Think the Buckeyes could use Ben Martin?
After running down the recruiting misses of the class of 2008 last week, we take a look at the class of 2007 this week. Unlike the Brew Crew, the class of '07 was not as successful for Jim Tressel on the recruiting front and there were a lot of players who the Buckeyes missed on that blossomed into stars.
While The Vest did keep the best talent inside of Ohio to continue the trip to Columbus, there was a lot of out of state talent that wasn't able to be brought in. This may have contributed to the Bucks' effort the last few years of going after both Ohio's top talent and out-of-state stars with the same aggressiveness and taking the best players on the board, regardless of location.
The class of 2007 did bring in talent like Jermale Hines, Boom Herron, Brandon Saine, Brian Rolle, Cameron Heyward, Devon Torrence, and Dane Sanzenbacher, all who should contribute this year. On the contrary, Eugene Clifford, James Scott, Donnie Evege, Evan Blankenship, Nate Oliver, and Taurian Washington have either left OSU or have not lived up to the bill during their time in Columbus thus far. With that being said, let's take a look at who didn't end up in The 'Shoe in the fall of 2007 and break down the recruiting misses into "The Ones That Got Away", "Wish You Were Mine", and "Glad We Passed" once again:
The Full List of Culprits
LB Dewey Elliot (prep school), LB Terrell Scott (didn't make it), RB Robert Hughes (Notre Dame), RB Broderick Green (USC), RB John Clay (Wisconsin), WR Deonte Thompson (Florida), WR Greg Little (UNC), WR Ronald Johnson (USC), WR J.R. Hemmingway (Michigan), WR Leonard Hankerson (Miami), WR Israel Troupe (UGA), WR Matt Clements (S. Carolina), TE Mike Ragone (Notre Dame), TE Rob Gronkowski (Arizona), TE Jon Ditto (PSU), OT Josh Oglesby (Wisconsin), OT Anthony Davis (Rutgers), OT Nick Claytor (Ga. Tech), OT Kevin Bryant (UNC), OG James Wilson (Florida), C Kristopher O'Dowd (USC), OT Joseph Barksdale (LSU), DT Devon Still (PSU), DT Josh Brent (Illinois), DE Ben Martin (Tennessee), DE Justin Trattou (Florida), DE Derrick Morgan (Ga. Tech), MLB Chris Colasanti (PSU), MLB Pat Lazear (WVU), OLB Martez Wilson (Illinois), OLB Brandon Lindsey (Pitt), CB Joe Haden (Florida), CB Vance Cuff (UGA), CB Mario Butler (Ga. Tech), CB Art Evans (Tenn.), CB Devin Parrish (FIU), CB Phelan Jones (LSU, now Alabama), CB DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), CB Dionte Allen (FSU), S Eric Berry (Tenn.), S Major Wright (Florida), S Mike McNeil (Auburn), and S Ahmad Black (Florida).
The Ones That Got Away
There were not many misses by the staff inside the state of Ohio, but two players that didn't sign with the Buckeyes were Ben Martin of Cincinnati La Salle and Dewey Elliot of Fairfield. Martin was considered a lock to be a Buckeye, but pulled a stunner and selected to go to Tennessee. Last season, as a sophomore reserve defensive end, Martin tallied 18 tackles and a sack, but, along with his performance this spring, has shown he is on the verge of a breakout season. Losing Marting was a big loss to the Buckeyes and they certainly could have used him last season when Lawrence Wilson went down for the second consecutive year with an early season injury. Elliot, on the other hand, was not an important piece needed for this class to be a success, but could have developed into a nice player at OSU. Academics and off-field issues held him out of attending college in 2007 and he went straight to prep school. Overall the Bucks did fairly well in the state of Ohio with this class and Martin was the only target they really wanted that got away.
Wish You Were Mine
This list is slightly longer than that in the class of 2008 run down due to more misses on recruits and more time to assess how good the players in this class turned out. The list starts at the running back position with Robert Hughes, Broderick Green, and John Clay. No disrespect to Boom Herron or Brandon Saine, but the loss of Beanie Wells would be a little easier adding any of these backs to the OSU stable this season. Hughes rushed for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns last season for the Golden Domers, showing flashes of greatness throughout the season despite South Bend suffering from another down year. Green was a red-shirt freshman last season, and thus fourth in the USC stable of backs, but still managed 168 yards and 3 scores. The Little Rock, Arkansas native may have made a mistake when looking at the Trojan depth chart, but make no mistake this kid has talent and could compete to start at almost any school in the nation, including Ohio State. Clay rushed for 884 yards (5.3 avg.) and 9 scores, including 69 yards on 10 carries against the Buckeyes in Camp Randle Stadium on October 4. Buckeye fans probably have only selectively remembered LiC's game-winning drive from that game, but for those that were almost soiling their pants in the minutes leading up to TP's score, you remember Clay's hard runs and elusive moves through defenders that kept the chains moving.
The list continues with pass catchers in wide receivers Deonte Thompson of Florida, Greg Little of UNC, Leonard Hankerson of Miami, and Ronald Johnson of USC, and tight end Rob Gronkowski of Arizona. Thompson tallied 18 receptions for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns in Dot Com's spread attack last year and with Percy Harvin gone, should be one of Tim Tebow's top targets in 2009. Little has been Harvin-like during his time in Chapel Hill, playing both running back and receiver. He totaled 339 yards and three scores on the ground and caught 11 passes for 146 yards in his sophomore season for Butch Davis. Hankerson also had 11 catches last season and gained 140 yards to go along with a couple touch downs for the 'Canes, but his long body and size could be used in Columbus this season. Johnson, or "RoJO" as he is known in The Coliseum, is a Detroit Native that took the fast route to the big stage by accepting Pete Carrol's offer to play receiver at USC over offers from the Buckeyes, Michigan, and other top programs in the region. Johnson seems to know what he is doing as he caught 33 passes for 570 yards and 8 touchdowns in his second year in Los Angeles. Gronkowski may not have the stats he puts up in Tuscon if he were in the Buckeye's blocking barrage as Jake Ballard and Rory Nicol know all too well, but any tight end that can put up 75 catches for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons like Gronkowski has, is a player I want. Looks like the Buffalo native made the right choice in heading out west.
Other players that fill out the "Wish You Were Mine" list in this class are offensive linemen Anthony Davis, Joseph Barksdale and Kristopher O'Dowd, defensive end Derrick Morgan, linebacker Martez Wilson, and defensive backs Major Wright, Eric Berry, and Ahmad Black. Davis, Barksdale, and O'Dowd all started in their freshman seasons at their respective schools and Barksdale and O'Dowd have done some damage to the Bucks the last two years in the National Championship Game and the Collision in the Coliseum respectively. Morgan had a breakout sophomore season in Atlanta, registering 6 sacks and 51 tackles, and is en route to a breakout 2009 campaign. Wilson is a name Buckeye fans know well, as the Illinois junior-to-be has had some memorable plays in Big Ten play the last few years. His 73 tackles and 3 sacks last season would be welcomed in Columbus. Wright and Black roam The Swamp in the Gators' secondary and combined for 11 interceptions last season (4 for Wright, 7 for Black). There's nothing wrong with Anderson Russell or Kurt Coleman, but I wouldn't mind sliding Kurt over to corner if Wright had chosen the Scarlet and Gray back on NSD in 2007. Finally, Eric Berry rounds out this group and is possibly the best defensive player in the country. Berry is projected to be a top 10 pick in next year's NFL Draft and his 158 tackles and 12 interceptions through his first two years back up the hype that came in with him to school. He is certainly one player I would love to have at either corner or safety and simply makes plays wherever he is put.
Glad We Passed
To finish the breakdown of the 2007 class is the list of players we are glad to see chose to go elsewhere or didn't accept scholarships to OSU. The list consists of Terrell Scott, Jon Ditto, Nick Claytor, Devon Still, Pat Lazear, Brandon Lindsey, Dionte Allen, and Phelan Jones. Unlike the rest of the bunch, Scott didn't even make it to a school after 2007, and thus his off-field and academic issues make him the most obvious candidate for this category. Ditto is a tight end from Gateway in Pennsylvania (Dorian Bell and Corey Brown) who has not played a down for the Nittany Lions and I'm sure that would not change in Columbus, especially if Jake Ballard hasn't even gotten a full grasp on the job until now. Claytor was one of the top rated tackles in the nation coming out of Gainseville High School (Keith Wells) in Georgia, but has not played up to potential after an injury during his freshman season. Devon Still is another Penn State bust, who has been Happy Valley's version of Lawrence Wilson, suffering a torn ACL and broken leg in his first two seasons. Dionte Allen has fallen to the injury bug as well and while he is very talented, has only played in a handful of games for the Seminoles. Lindsey was a highly touted strong side linebacker coming out of high school, but has not panned out the way the Panthers have liked. He has seen time at linebacker and full back in practice, and is still trying to find his way onto the field heading into his red-shirt sophomore season. It is better he didn't come to Columbus so that the plethora of talent the Bucks have at linebacker could be put on the field. Pat Lazear is the member of this group who has had some off-the-field troubles and has not been able to separate character issues from on-field play. Morgantown is the perfect place for the Maryland native as he looks join Chris Henry and Pacman Jones as WVU alum who are outstanding citizens. Finally, Phelan Jones, another very talented player, has decided competition is not for him and will transfer from Death Valley to Alabama next season. Just like Josh Jenkins, the Buckeyes do not want any player who is scared of competition and apparently neither does the Mad Hatter, if he is willing to let a talent like Jones depart for a conference rival.