Recruiting Roundup

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Last updated: 05/21/2011 9:55 PM

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Football
2012 Recruiting Rundown: Where Ohio State Stands

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There is less than a month until the remaining members of the 2011 recruiting class report to Ohio State, but things are already heating up for 2012.

The Buckeyes had five freshmen from 2011 enroll back in January, including quarterback Braxton Miller, and another two joined them in time for spring practice. That means 16 more freshmen will join them in June, including high-profile defensive stars like Curtis and Doran Grant, along with defensive ends Steve Miller and Kenny Hayes.

What about 2012?

Despite taking 23 players in the class of 2011, a very large class for Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes, Ohio State should be looking at a 2012 class of somewhere around 20 players. A big reason for that is the depth of talent in the state of Ohio.

It is still possible that number could be reduced if the NCAA comes down hard on Tressel and the university with a loss of scholarships, but the Buckeyes are already on their way with seven players committed for 2012.

They had five of them already committed before they even his National Signing Day in 2011, and have since added two more in wide receiver Frank Epitropoulos and, most recently, tight end Blake Thomas.

A 6-4, 240-pound prospect out of Cleveland St. Ignatius, Thomas did not hold a lot of big offers when he committed to the Buckeyes last week, but he was drawing some major attention from the University of Wisconsin, where his dad went to school.

After struggling mightily to bring in tight ends a couple years ago, the Buckeyes have now struck with four pretty solid players in the last three recruiting classes. They brought in Reid Fragel, a blocking tight end, in 2010 and added a pair of pass-catchers in Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett in 2011.

Thomas does not yet have an offer from the Badgers, so that would be something to keep an eye on down the road despite the fact he is committed to Ohio State.

What’s In a Name?

If the name Epitropoulos sounds familiar to long-time Ohio State fans, that’s because it should. The 6-3, 195-pound receiver out of Upper Arlington is a Buckeye legacy whose father, John, and uncle, Ernie, played for Ohio State more than 30 years ago.

The two brothers played under coach Earle Bruce in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with Frank’s father, John, lettering for the Buckeyes from 1978-80. His son Frank committed to Ohio State back in April over offers from Louisville, Purdue, Stanford, Syracuse, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Loading Up

There might not be a deeper position on the current Ohio State football team than tailback, and it appears the staff would like to keep it that way. After not taking a running back in the class of 2011, the Buckeyes already have commitments from two for 2012.

Columbus native Warren Ball was the second player in Ohio State’s recruiting class, joining Olentangy linebacker Josh Perry. A 6-2, 200-pound back from DeSales, Ball is a powerful runner who grew up a Buckeye fan. He also looked hard at Notre Dame, but committed to OSU last September.

He was joined in the class by fellow tailback Bri’onte Dunn, who committed to Ohio State in April. The 6-2, 215-pound back out of Canton GlenOak is one of the most coveted players in Ohio, holding offers from Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Tennessee.

Even with the departure of senior Boom Herron after the 2011 season, Ball and Dunn would be joining a loaded backfield in 2012. The Buckeyes will have four players coming back in Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde. It’s possible one of them could decide to transfer, but until then, Dunn is keeping his options open, especially with the circumstances surrounding Tressel and the potential for future NCAA sanctions.

Dunn remains committed to Ohio State, but did take a trip to Ann Arbor earlier this month to get a look at the new Michigan program under Brady Hoke.

A Boren Trilogy

It is only fitting that there is a third Boren brother to complete the trilogy at Ohio State. If not for Justin’s defection from Ann Arbor, all three likely would have ended their college careers as Michigan men. Instead, Jacoby will follow in the footsteps of both Justin and Zach by playing for the Buckeyes.

A 6-3, 273-pound guard out of Pickerington Central, Jacoby committed to OSU back in December, but it was only a matter of time for those who remember his dad’s statements about wanting his sons to play for the same school.

Because he is an unranked prospect, some might question the decision to offer him as a token of appreciation for the contributions his brothers have made to the program. People made that same assumption about Zach and when he leaves Ohio State it will likely be as a four-year starter at fullback.

Will They Take a Quarterback?

Technically they already have one. The reason Ohio State took two quarterbacks in the class of 2011 was to bank one of them for 2012. With Braxton Miller already penciled in as the guy in 2011, the Buckeyes also signed Glenville quarterback Cardale Jones with the knowledge that he would either grayshirt or attend junior college.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman made it clear they would like Jones to be their quarterback in the class of 2012, putting a year or two of separation between him and Miller, but it’s not a done deal just yet. Jones still has to take care of his academics if he wants to end up at Ohio State, which means the Buckeyes are keeping some options open in the meantime.

The top backup plan, if it’s fair to call it that, would be Austin Appleby, a 6-5 signal caller from North Canton Hoover. He holds mostly MAC offers at the moment, but that could change during camp season and into his senior year. He has drawn interested from Pitt, UConn, Louisville, Syracuse and both Michigan schools, but he also made it to Columbus for the spring game back in April.

If he camps with the Buckeyes this summer, Appleby could have a great chance to get an offer, but Ohio State had better not wait too long or he will be gone.

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