Exploring Ohio State's Success with Five-Star Recruits

By Chris Lauderback on July 5, 2014 at 8:15a
Teddy was the lone five-star of Ohio State's 2004 recruiting class.

As late as Memorial Day, a pocket of Buckeye fans were nervously shifting in their seats as Urban Meyer's 2015 recruiting class stood at a paltry two members in three-star cornerback Jamel Dean out of Florida and Canton McKinley's four-star defensive back Eric Glover-Williams. 

The next day, four-star quarterback Joey Burrow pledged his services but things soon went to fuego-mode as Meyer and company capped off a flurry of nine verbals over a 25-day span capped with Wednesday's five-star double-dip courtesy of linebacker Justin Hilliard out of Cincinnati and defensive end Jashon Cornell by way of Minnesota. Hilliard and Cornell are the first five-star commits in the Elite '15 class though the OSU coaching staff could be closing in on other five stars including running back Damien Harris. 

Obviously, nothing is guaranteed just because a player is labeled a five-star by at least one major recruiting service but as Marcus Hartman noted recently upon studying Ohio State's 2002-09 classes, five-stars went on to become starters 70% of the time (16 of 23) compared to just 51% of the time for non-five-stars. Further, 39% of five-stars during the eight-year period evolved into All-B1G performers while non-five-stars earned the honor at a 22% clip. Finally, 43% of five-stars were selected in the NFL Draft against just a 30% rate for the non-five-star population. 

As someone who follows recruiting albeit not super intensely, I looked back at each Ohio State from 2002-14 to see who and how many five-stars made their way to Columbus, as rated by either 24/7, Rivals or Scout:

2004 TED GINN. JR. 

By my tally, that's 37 five-stars signed during the 13 run highlighted by six in 2008 with four apiece in the 2002, 2009, 2012 and 2013 classes, respectively. Looking at the names, there are certainly a handful of truly elite players yet there are many others showing just how inexact a science recruiting rankings can be. No question, a program should pursue as many five-stars as possible as the odds for success are certainly more favorable than that of non-five-stars but during that same time frame, three-stars like A.J. Hawk, Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Johnathan Hankins and Dane Sanzenbacher, Chimdi Chekwa, Zach Boren and Smooth Jazz made their presence known in Columbus. 

Back to the five-stars, interested in what the max ceiling has been for such players at Ohio State which would serve as a benchmark for Hilliard and Cornell to aspire to, I took a stab at identifying the five best careers by five-star recruits at Ohio State during the noted 14- year period. Here are my guys, in alphabetical order: 


A consensus five-star prospect out of Cleveland Glenville and three-year starter (3 ST, 2 WR) in Columbus before becoming the ninth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Ginn Jr. ranks 2nd in school history with a 14.1 punt return yard average, 2nd in career punt return yards (900), 7th in receptions with 135 and 8th in all-purpose yards with 4,068. He lso holds the B1G record for punt return touchdowns with six. 

As a true freshman, Ginn Jr. made a name for himself on the national stage as he paced the country in average punt return yards (25.6) with a ridiculous four touchdowns, earning 1st team All-American honors as a specialist by both SI and Rivals. More quietly, he added 359 receiving yards for two scores and 113 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. 

As a sophomore, Ginn Jr. entered the starting lineup at receiver and hauled in 51 balls for 803 yards and four scores which was good enough for all-league honorable mention while repeating as a 1st team All-American special teams selection by Rivals. 

In his final year in the scarlet and gray, Ginn Jr. was a 1st-team all-conference performer with 59 catches for 781 yards with another 706 return yards and two touchdowns. 


Tabbed a five-star by both 24/7 and Scout, Miller is essentially a three-year starter as he enters his final season in Columbus this fall. Even with a year to play, Braxton is a no-brainer for this list thanks to earning B1G Freshman of the Year honors in 2011 before repeating as the league's Offensive Player of the Year in his sophomore and junior seasons. 

Braxton's back for one final chance at a national title.

During Ohio State's undefeated 2012 campaign, Miller threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns with another 1,271 on the ground with 13 scores. His 3,310 total yards ranked 2nd in the league while his 28 total touchdowns ranked 3rd, earning the Huber Heights product a 5th place finish in the Heisman voting.

Last year, Miller upped the ante threw the air with 2,094 yards with 24 touchdown passes which was good enough to lead the conference. On the ground, Miller churned out another 1,068 yards with a dozen trips to the endzone giving him 36 total touchdowns which also lead the league. 

Miller slipped to 9th in the race for the Heisman last season thanks to some shaky performances in the passing game over the final five games of the season as he completed just 51% of his throws sandbagged by a 6/15 effort against Michigan and an 8/21 night in the loss to Michigan State. 

Despite the late season passing struggles, Miller was still deadly with his feet and now that he's been cleared to resume throwing following offseason arthroscopic shoulder surgery, he should have plenty of time to get his game tight before the season begins meaning an assault on the Ohio State record books is forthcoming. 


A Rivals and Scout five-star, Pryor was the headliner of a ridiculous 2008 class that featured fellow five-stars Etienne Sabino, J.B. Shugarts, Mike Brewster, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams. 

The backup to start the 2008 season behind Todd Boeckman, Pryor quickly worked his way onto the field thanks both to his talent and the fact Tressel needed a mobile quarterback because his offensive line was, at times, hot garbage. The Jeanette, Pennsylvania product was raw as a passer but still managed to complete 61% of his throws for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns against four picks while totaling another 631 yards and six scores on the ground to earn B1G Freshman of the Year and All-B1G honorable mention honors. 

With a year of seasoning under Pryor's belt, Tressel opened up the passing attack a bit more and Pryor responded with 2,094 yards and 18 scores though his completion percentage dipped to 57%. On the ground, Pryor added 779 yards with seven touchdowns. His 25 total trips to the end zone ranked 3rd in the league and his 2,873 total yards were good for 5th. In one of his finest performances, Pryor capped his sophomore slate with a MVP performance in a 26-17 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl featuring a 23/37 night through the air for 266 yards and two touchdowns (1 INT) with another 72 yards on the ground. 

Brimming with confidence, Pryor turned in an outstanding junior campaign leading Ohio State to a 12-1 record featuring a 31-26 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl though the TatGate scandal will forever tarnish his legacy. 

On the season, Pryor threw for 2,772 yards, completed 65% of his throws, including 27 for touchdowns while adding another 754 yards and four scores on the ground. The 27 touchdown tosses topped the conference and his 31 total scores and 3,526 yards of total offense ranked 2nd, helping him finish 2nd in league MVP voting. 

Of course, there would be no senior season for Pryor following the scandal. Already suspended for the first four games of the 2011 season, Pryor withdrew from school that summer and was banned from having any contact with the university. 

Pryor's 57 career touchdowns are tied with Bobby Hoying for the most in school history and his 6,177 passing yards rank 5th. He was also 3-0 against Michigan and 2-1 in bowls. 


A consensus five-star out of Akron Garfield, Beanie was good enough to be in the running back rotation as a freshman behind an under appreciated Antonio Pittman before evolving into the most complete running back to play for the Buckeyes since Eddie George in the mid-90's. 

Beanie's combo of speed, power and elusiveness was something special.

The headliner of Tressel's 2006 class, Wells averaged 5.5 yards a carry in year one, totaling 576 yards and seven scores including a 52-yard scamper for six in the historic 42-39 victory over Michigan that vaulted the Buckeyes into the national championship game. 

With Pittman gone, Wells took his game to the next level as a sophomore racking up 1,609 rushing yards with 15 scores on an impressive 5.9 yards per carry. Once again, he blew up against Michigan amassing 222 yards on 39 carries, accounting for both scores in a 14-3 win that sent the Buckeyes back to the national championship game where he would rush for 146 yards and a touchdown in the loss to LSU. 

Wells missed three games as a junior after being injured in the season opener against Youngstown State but still ran for 1,197 yards on 5.8 yards per carry with eight scores and once again scorched Michigan with 134 yards and two touchdowns giving him a perfect 3-0 mark against the maize and blue (412 yards, 6.9 ypc, 4 TD). 

Opting to turn pro after his junior season, Wells was selected with the 31st pick of the 1st round by the Arizona Cardinals. For his career in Columbus, Beanie's 3,382 rushing yards serve as the 4th-most in school history and his 17 games of 100+ rushing yards rank 3rd behind a couple guys named Archie and Eddie. 

Beanie was an easy choice for All-B1G 1st team as he rushed for 100+ in nine of 13 games, ranked 2nd in rushing yards (the 1,609 yards also mark the 4th best single-season effort in school history) and 1st in rushing attempts. 

His helmet tapping drove me crazy at times but so did that devastating stiff arm. 


A five-star as ranked by Scout and 24/7, Whitner was the last player on my list as I considered the contributions of Maurice Clarett, Alex Boone, DeVier Posey and John Simon. Time will tell if Joey Bosa eventually challenges his spot. 

For now I'm going with Whitner, who was one of the guys who laid the groundwork for the Glenville pipeline, and chose Ohio State over the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame, USC and Miami. 

Whitner started two years in Columbus before turning pro early, going 8th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft which saw four other Buckeyes selected in the 1st round (Hawk, Carpenter, Holmes, Mangold). Whitner earned a reputation as a big hitting safety in 2004 and blew up in 2005 placing third on the team in tackles behind Hawk and Anthony Schlegel with 71 stops to go along with eight tackles for loss and three sacks. 

His strong season earned 1st team All-B1G and 1st team All-American honors and with his stock at its highest point, he smartly moved on the next phase of his career which after eight seasons split between Buffalo and San Francisco will resume in Cleveland for the Browns this fall. 


Comments Show All Comments

Knarcisi's picture

Just goes to how how inaccurate it can be rating 17 and 18 year old kids. With this group, there was an even mix of stars,  contributors, and no-shows. 

+2 HS
Rob Reese's picture

This pretty much surmises my take on the list too.  Not the most compelling list of who's-who.

Studs, duds and tweeners.

Alumni lounge attracts pretty people
Knarcisi's picture

By the way, whatever happened with Connor Smith?  As far as I know, he was on the roster but never cracked the 2-deep. Was there an injury along the way, or just a player that never worked out?

Urbanabuck's picture

I believe he was never able to gain a foothold on a starting position. He was draft eligible in 2011.

Abe Froman's picture

I would like to have seen a short list of who made the next 5.  Brewster had a solid career starting early in a tough position.  He seemed to have a tough senior year with some bad snaps, but outside of that I would think he graded out well.

Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

+2 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Simon, Brewster, Boone, Norwell, Clarett. 

+1 HS
luckynutz's picture

Brewster ia one of those guys that Tatgate seemed to take a bigger toll on. He always seemed to be the guy circling the wagons during his career at Ohio State. Whether it was spearheading the vaunted 2008 recruiting class, dubbed the Brew Crew, or being the voice of reason in a tumultuous time for the program as a senior. Brew was a buckeye to the core, and I feel was a little under appreciated because of that last season. He was trying to hold together the locker room and defend the program from those on the outside lobbing haymakers at it and his coaches reputation.

He may have had his struggles that season, but overall was worth his weight in gold(pants).

+3 HS
WezBuck28's picture

Very nice write up, Chris! Keep up the good work!

OSU_Football_is_Life's picture

Miller's final chapter has not yet been written.  A healthy senior season will largely be the key to his legacy and our efforts to pursue a Naty.  Depending on how this season goes will determine his placement on this list; if he rises to the occasion and has a truly special season he may, in mind, move up to the best 5 star we've had.

I think Bosa has the opportunity to do something special in his remaining 2-3 seasons and could be one of our all time greatest players.

A win over TTUN is one of the most important annual milestones I can think of!

+1 HS
Royball's picture

Love that the list in '08 says 'F.S. Shugarts'. Just had traumatic flashbacks: 'false start, #76, offense. Five yard penalty, repeat first down'...

4-6 seconds of relentless effort

+12 HS
johnblairgobucks's picture

Funny that from all the publicity "Block O" got before and during their time in Columbus, "False Start #76" may be the most time tested memory many of us have from the group.  Sure Tat Gate, Walrus Ball and vacating Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas didn't help things much, but it sure does add some comedy to what what you think vs what you get.

dabuckeyemike's picture

Had A Nice Chuckle For The F.s. I Think He Holds The Record For Most In 4 Year Career

Bellevue Buckeye. the Most Important Play Of The Game Is Punt.

nm_buck's picture

Evaluating players seems to be a roll of the dice at all levels.  As a Chiefs and Browns fan, I can tell you a lot of NFL 1st rounders don't quite live up to expectations either....

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

As a Lions fan, I second that

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

Findog5's picture

Excellent write up. I still wonder how good Pryor could have been with a real QB coach. Guy was an incredible specimen. 

Raleigh Buckeye

+3 HS
chirobuck's picture

so true, and even still I would love to have seen what his senior year would have looked like, not that I needed stats to tell me but every year he got better as a passer and became more and more of a complete qb........his senior year could have been phenomenal


^ best post ever ^

blazers34's picture

Great article chris!

chirobuck's picture

Good write up and great list, I think the only change I would make is I think Simon should be on the list ahead of Witner....his heart was second to none and what he meant to this team as they went through a brief dark period there....who knows where they would have been without him


^ best post ever ^

buckeyeradar's picture

Good article.  It makes you reflect, why didn't this or that recruit do better.  I guess the rankings get the attention but it's the attitude they bring to the game that makes the stars shine.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

MeyerMattaScarletHeroes's picture

I think Mike Adams was the best run blocking tackle since Orlando Pace.

+1 HS
TicoVersion1's picture

I laughed out loud at False Start Shuggarts

+3 HS
Normal Buck's picture

Made my day too - though I've always referred to him as "JB Falsestarts".

Curt Heinrichs's picture

after which I had to explain why I was laughing to a co-worker, who didn't get the humor. 

hit_the_couch's picture


Lolz. JB 'False Start' Shugarts.

I hope Zwick isn't factored into those numbers as one of the starters. We all know that was a mistake.

The backup to start the 2008 season behind Todd Boeckman, Pryor quickly worked his way onto the field thanks both to his talent and the fact Tressel needed a mobile quarterback because his offensive line was, at times, hot garbage. 

I believe it was more Boeckman being garbage than it was the O line. I didn't go to any games that year, but I do remember hearing the crowd boo Boeckman's play. There were awesomely bad play calls with Todd too though. I remember the coaches having him run up the middle on 3rd and 20 verse that pretty good '08 USC team.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

alust2013's picture

I don't think I can agree with Boeckman being bad. I think he was probably an average QB, and given that he started the entire previous year and was in the National Champ game, I don't think it's fair to say he was garbage. 

...and Michigan still sucks.

Nutinpa's picture

Garbage?  Did you think Boeckman was garbage in 2007...when after the Penn State game he was actually getting some Heisman commentary?  Fleeting perhaps...but commentary nonetheless. 

Boeckman was an old school, relatively immobile QB who could throw a very good forward pass. He played behind a pitifully slow O line (see LSU NC Game and USC in 2008) which spelled his doom. His pick-six in the USC game ended his career, but by no means was he a "garbage" QB.  

So....you didn't go to any games, but hearing an Ohio State crowd boo its QB is reason enough to believe he really sucked?  C'mon, dude.

hit_the_couch's picture

Going to games means little. I watched every game he/ tOSU played; c'mon, dude.The schedule was god awful, and once they started playing better teams his true ability showed. HIs numbers weren't impressive either. He was somewhat of a respectable sit in till something better came; at least he wasn't Bauserman. I'm glad he got benched.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

BeijingBucks's picture

why doesn't eugene clifford even ring a bell'?

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

hit_the_couch's picture

He was a top safety out of Cincy Colerain. Something happened and he was kicked out of tOSU, I think, his frosh year or right before his soph one. I believe he played sparingly during that time. Anyway, he went on to Tenn St. or some small school and eventually landed on the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad for maybe a season.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

I remember thinking he was going to be our next Mike Doss. I was so excited to see him play. I think Irizarry would have been a Winslow type TE. I was not aware that Melvin Fellows was a 5 star.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

cinserious's picture

Jamario O'Neal

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Dougger's picture

Great write up. Its so hard to rank this top five. Braxton's got another chance to cement his legacy. Bring it home big man

I like football

wilkins0802's picture

I say Bosa will make this list, eventually.

Truth & Courage, 1-17IN, 5/2 SBCT


808buckeye's picture

I thought Eric glover Williams is a cb not a rb.. Especially if we land Harris

seize the carpe

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Yeah, EGW is all defense, so far as I can see. Special teams...

Chris Lauderback's picture

Fixed. My bad. Scout lists him as a RB though I know that's not correct. I was taking a flurry of notes and jacked it up. 

Bourbon Meyer's picture

Justin Zwick, the Rod Hill of the Ohio State Buckeyes. (If your of a certain age and a fan of a certain NFL team you'll get the analogy.)

Crumb's picture

F.S. Shugarts. Classic. Somewhere he just committed another one.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+1 HS
Crumb's picture

Also John Simon could easily take Donte Whitner's spot in my opinion.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

DaytonBuck1980's picture

No. No. No. Simon is one of my all time favorite Buckeyes but Whitner is in another league. There's a reason he was the #9 overall pick in the draft. 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

Crumb's picture

But we're not including pro success cause then poor ol' Beanie wouldn't be up there. John Simon did more as a Buckeye than Whitner and Whitner did a lot.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

DaytonBuck1980's picture

I didn't mention anything about his pro success. Whitner was drafted 9th overall because he was an absolute stud in college. 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

Groveport Heisman's picture

Not fair because Booker  was a 5* by   one service and rated as our best LBer. If you are going to do research do it correctly because I know the young mans parents and while it doesnt really mean much this would be taken as a slight.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

-1 HS
Chris Lauderback's picture

Honest mistake. Fixed. Make sure his parents know. I'd hate for them to flip out.

Guapisimo's picture

i don't recall Corey Brown being a 5 star. MC 13 should be in the top 5. Won a NC for us.

Gametime's picture

Yeah, Corey "Pitt" Brown was a 5* WR I believe. 

Also, they're missing Dante Booker #47 - he was a 5* on 24/7

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

iball's picture

Dante Whitner is a bit of a stretch. A few guys on that list deserve mention over him.   IF he played for the Bengals somehow I think he wouldnt of made the top 5

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers