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Last updated: 08/20/2013 3:15 AM
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Football
Pleasant Surprises Not New to OSU Football
By Rob Ogden

Yesterday we counted down the 10 most-hyped freshmen of the Ozone era (1996-present). Today's feature is devoted to the guys who didn't get enough publicity during the recruiting process, but turned out to be valuable players for the Buckeyes.

Who would you add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below.

No. 10: Brian Robiskie

Brian Robiske
Photo by Jim Davidson
Brian Robiske

Unranked coming out of high school, Brian Robiskie was listed by most recruiting services as only a two-star wide receiver. The Chagrin Falls product didn't even receive an offer from Ohio State until January.

Robiskie made little impact on the field as a freshman in 2005, as he caught only one pass for 13 yards. He began to make a name for himself during his sophomore season when he hauled in 29 passes for 383 yards and five touchdowns – the most notable of which was the game-winning score in a 42-39 victory against Michigan.

In 2007, Robiskie became the Buckeyes' go-to receiver as he grabbed 55 passes for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns. Robiskie finished his career ranked eighth on Ohio State's career pass receptions list and was a second-round pick pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 2009 NFL Draft.

No. 9: Bradley Roby

Bradley Roby
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bradley Roby

That fact that Bradley Roby makes this list after only two seasons of play for the Buckeyes is indicative of just how impressive this corner back has been.

A consensus three-star prospect coming out of high school, Roby was redshirted his first year with the Buckeyes, then seized a starting position during camp prior to the 2011 season. Roby quickly became Ohio State's best pass defender and was named a second-team All-American in 2012.

No 8: Chimdi Chekwa

Chimdi Chekwa
Photo by Jim Davidson

Chimdi Chekwa

A little-known prospect out of Clermont, Fla., Chimdi Chekwa was labeled as a two-star prospect and was unranked at his position by most recruiting sites. Once he arrived at Ohio State, he quickly made his presence known as he recorded 30 tackles and an interception his freshmen season.

He duplicated that performance with 30 tackles and an interception again his sophomore year. By his junior season, Chekwa was the top cornerback on the depth chart. He finished his career with 145 total tackles and six interceptions.

No. 7: Johnathan Hankins

Johnathan Hankins
Photo by Dan Harker
Johnathan Hankins

Like many of the players on this list, Johnathan Hankins signed with the Buckeyes as a three-star recruit, receiving offers from only handful of big-time programs. The Detroit native was not even offered by nearby Michigan State.

Once he arrived at Ohio State, Hankins quickly grew into a dominating force on the defensive line. Hankins started all 25 games for the Buckeyes in his last two seasons and was named a second-team All-American as a junior.

No. 6: Vernon Gholston

Vernon Gholston
Photo by Jim Davidson
Vernon Gholson

Another three-star prospect from Detroit, Vernon Gholston wasn't considered one of the top 25 players at his position when he committed to the Buckeyes in 2004.

After breaking his hand early on during his second year with the Buckeyes, Gholston was forced to redshirt, but burst onto the scene in 2006, registering 49 tackles an 8.5 sacks.

In 2007, Gholston was even more dominant as he recorded a school-record 14 sacks. His 113 tackles for loss yards that season ranks second on Ohio State's all-time list, behind only Mike Vrabel.

No. 5: Malcolm Jenkins

Malcolm Jenkins
Photo by Jim Davidson
Malcolm Jenkins

Regarded by most as a three-star prospect, Malcolm Jenkins was ranked outside the top 50 at his position by one recruiting service. Most of his offers were from less-prominent programs such as Indiana, Rutgers and Syracuse.

Jenkins recorded 37 tackles as a freshman and blossomed into the team's best pass defender as a sophomore when he recorded 55 tackles and grabbed four interceptions.

Jenkins was a three-time first team All-Big Ten selection and was an All-American in 2008. He was taken with the 14th pick of 2009 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

No. 4: James Laurinaitis

James Laurinaitis
Photo by Jim Davidson
James Laurinaitis

Although he was one of the top players in Minnesota, James Laurinaitis was ranked by most recruiting services as a three-start recruit and outside the nation's top 25 at his position.

Laurinaitis was thrown into the fire against Michigan as a true freshman when starter Bobby Carpenter broke his leg on the first play of the game. He recorded only nine tackles that season, but exploded onto the scene as sophomore.

He registered a team-leading 115 tackles during his sophomore season and also added five interceptions. He led the team in tackles in each of his final three seasons as a Buckeye.

Laurinaitis finished his career seventh on Ohio State's all-time tackle list, and in 2007 became the Buckeyes' second recipient of the Butkus Award.

No. 3: A.J. Hawk

A. J. Hawk
Photo by Jim Davidson
A. J. Hawk

The 2002 Ohio State recruiting class was loaded with high school talent. Of the 24 players in the class, A.J. Hawk wasn't one that stood out.

A three-star prospect out of Centerville, Hawk wasn't ranked in the top 25 at his position.

Hawk was overshadowed in the class at linebacker by five-star prospect Mike D'Andrea and Carpenter, a four-star recruit, but it wasn't long before he made his presence felt.

Hawk recorded 26 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss as a freshmen. He also had two interceptions, one of which he ran back for a touchdown.

He would only improve from their, quickly becoming the most dominating force on the Buckeyes' defense. He lead the team in tackles each of his final three seasons as a Buckeye and ended his career as one of the greatest Ohio State linebackers of all time.

No. 2: Craig Krenzel

Craig Krenzel
Photo by Jim Davidson
Craig Krenzel

An unheralded prospect from Utica, Mich., Craig Krenzel was thrust into the starting quarterback role before the 2001 Michigan game in the aftermath of Steve Bellisari's drunken driving arrest and suspension.

Krenzel was a guy many Buckeye fans had never even heard of, and one they definitely never expected to be the starting quarterback for the biggest game of the season.

But a win over Michigan changed everything.

Krenzel's numbers weren't impressive – he completed 11-of-18 passes for 118 yards and one interception – but he was able to manage the game well enough to lead the unranked Buckeyes to an improbable 26-20 upset win over the No. 11 Wolverines.

Krenzel did not enough to win the starting job in 2002, when he would lead the Buckeyes to a 14-0 record and their first national championship since 1970.

No. 1: Troy Smith

Troy Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Troy Smith

Troy Smith wasn't unheard of. He was a four-star prospect and one of the top 15-rated quarterbacks in his class, but he was overshadowed by fellow quarterback Justin Zwick, who was perceived to be the better prospect between the two. In fact, Smith was often listed as an athlete, rather than a quarterback.

After redshirting in 2002, Smith lost a competition to Zwick prior to the 2004 season.  He served as Zwick's backup for the first five games of the season before taking over the starting role when Zwick was injured in a loss to Iowa.

From there, the rest is history. By the end of 2005, it was clear Smith was something special. He entered 2006 as a Heisman Trophy candidate and won the award by a large margin.

Smith beat Michigan three times, and ended his career as arguably the greatest Ohio State quarterback of all-time. Smith threw for 2,542 yards in 2006, good enough for fourth most on Ohio State's all-time single-season list. His 30 touchdown passes that season remain the most in Ohio State history.

Related Article - Recruiting Hype Not New to OSU Football

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