Today is officially the first day for lacrosse players to sign their national letter of intent, and it is a day of mixed feelings for this staff. While a decent class, the 2020 Buckeye recruits will be known more for what ifs, than for the players that did sign.
That's not intended to be a slight on the players in this class, but rather is a statement on those that committed, only to flip later. Two top 10 recruits, 3 top 30, and 4 top 100 in total, said they wanted to be Buckeyes, only to decommit and sign elsewhere.
This could have been a better class than 2019, but will have to settle for middle of the road.
As a whole, this class is more offensively oriented, despite the loss of two top 100 attackmen. Given the plethora of poles in the 2019 and 2021 classes, that was to be expected.
The players in 2020 are an interesting mix of diamonds in the rough and polished prospects. Only 1 hails from Ohio, which is a glaring issue for this staff, but one that is being rectified somewhat in 2021.
The top OH prospect the past two classes has committed to TTUN. That's a problem, especially as both are 5-star players.
Hopefully the Buckeyes will be able to sell the new stadium hard to 2021 recruits and beyond.
This class is also remarkable for its array of unknowns. Two of the signees are virtual ghosts, with hardly anything to say about them. Only one has done anything of note, but is primarily a box player who will present problems on the left side, both to the staff and opponents.
Despite the dour tone of the above paragraphs, the athleticism of this class is probably the highest in Ohio State lacrosse history, even with last year's class in the fold. Multiple prospects play football at a high level, with one garnering a couple D1 offers to MAC schools.
The best prospect in the class is trying to be one of the youngest members of the 2020 U-19 World Championship team, and is maybe the most athletic middie in THAT pool. Athletic ability, especially at the midfield positions, has really been missing from the Buckeye roster, making this a nice change of pace.
And with that, let's get into the newest Buckeyes!
Starting us off will be Connor Cmiel, the only Ohioan in the class, and a player who committed late in the process after flirting with football offers at the MAC and FCS level. Coming out of St. Ignatius in Cleveland, Cmiel joins current sophomore Anthony Ameo as alumni out of the Wildcats' program.
Cmiel, obviously, has athleticism to burn, which allows him to be an absolute monster in high school lacrosse. He is able to get good separation on dodges thanks to his shiftiness, though he's far from polished in that regard. Cmiel is a prototypical alley dodger the majority of the time, burning past slower defenders as he heads towards GLE.
He could do more dodging across the top using his lateral quickness to take his game to a whole new level. Hopefully Coach Sheridan gets his hands on him to turn Cmiel into a dodging weapon that is just deadly. Ty Xanders of Inside Lacrosse mentioned he projected Cmiel as a defensive middie in college, which I just don't see.
Cmiel plays defense like a football player, toppling opponents with a shove under the armpit with ease. It makes him prone to lunging, which puts him out of position to recover against B1G dodgers.
Cmiel needs less coaching to be an a good-to-great offensive player than he does a defensive player. In my mind, anyway.
The only FOGO in this class, Drew Elder (Lake Norman HS, NC) is #82 in the senior class. And he is a prospect with tremendous potential. Elder is really good at winning the all quick on the whistle.
Rarely does he fight out long battles for the clamp, he usually is out and running within 3 seconds, or utilizing his wings. That's one area to watch, especially in the era of the double pole. Elder doesn't win a lot of defensive draws (draws towards his own goal, where only he can get the ball).
It's forward most of the time, occasionally to the wing. In the B1G, the athletes on the wings are way better than what he faced in HS, so we will see how Elder adjusts. With the ball in his stick, Elder is okay for a FOGO.
He is probably good for a goal or 3 over 12 games. That's not what he is being recruited for, of course, so we can cut Elder a bit of slack there.
One of 4 poles in this class, Jack Graffagnino (Islip HS, NY) is a 4 star defender that OSU flipped from Rutgers. Graffagnino comes from the lesser known Islip school, as West Islip has been a Long Island power in lacrosse for years.
Graffagnino is a player who is hard to nail down, because the only film around on him is nearly 3 years old, and I hate to speculate without firm knowledge of how he plays. I will say that at least one random blog has him as a top 15 player on Long Island, so there is that.
Graffagnino has been a starter for Islip since the 8th grade, giving him more experience than most in HS lacrosse. Graffagnino also was an invitee to the U-19 tryouts, but was cut after the first round.
The limited footage I saw had him playing fairly solid positional D, but not an overwhelming takeaway player. That's more than fine, and is indicative of the jump OSU has taken in recruiting players recently.
David Graham, another pole (Haverford School, PA), is just a mystery recruit. He appeared as a commitment completely out of the blue, with zero fanfare and hardly a mention anywhere.
Graham made his commitment, and only the Haverford Instagram had a word on it. Very strange. Graham himself is a fairly unknown prospect that plays for a great team.
Haverford is a legendary program in Pennsylvania, but Graham isn't a widely covered defenseman for them. His videos call him a two-year starter, but I have also read coverage stating he just cracked the lineup in 2019.
In any case, Graham is a fairly decent defender with more of a physical presence than Graffagnino. Graham is fairly big at 6'2", which has been the mold for Buckeye poles lately. He most likely will be a depth player early in his time for the Buckeyes, though the defense will have some holes to fill when he gets to campus.
Gerard Kane (Hill Academy, Lambert HS, GA) is the first of three attackmen in a class that had 5 at one point. He is the highest-rated recruit at the position, currently, and easily the most known.
Kane had a sparkling career at Lambert HS, where he showed he can be an initiator or off-ball shooter with equal ease against GA competition.
Kane's a lefty, with an emerging right hand and insane box lacrosse moves. As a non-Canadian player, Kane shows impressive fakes and hesitation moves to get his hands free that wouldn't be out of place in Junior A ball.
It makes perfect sense to see him post-grad at the Hill Academy this year to really refine his game against the best competition possible. Kane's issue as a dodger is less than elite athletic ability.
He really reminds me of Tre Leclaire, with less shooting power, but more change of direction ability. Against B1G competition, Kane is likely to struggle to draw a slide. Much like what I believe they should do with #44, Kane could be an excellent step down shooter from the lefty spots on the field.
We will see how Brodie Merrill shapes him in this post-grad year.
The other attackman in this class is Mitchell Sandberg, out of Seaquam, B.C. in Canada. He is another mystery, though his play in the recent junior box world championship gave us a lot to look at.
Box lacrosse isn't a direct translation to field, but judging by his play at worlds, Sandberg is a better passer than scorer. Part of his role was due to his size (Sandberg is 6'4"), but also down to Sandberg being one of the youngest players on the team.
He mostly set picks and was used as a pivot to hit cutters, making Sandberg a tremendous feeder in traffic, and with a man on him. Sandberg is like Jack Myers, in that he doesn't have the quickness to be a huge dodger.
But with a larger field net, Sandberg most likely will be able to get some quality shots off with his height and release. Sandberg is also the first Canadian to sign since Jackson Reid and Justin Inacio in 2017.
Our second middie, and first pure offensive midfielder, is Logan Santos (St. Paul's, MD). Santos is an absolute steal of a player, and is easily the most exciting prospect in the class as a result of his dodging.
Santos has incredible speed down the alley, the quickness to get over the top, and a killer dive to score when inverted. Santos regularly glides past defenders in the MIAA, and against top notch does from other areas.
He's adept at splitting the double team, and has a decently hard shot from outside, though it is slow to get out of the stick. All in all, Santos is a better dodging Jack Jasinski, who can hopefully score a bit more easily.
Drew Scott (Highland Park, TX) is the other offensive middie in this class, from one of the premier teams west of the Mississippi River. Scott is another football player, playing wideout for the Scots, though not at the level of Connor Cmiel.
Scott's an imposing 6'2", 185 at middie, making him a real force on the Dodge. Scott is fast more than quick, bearing down like a freight train, but without the shake of a Santos. Scott is another middie that has the ability to play some hard-nosed defense, while showing off a serious shot in the offensive end.
Ohio State has made a serious effort to recruit players like Virginia's Ryan Conrad, and Scott is the first in that line. He is a player who will hopefully do great things in the Buckeye uniform.
Henry Watson (Episcopal School of Dallas, TX) is yet another Texan in a class full of them (spoiler: the next recruit is a Texan too). Watson is the second ESD Eagle to sign with OSU, joining Carson Raney as a long-pole defenseman.
Watson is a pretty good defender, with great checks. He doesn't have elite speed to swallow up middies, but Watson has a knack for timing his checks to disrupt offensive players. Watson also can throw the hammer, pushing around opposing players if they require it.
ESD is an incredible program that has jumped up to insane heights in recent years. Watson will try to keep the tradition of strong defense going in Dallas this year before joining his teammate in Columbus.
Last, but certainly not least, is Diego Zimmerman (The Woodlands, TX). Coming out of the Houston area, Zimmerman is an LSM that is just awesome to watch play. He is athletic, nasty, and an incredible checker. Zimmerman loves the Kayak, and Brodie Merrill's "Ding dong" while playing (essentially a fake kayak check that gets the offensive guy trying to turn the corner).
Zimmerman is a wonderful ground all player, and has speed enough to get out on the break. His most impressive highlight to me was an underhanded goosing of the ball to a teammate while triple teamed. It was a small play, but speaks wonders about his stick skills and awareness on the field.
LSM has been a position of real need, and it will be very exciting to see what the future holds for Zimmerman in Columbus.
That wraps up the current signees for the class of 2020! While it certainly has some quality, this was a disappointing class due to flips, and the lack of Ohio talent kept home.
Two different top 60 players in the 2020 class spurned OSU to go to TSUN. Ohio certainly isn't ignored, as the Buckeyes are pulling top 100 guys out of Columbus and St. Ignatius, but the staff needs to start putting up a fence around the state.
Coach Sheridan should help with that, I imagine, but losing 5-star attackmen to the Wolverines is just unacceptable. Especially given how active the team has been south of the Mason-Dixon.
There is one more recruit to keep an eye on. Since so many attackmen moved on to other teams, the Buckeyes should be in the market for a new replacement. I would think Ben McDonald, another Canuck, would fit that bill. He is a very talented scorer who dominated in box lacrosse last season, while starring at quarterback for his high school team.
McDonald is deciding amongst several D1 offers in December, with 2 schools potentially letting him play football and lacrosse, if he chooses. Keep your eyes peeled for updates!
Like previous years, I will update this thread with various stats and big wins for the next season.
As always, thanks for reading, and go Bucks!