First Signing Class Critical to Success

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Last updated: 01/29/2012 11:48 PM

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Football
Like Tressel, Meyer’s First Class Integral for Success

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In his first full recruiting class at Ohio State, Jim Tressel laid the foundation for much of the future success he would enjoy with the Buckeyes.

Maurice Clarett
Photo by Jim Davidson
Maurice Clarett

That class, which was actually signed in Feb. 2002—a year after Tressel took over the OSU football program—included names like Maurice Clarett, A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Nick Mangold, Santonio Holmes and, of course, Troy Smith.

Take away that class, and Ohio State is simply not the program it became during Tressel’s 10-year run in Columbus. While Clarett helped the Buckeyes to their first national championship in 34 years, it was the rest of that class which helped OSU sustain success all the way through the 2006 season.

Urban Meyer won’t have the luxury of an entire year to piece together his first recruiting class at Ohio State. He barely had two months.

Meyer already has a head start on next year’s class with the early commitment of 2013 defensive back Cameron Burrows (Trotwood Madison). He could soon add another top player in the state of Ohio when Middletown athlete Jalin Marshall makes his official announcement on Jan. 31.

Marshall is the consensus top player in the state for next year, but it is what Meyer has done with the 2012 class since taking over at Ohio State on Nov. 28 that has people talking.

Since his introductory press conference in November, Meyer has landed seven commitments—all of them critical pieces to Ohio State’s recruiting class. That includes a trio of highly-touted defensive linemen in Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt and Se’von Pittman. It also includes 4-star offensive linemen Taylor Decker and Joey O‘Connor, along with linebackers David Perkins and Camren Williams.

Just as importantly, the Buckeyes have not lost a single commitment since making the coaching switch, other than wide receiver Roger Lewis, who is unlikely to sign with Ohio State because of academic reasons.

He secured reaffirmations from running back Bri’onte Dunn, who is now enrolled at Ohio State, and wide receiver Ricquan Southward—both of who were rumored to be looking around before Meyer took command.

There is no telling what kind of impact this class will have or how good it will be at the next level, but it went from completely off the radar in November 1st to top five in the country heading into February 1st, which happens to be National Signing Day.

Ohio State’s 2012 class is currently ranked No. 5 by 247 Sports, while both Rivals.com and Scout.com rank the Buckeyes No. 3 in the country heading into the final week (for most players).

Mike Kudla
Photo by Jim Davidson
Mike Kudla

Tressel’s first class was ranked No. 3 by Scout and No. 5 by Rivals, albeit back in 2002, when online recruiting services were just getting their footing. The top prospects in the class— after Clarett of course—were linebacker Mike D’Andrea, quarterback Justin Zwick, defensive end Mike Kudla and tight end R.J. Coleman.

Kudla would eventually become a starter for the Buckeyes, as would Zwick, but none of them ever lived up to their hype as recruits. Just because they didn’t pan out, however, doesn’t mean the class was a failure.

Far from it.

Hawk and Holmes were both rated as 3-star prospects by Rivals; as were T.J. Downing, Tyler Everett, Brandon Mitchell, Joel Penton and Jay Richardson—all of whom would play major roles for the Buckeyes from 2003-06.

Mangold was unrated by Scout, while Doug Datish and Rob Sims were both 3-stars. All of them would go on to become multi-year starters for the Buckeyes on the offensive line.

The list goes on and on. Quinn Pitcock, Roy Hall, Tim Schafer, Nate Salley, Stan White Jr. and E.J. Underwood, all of them were members of Tressel’s inaugural recruiting class at Ohio State.

Quinn Pitcock
Photo by Jim Davidson
Quinn Pitcock

Pitcock started on the defensive line from 2004-06. Nate Salley was a three-year starter at safety from 2003-05. Stan White was the starting fullback 2005 and ’06. Practically half of the starters on the 2006 team, which lost to Meyer’s Florida Gators in the BCS national title game, came from that 2002 recruiting class.

That includes  Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith. It also includes Datish and Downing up front, Pitcock and Richardson on the defensive line and Brandon Mitchell in the starting secondary. Holmes would have been on that team, but he left after his junior season in 2005.

In other words, some of the top prospects did not pan out, but because the class as a whole was so strong, it laid the foundation for much of Tressel’s success between 2002-06.

Now if Tressel had followed it up with strong classes in 2003 and ’04, the Buckeyes might have won more than one national title, but that is an entirely different conversation for an entirely different day.

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