dream about what could have happened had Clarett stayed at least two more years after his freshman year. After helping lead Ohio State to its first national championship since 1970, Clarett went crazy on Ohio State.
Even during his freshman year, there was an ESPN The Magazine cover where Clarett was photographed throwing his jersey in the air and declaring one and done. His injured shoulder kept him out of spring ball in 2003 and he would never carry the football for Ohio State again.
First, he challenged the NFL and eventually lost his case to enter early. A year later, the Denver Broncos drafted him in the third round of the NFL Draft. Clarett never learned his lesson and was rumored to being "entitled" to special treatment and feeling he could make demands unworthy of a first-year third round pick.
He was eventually cut and the Broncos declared they made a mistake in drafting him. His history of accusing Ohio State is legendary, and of course Clarett later was sentenced to jail time.
He appears to have his life in order now, having made good choices, and is back in organized football playing for Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, but what could have been?
Could he have won the Heisman twice like Archie? Could he have led OSU to another national championship the next year? OSU's running game the year after the national championship season was anemic at best. Oh what could have been?
Hopefully, Clarett will continue to make good choices but his career path suggests he was not the star he thought he was when he had those 5-stars coming out of Warren Harding.