Ahhh the sweet smell of a threat. Yes, for ten weeks now we've been chasing the little 10, now it's time for the other member of the Big 2. Hold my hand and we'll make the jump from junior olympian to Usain Bolt.
When Urban Meyer neatly wrapped a bow around his 2012 class, expectations for 2013 were through the roof. With limited time, he had managed to whip together a top five class nationally, including five-stars Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Brionte Dunn, and a whole host of four stars. Expectations were further driven north when he finished the season undefeated...his, uh, first season there. If there's one theme we've harped on over and over again during this preview, it's the value of momentum in recruiting. Nothing quite gets the momentum turning faster than a legacy of championships, an undefeated season, and other prospects buying into what's being sold. As a result, we sit here analyzing what is arguably the top class in the country.
For a fuller and more complete understanding of that class, I'd recommend this podcast from our Ohio SBNation sister site, Land-Grant Holy Land. Luke Zimmerman and Ted Glover do a great job breaking down the class' impact to people who normally pay little to no attention to Ohio's recruiting efforts like myself (unless of course, there's a Michigan kid involved). I will be quoting them and borrowing information from them throughout this post. If you can stand to hear Buckeyes happy, give it a listen. If you can't, well I'll try to do my best to ensure that you don't have to.
Sooo yeah. Happiness. There was a lot of that in Columbus, especially on National Signing Day. It was a day where most Buckeye fans woke up thinking they'd be happy with their current haul, but as luck would have it...
This came a day after Bell named Tennessee his favorite and Butch Jones tweeted a picture suggesting that Bell had decided for UT. Yes, this one hurt VolNation, who managed to put the RCMB to shame with some of their flame-outs. I will not link to them, but if you choose to feed the trolls...boy is there some material. Bell ended up being the top overall recruit in the class and their only 247composite five star.
However, Bell wasn't the only late surprise for the Buckeyes. FL WR James Clark somehow managed to escape the grasp of terrifying recruiting machine Northwestern and was expected to decide for the hometown Gators on NSD. Then, well, yep you guessed it.
James Clark commits to Ohio State over Florida, Clemson
Up until the night before National Signing Day, it appeared as though Ohio State would miss out on '13 4-star WR James Clark. Then, late that night, the rumor mill began churning out the notion that even though Clark had just come off of an unofficial visit to Florida, Ohio State was predicted to be his school of choice. Up to that point, both Florida and Clemson were neck and neck with the Buckeyes, but officially as of National Signing Day 2013 morning, Clark is committed to Ohio State, giving the 25th commitment in the class of 2013.
Meyer even managed to keep RB Ezekiel Elliot in the class, after he flirted with hometown Missouri following the commitment of TX RB Dontre Wilson. Bringing home the signature of the aforementioned three plus JUCO WR Corey Smith and WR Jalin Marshall solidified what is one of the best groups of skill players to sign with any class nationally. If Michigan is trying to get their offense to be a whip-saw in the mold of Stanford, then Ohio State is trying to in the mold of...2006 Ohio State? Ok, not the exact same thing. But there'll be much more speed at the WR position supplemented by big-bodied guys like Devin Smith, a fine mixture of scat-backs and Carlos Hyde/Brionte Dunn types, and a quarterback that can stretch the field with both his arm and legs. If Michigan weren't building up (on both sides of the ball) as well, it would be a terrifying idea. No one liked the Troy Smith days.
Skill positions were the jewel of the class, but not by much. The defensive backfield will be aided by the addition of three outstanding CBs in Gareon Conley (a flip from Michigan), Eli Apple, and Cam Burrows. We know all about Conley- Apple is one of the best cover guys in the country, and Burrows is big and physical. Both Apple and Burrows enrolled early and will probably contribute in some fashion this fall, especially if there are extended repercussions stemming from the Bradley Roby incident.
Bell is almost sure to be a stud- Zimmerman predicts he'll be a starter by his second year on campus. Bell's commitment was supplemented by a group of lower-touted athletes that need to be groomed into safeties in Darron Lee, Jayme Thompson, and Christopher Worley. The linebackers were not as big in number, but surely comparable in quality. TX LB Mike Mitchell was a late rising athlete who ended up a five-star to Rivals and Scout. Former Auburn commit Trey Johnson's ceiling might be lower, but he's a bit further along in the instincts and refinement categories.
This class also added a great deal of depth to an already young and dynamic Ohio defensive line. I've been a pretty big fan of Donovan Munger's for a while now, and I also like what SC DT Michael Hill brings to the table. Other players include NOTY candidate Tracy Sprinkle, DT Billy Price (yes, the guy who tweeted dumb things about Michigan while on a visit, then got his scholarship pulled), and DE Tyquan Lewis.
So, in conclusion, Ohio hit big in just about every category...save a couple. Some fretted over the lack of a second OT in the class, although that's probably since been assuaged by their 2014 OL class that includes Jamarco Jones, Marcelys Jones, and Demetrius Knox. MORE IMPORTANTLY WE'VE GOT PUNTER PROBLEMS. FL P Johnny Townsend was committed for a while. Then Will Muschamp and Nick Saban gave him a call (presumably with an extra scholarship they were trying to fill) and Townsend had some second thoughts.
On Monday, two more members of college football's coaching royalty jumped in his path. When Alabama's Nick Saban or Florida's Will Muschamp calls, high school football players listen.
After weighing all of his options, however, Townsend had to tell Meyer and Saban, no thanks. He chose to stay close to home and signed with the Florida Gators Thursday.
"I was in complete shock," Townsend said of what transpired on Monday. "I was sitting down with family, saying some prayers and wondering out loud if all of this was happening for a reason. Like, what if this was just something that was meant to be. So I just started to weigh my options and trying to figure out where my heart was."
The weirdest part of the story comes from, of course, some random Alabama fan.
He still went on to the school, where he found an Alabama hat waiting for him. Word was out that he might be flipping to Alabama instead of Ohio State. An anonymous person claiming to be Johnny’s mother dropped off the Crimson Tide lid at the Boone front office.
"We have no idea where it came from," said Johnny Townsend, who told the crowd gathered at the high school be patient with him while he pondered a decision. "I still had no idea what I wanted to do and it wasn’t until night time that I had finally come to a decision on it.
That's right. An Alabama fan in Florida was sitting at home, minding her own business, when she heard that a punter might decide to roll with the tide. So, in a totally logical thought process, she figured that pretending to be his mother and dropping an Alabama hat at his school would make his mind up for him.
But I've gotten off topic. The point is Ohio missed out on a punter and the school is irreparably damaged. Err, except for the RUTHLESS WARRIOR they got in the 2014 cycle.
S Vonn Bell. Ohio State will lose starting safeties Christian Bryant and CJ Barnett following this season. Chances are they'll try to lighten the weight of that loss by getting Bell seasoned to take over Bryant's spot during his sophomore year. That means garbage time for Bell, as well as some time spelling him or playing a role in certain packages. Regardless of how it happens, Bell will be out there in some capacity.
CB Eli Apple. Ohio's a bit thin at the field position corner, where Apple and fellow early enrollee Cam Burrows backed up Doran Grant during the spring. Burrows may be bigger than Apple, but at 188, Apple's not too slight for B1G play. The two will vie for garbage time and spelling situations, but I'd give Apple the edge due to his superior coverage skills. Burrows will still play, though.
WR/Pivot Jalin Marshall. You might remember Meyer bemoaning the lack of a Percy Harvin type on the team before the start of last year. While Jordan Hall and Chris Fields are nominally in control of the starting position as of now, there's no doubt that Marshall's upside is higher. A high school QB, Marshall still has a ways to go in his transition to WR, but his athleticism speaks for itself.
TE Marcus Baugh. TE isn't really a huge position in Meyer's offense, but Baugh is still the most athletic in the group. He impressed observers at 7on7 type events throughout his recruitment, including the Opening, and had quite a list of schools from which to pick. There's experience and decent talent ahead of him, but sheer athleticism might push him into playing time nonetheless.
JUCO WR Corey Smith. The former teammate of Jarrod Wilson at Akron Buchtel might end up clashing horns with him in November. Smith had academic issues coming out of high school, but has apparently gotten his business in order and is ready to contribute. He's lauded for his route running skills and athleticism, and with only 2 years of eligibility, he'll have to translate that into production quickly.
DOWN THE ROAD CONTRIBUTORS
DL/OL Donovan Munger. As Zimmerman and Glover note in their podcast, Munger actually has the flexibility to play on either side of the line, which could help solve the depth issues on the o-line. However, I like his potential best on defense. I said this about Munger in December of 2011..
If '13 DT Donovan Munger picked up his grades, he'd probably have a laundry list of offers. Impressive tape. http://t.co/F1Sj22Ks— DG (@DGDestroys) December 28, 2011
CB Gareon Conley. Some people try to justify the loss of Conley with the addition of Channing Stribling. In my mind, they're in a totally different league. Conley seems like a young Bradley Roby type, Stribling's a depth player. Missing out on Conley hurt a lot, or would have, if not for Jabrill Peppers.
DL Joey Bosa. Bosa, in a lot of ways, is like Michigan signee Henry Poggi. Both received a lot of hype early before falling to earth some, both lack the elite intangibles to be a high-level NFL player, and both are somewhat of tweeners between SDE and DT. However, they're also technicians, and are almost certain to make an impact at the collegiate level. Unfortunately for Bosa, OSU has a lot of young talent on the line that's posed to stay ahead of him for a few years.
LB Trey Johnson. It's not hard to see why Johnson is labelled as an instinctive guy. He lacks the size and closing speed of fellow LB Mike Mitchell, but he largely makes up for it in his understanding of his position and ability to cut through the trash en route to a tackle. To make this as cliche as possible, I'll say this- he's just a football player.
RB Dontre Wilson. I don't know exactly know how or when Wilson will fit in. Right now, it seems like he's in line to play the pivot position that Harvin made famous. However, it just seems like Wilson's athleticism is too elite not to make a big splash. That could be this year, it could be in four. But some day, he'll be scary.
COMPARING THEM TO MICHIGAN
AH! After ten weeks of prefacing everything with 'well, you should know what to expect by now, we have COMPETITION!' Actually, sorta better than competition. The difference between the 2012 recruiting classes for OSU and UM was so slight and negligible that it was hard to argue that either had the better class. This year, the margin's a bit bigger. Despite having 2 more commitments (or perhaps because of), Michigan scored a 247composite score of 289.5, compared to Ohio's 303.26. Not a huge difference, but much bigger than last year's 1-point differential.
Interesting enough, however, is the fact that Michigan(Green) and Ohio's (Bell) top ranked recruits have the exact same 247 composite score of .9867. Here's a full rundown of the top 10 players, combined between the two classes.
T-1st RB Derrick Green, UM
T-1st S Vonn Bell, Ohio
3rd WR Jalin Marshall, Ohio
4th DE Joey Bosa, Ohio
5th CB Eli Apple, Ohio
6th LB Mike Mitchell, Ohio
7th RB Cam Burrows, Ohio
8th OL Patrick Kugler, UM
9th RB Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio
10th S Dymonte Thomas, UM
If you're wondering why Ohio's class is considered better, that's why. If you want to see how that compares with the rest of the B1G, well, let's include all of the B1G schools and rank the best prospects in the conference.
1st QB Christian Hackenberg, PSU
T-2nd RB Derrick Green, UM
T-2nd S Vonn Bell, Ohio
4th WR Jalin Marshall, Ohio
5th DE Joey Bosa, Ohio
6th TE Adam Breneman, PSU
7th CB Eli Apple, Ohio
8th LB Mike Mitchell, Ohio
9th RB Cam Burrows, Ohio
10th OL Patrick Kugler, UM
NOTES AND CHARTS
--> There have been classes scattered with Michigan offers before in our series, but they don't quite compare. Of Ohio's class, nine players or 36% of the class (Evan Lisle, Tim Gardner, Michael Hill, Joey Bosa, Billy Price-for a little while, Cam Burrows, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, and Jayme Thompson) had Michigan offers. As you are doubtlessly aware, Conley used to be a Michigan commit before changing his mind and heading to Columbus. Several of those players and others in the class visited Michigan during their recruitment.
--> The 2014 class is looking a lot like the 2013 group. Ohio currently has the number 1 class in the B1G, with an average commit rating of .9104. If Michigan can end up with the likes of Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell in their final group, then they might beat OSU this year. However, Ohio is currently sitting pretty for five-stars Raekwon McMillan, Curtis Samuel and Marshon Lattimore, as well as plenty of other four-stars. It'll be another close ending between the two schools.
It should go without saying that this Ohio class is impressive, not only due to the star power, but also how (nearly) completely it met its needs. The athleticism on the offense has been kicked up another notch, the secondary has plenty of stars in the making, and depth has been added to the linebacker, D-line, and quarterback positions. The Game is going to be one hell of a game for these next few years.