Dave at Maize n Brew was kind enough to offer up a roundtable discussing newly signed classes around the Big Ten. The big fish is still out there, but here's our take on what we do know.
1. As a general question, evaluate your recruiting class. Is it more or less what you expected, were you pleasantly surprised or horribly, horribly disappointed? Were your team's needs adequately addressed or will you be starting a two star running back at center next year?
One of the benefits of having a coach that wears sweater vests every Saturday in the fall is that you don't normally get a lot of surprises out of the guy.
For the 2nd straight season, there were no last minute defections nor any big surprise fish reeled in near the end of the process. Late editions were Keith Wells and Orhian Johnson, with only Johnson considered a real surprise out of the two. Most of the rest of the guys had been locked in for so long that Tressel and staff pretty much knew who they'd land.
Sure, Pryor delaying his decision was definitely a surprise, but considering the fact that nobody really knew where he was going to go, you have to classify that one as an extension of an original surprise instead of a new surprise. Got that?
With the likely departure of Chris Wells after his junior season in 2008, it's curious that Ohio State didn't really sign a true running back with this class. Glenville's Jermil Martin is coming in as a fullback after being named all-Ohio at defensive end. Then again, Wisconsin was on his trail early, so maybe he could develop into the type of bruiser the Badgers love so much. Lamaar Thomas played running back in high school, but it's thought that the Buckeyes will use him as a wide receiver. If Wells does leave after this season, Tressel would have Saine, Boom Herron and these dudes heading into 2009.
2. Who were the big catches in your recruiting class? Name two players matriculating to your school whose existence everyone else in the Big Ten will curse for the next four years.
This was a tough one. Partly because it's an exact science and all just a bunch of guesswork, but also because there are so many kids in this class to get excited about.
Pure odds here, but one, possibly two of the incoming o-linemen will develop into an all-conference performer. If all three live up to it, watch out.
The same applies for the defensive linemen that signed. Goebel, Mobley and Wells could have all gone just about anywhere, so the future of the Buckeye defensive line looks great. Posey is electric and Thomas could stretch the field for many Saturdays to come from the receiver position. The Vest got one of the top kickers in the country and also managed to sign two of the top inside linebackers in America.
The two guys I really like and the guys I think will do early and lasting damage to opponents are Jake Stoneburner and Etienne Sabino. Stoneburner is 6-5/225 and can run. He'll be Pryor or Henton's bread and butter in 2009. Sabino is a 6-3/230 inside backer that plays on a permanent fast-forward. Both kids are academic performers and once processed by the strength and speed programs in Columbus, will no doubt register in the hate corner of opposing fans' minds.
3. You can't win them all. Maybe some slick talking carpetbagger schmoozed his way into your living room, sold you a set of ginzu knives made out of tin foil, and walked off with your wife and your star recruit. Perhaps an in-state lock who grew up with [Insert University Here] posters on his wall and your coach's face tattooed on his arm decided to go elsewhere for reasons no one seems to understand? Did your recruiting class lose someone big on signing day, who was it, and was your school able to yoink someone else to cover his loss?
I think a lot of Buckeye fans, myself included, felt that Pryor was pretty much a Buckeye about 48 hours before signing day. I still feel good, but I won't be surprised to see him get away at this point in time. It's the same zen you have to apply to the time when Ohio State juniors make their annual decision on whether or not to leave early for the NFL -- if it works out, great.. if it doesn't, it's not the end of the world. But damn if he wouldn't look sweet in the scarlet and gray.
After watching a fence go up around the state during the first five years of his tenure, Tressel has seen Illinois, Michigan and to some degree Iowa, make inroads into Buckeye state talent the last couple of years. The Wolverines signed 7 Ohio kids, including a pair from Trotwood. Buckeye fans can spin this all they want, but most of the 7 were quality recruits and Ohio kids always play with an extra chip agains the Buckeyes (Howard, Brewer, Sutton, etc.).
4. There's been a spirited debate about this whole "Coaches' Code" among the members of the Big Ten coaching fraternity. Do you believe this exists or is it a line being floated by the guys who couldn't keep their recruiting classes together? Bonus points for declaring your coach a poacher or a poachee in creative fashion!
I think there was a code at one point in time. But that time was before text messages and bulk emails. The times.. they are a changin'. Either you adapt and work harder or you cry for a little bit and then you ride off.
5. Finally, who's the slickest, smoovest, most Billy Dee Williamsesque recruiter in the Big Ten? Who's the worst, most incompetent, "trip over the flat tire on his Yugo" recruiter in the Big Ten?
The guy in a wizard's cap selling snake oil has the makings of great slickness, but at this point in time, you gotta go with Zook. I mean he's really just a 20 year-old trapped in a middle-age head coach's body.
The worst recruiter in the Big Ten is a little harder to pinpoint. Fitzgerald at Northwestern and Lynch at Indiana don't have a lot to work with, so it's to easy to slap that one on them. You could say Tiller underperformed, but this being his last season and all, that may not be fair.
With that said, I have to put it on Paterno. The old icon isn't traveling to meet recruits and although he did get his usual batch of hard-nosed linebackers, he didn't get much of anything else. Ole Miss, North Carolina and Southern Miss pulling in better classes than Joe Pa? Say it ain't so. Of course, landing a miracle with the initials "T.P." could change things, but outside of that, there doesn't appear to be much to inspire hope in the hearts of Penn State fans.