MnB B1G Preview: Blossoming Buckeyes

New OSU WR Mike Thomas gets a wee bit of a facemask. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

I apologize for the lateness of the post. I'm back up in Michigan visiting in-laws this week and thought I would have time, but every time you sit down it's always something else, so I got up early to finish it off. If anyone sits at their desk patiently waiting on Tuesday afternoons for my post (I'll believe it when I see it), I sincerely apologize.

Phew. We've reviewed a few classes over the weeks, but we've finally reached the truly upper echelon of the big ten (as much as it pains me to say that).

The only QB from the class is Cardale Jones, a former Glenville product who required a year of PG before enrolling. Jones, however, is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He'll be sitting behind the QB of the future (Braxton Miller), an able back-up (Kenny Guiton), and Urban's first hand-picked QB in the 2013 class, J.T. Barrett. Jones is not a great fit for Urban's offense, due to a lack of mobility, and struggled to grab hold of significant playing time during the spring. Since then, there's been some speculation about whether or not he'll transfer out.

Meyer also managed to hold on to two of the midwest's best tailbacks in Warren Ball and Brionte Dunn. I'm sure most Michigan fans don't need a refresher on Dunn, but despite an early UM offer, you probably haven't heard much about Ball. The former teammate of former UM DE Chris Rock committed in September of 2010, the equivalent time frame of one of our 2014 prospects (like Malik McDowell) committing this September. If memory serves, he was rated as a top-5 RB by a couple of the recruiting services, but fell when he chose to forgo the pomp and circumstance of all-star games and camps. Neither of these two will be Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey, but have sufficient talent to hold their own.

On the opposite end of the Cardale Jones spectrum is Mike Thomas, a PG transfer that made quite the splash once enrolling this spring. After impressing coaches and DBs during spring practices, he exploded in a 12 catch performance during the spring game. OH WR Frank Epitropoulos is a lifelong buckeye lean that jumped on the chance to play for the scarlet and gray shortly before Tressel was fired. He's a nice size/speed type of prospect, but he's likely to find great difficulty when trying to get onto the field. FL WR Ricquan Southward is an interesting prospect, as he's played very little football, and is very raw.

Before Tressel left, Ohio State took the commitment of OH TE Blake Thomas. As far as his size goes, he's already college ready. His ceiling, however, doesn't appear to be too high.

The big uglies up front are a group chock full of defections from other regional powerhouses. Kyle Dodson (Wisconsin), Joey O'Connor (Penn State), and Taylor Decker (Notre Dame) all left their schools late in the process to become Buckeyes. Dodson is a mauler that should thrive in the interior of the line. Decker is a long, athletic tackle that should protect Miller's blindside for years to come. I'm not as high on O'Connor as sites like Rivals, but he does bring a great deal of versatility to the table. The class is topped off by two native Ohioans from Pickerington; Pat Elflein and Jacoby Boren (yes, the younger brother of Zach and Justin). Both are a bit undersized, and look like they may be stuck as depth players throughout their career, but depth is exactly what the line needs at the moment.

The real strength of the class, however, lies on the defensive line. The Buckeyes picked up three five-star prospects, as well as one that isn't too far behind. PA DE Noah Spence is generally regarded as a top-ten type of player nationally. A one-time heavy PSU lean, he was driven to Columbus by a combination of the drama in State College as well as the arrival of Urban Meyer. Spence will likely have an immediate impact and an incredibly successful career as a Buckeye. I do not look forward to facing against him in years to come. OH DE Adolphus Washington, however, was widely considered a buckeye lean throughout the process, and his ultimate decision came as no surprise. Although I think the disparity between Washington's play and Wormley's are exaggerated, Washington is certainly a special talent. I think he'll need to work on some technique, as well, but he could still find a way onto the field early based on sheer athleticism. I'm not quite so enamored by the play of PA DT Tommy Schutt, but he makes plenty of plays that you wouldn't expect a tackle to make. Michigan State decommitment and Ohio DE Se'Von Pittman is, at this point, not much more than a pass rusher, but an elite one at that. However, I can't imagine them burning a redshirt on both Pittman and Spence. The Buckeyes topped off an elite unit with the addition of late rising NC DE Jamal Marcus. Marcus will need some work, but could end up just as productive as the aforementioned prospects.

The linebacker group is another chock full of poachings from other regional powers. IN ATH David Perkins (Notre Dame) and MA LB Camren Williams (Penn State) were two late additions to the class after the arrival of Meyer. Both are undersized, but athletic, and will need some serious time in a college weight room to fill out their potential. OH LB Josh Perry managed to stay up in the rankings despite his early commitment because of his elite combination of speed and size (6'5, 245). MLB Luke Roberts is probably one of the few unimpressive prospects in the group, committing during Fickell's block as the interim head coach.

The class was topped off by 4 defensive backs, including a couple of elite cover guys in OH DB Najee Murray and MA DB Armani Reeves. Reeves, who flipped to OSU from Penn State after also considering the maize and blue, was one of the best cover guys I saw on film last year. Najee Murray isn't too far behind, either. Murray has smooth hips and great instincts at the CB position. Bogard is a physical safety, as is Tyvis Powell, but both are limited athletically a bit. Will either be able to play deep? Sure, but I'm not sure either will really excel.

Ultimately, one must give Urban Meyer credit for putting together such a phenomenal class in such a short period of time, even if it didn't endear him to some of the coaches in the area. I think the margin between OSU's class and ours is so slim that it's ultimately irrelevant; the moment a kid transfers or a highly touted kid doesn't pan out, one class suddenly becomes the more complete one. That's the way it may end up this year, where UM might end up with a higher rated class, but the difference will all be made with effort, work ethic, and determination- not on some website.

COMMITMENTS WITH A MICHIGAN OFFER--> 12

SCOUT.COM BIG TEN CLASS RANKING--> 1st

RIVALS.COM BIG TEN CLASS RANKING--> 1st

NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS ACHIEVING FOURTH STAR ON AT LEAST ONE SITE (Includes 5-stars)--> 20 (80% of the class)

NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS ACHIEVING FIFTH STAR ON AT LEAST ONE SITE--> 4

MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT--> Najee Murray

BEST OFFENSIVE RECRUIT--> OH RBBrionte Dunn. Maybe not the best system fit, but the best player for sure.

BEST DEFENSIVE RECRUIT--> PA DE Noah Spence. Yeah, he's a little terrifying.

BEST NAME--> Adolphus Washington

THE FINAL VERDICT--UNDER OR OVERRATED CLASS? Spot on. The buckeyes have the best class in the Big Ten, even if the margin between them and Michigan isn't all too significant.

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