3-Star Power: Behind the Rankings
By Michael Chung
(Editor’s Note: This is the latest contribution to the-Ozone for Michael Chung. He has provided OSU recruiting information to several websites in the past, but now will be exclusive to the-Ozone as we look to bring more football recruiting coverage in the coming months. You can follow him on Twitter @MChungOzone.
Who are the five most important players on the 2012 Ohio State football team?
If you had to guess – or if you’ve been following our Top 20 Countdown over the last month – three names that immediately come to mind, outside of Braxton Miller, would likely be Johnathon Hankins, Bradley Roby and John Simon.
What do those three have in common, besides having played defense for the Buckeyes?
Surprisingly, all three at one time possessed a 3-star rating from Rivals.com, further proof that star ratings cannot always be trusted. Former OSU head coach Jim Tressel and company were masters at finding the 3-star-superstar, and now Buckeye Nation will have to wait and see if Urban Meyer’s regime can follow suit.
For whatever reason, many of us are enamored with the “star” quality of recruits, especially those possessing four and five. The science of recruiting has improved, and ratings are more and more accurate as the days go by, but Ohio State has taken a number of 3-star athletes who later went on to become ‘stars’ at the next level.
We will look at some previous Buckeye players who were rated 3-star prospects out of high school but ended up starring at Ohio State – and even went on to play in the NFL. Then we will try to predict which 3-star athletes in the 2013 class could be the next “stars” in Columbus.
Photo by Dan Harker
10. Chimidi Chekwa
This 3-star cornerback came to Ohio State via Florida. He had an interception during his freshman year at USC, and that was the beginning of a solid four-year OSU career. He suffered a wrist injury during the Sugar Bowl but was still a fourth round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2011, where he remains today.
9. Jay Richardson
Richardson was part of the 2002 recruiting class that had other star-studded 3-star players. Richardson often went under the radar, due to names like A.J. Hawk, Troy Smith and others that were stars on those OSU teams in the mid 2000s. But anyone who watches OSU football knows Richardson was a solid D-lineman and was drafted into the NFL as a fifth round pick of the Oakland Raiders. He saw action with Oakland and Seattle and is currently playing with the New York Jets.
Photo by Dan Harker
8. Dane Sanzenbacher
Sanzenbacher was voted the team's offensive MVP during his senior season and came up big in the 2011 season Sugar Bowl, scoring the first touchdown off a Terrelle Pryor fumble. A 3-star prospect out of Toledo, Sanzenbacher proved he had 5-star value to Ohio State’s wide receiving corps. Though undrafted, he landed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears in 2011, playing in all 16 regular season games and starting one.
7. Brian Robiskie
Robiske was a late commit to the 2005 class. Many thought he was simply a throw-in as Ohio State still had extra scholarships, but his career at OSU proved he was a top-receiving prospect. He had a stint with the Cleveland Browns as their 2009 second round pick and now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Photo by Jim Davidson
6. Brian Hartline
Hartline suffered a devastating leg injury during his senior season in high school that may have dropped him down to a 3-star level, but his OSU career clearly surpassed three stars. He was a top OSU receiver and now plays for the Miami Dolphins, being drafted by them in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. He played in all 16 games during the 2011 season for the Fins while starting 10 games.
5. Chris Gamble
Gamble did it all at Ohio State. Recruited as a receiver, Gamble would later be switched to a two-way player: cornerback and receiver. He shut down Andre Johnson of the Miami Hurricanes in the 2002 National Championship game, and acted as the primary punt returner for OSU during that season. The Carolina Panthers drafted him in 2004 as their first round pick. He continues to play as a solid DB while still shutting down top-flight receivers. He started 15 games in 2011.
Photo by Jim Davidson
4. James Laurinaitis
The son of former professional wrestler "Animal," Laurinaitis came to OSU via Minnesota as a 3-star prospect. He played his freshman year in the Michigan game after Bobby Carpenter suffered an injury and went on to win awards early on in his career as a top linebacker. He could have left early and likely would have been a top-10 draft pick but stayed in college for his final year. He is now with the St. Louis Rams and was their second round pick in the 2009 draft. He started all 16 games in 2011.
3. Malcolm Jenkins
Coming out of New Jersey, OSU fans were wondering who this kid was. People stopped wondering when he began playing. He shut down the Big Ten's best and decided not to go to the NFL early, but returned to help lead the team his senior year. He has won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints and started 15 games during 2011 while battling a neck injury. He was the Saints’ first round pick in 2009.
Photo by Jim Davidson
2. Santonio Holmes
This 3-star recruit out of Florida became a star at Ohio State. He later would be a Super Bowl MVP with the Pittsburgh Steelers and also helped the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game. He has struggled personally, receiving some bad press, but Jets fans know he can play and hope he can grow up a little. He started all 16 games for the Jets in 2011 and was the first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.
1. A.J. Hawk
Hawk was part of the 2002 recruiting class that featured prominent recruits like 5-star Mike D'Andrea and 4-star prospects Bobby Carpenter and Stan White Jr. Hawk was under the recruiting radar, but he quickly established himself at Ohio State, sending White to fullback, while D'Andrea struggled to get on the field because of injuries. Hawk was drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers and has already won a Super Bowl. He has started 14 games in 2011 for the Pack.
Current Three-Star Prospects of 2013 That Could Be Stars:
RB Ezekiel Elliott
It’s hard to believe this guy was once a three-star prospect. Good thing Meyer and crew can see through the stars, because they were on Elliott quick, long before he became one of the more coveted prospects in the country. After solid performances at camps, Elliott is now listed by most recruiting services as a four-star recruit, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he even touches five if he continues that trajectory this year.
WR Tavion Jacobs
Look at his film. He has Ted Ginn Jr.-type speed written all over him. He is a little small now but give Mickey Marotti time and he will bulk up. Jacobs could really thrive in Meyer’s system with QBs like Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett that will open the field. He runs a 4.4 40-yard dash but also possesses good “football speed.”
DB Darron Lee
He was neck-in-neck with Vonn Bell at an OSU camp that turned the heads of the coaches and garnered an offer from the Buckeyes. He is not only athletic, he is mature, intelligent and a natural leader, characteristics that will push Lee over the hump as a safety at Ohio State.
OL Timothy Gardner
Looking at his film, Gardner is a man among boys. His sheer size towers over the competition. He will not have the same advantage in college but his performance at the June OSU camp garnered a “non-committable’ offer. After losing 20 pounds, almost a month later at Friday Night Lights, Gardner received his committable offer in which he quickly gave his verbal pledge. Losing that kind of weight in a month showed the OSU staff he had the desire and focus to be a Buckeye. If he keeps up the hard work, focus, and desire, he could be a good one at OSU. Similar to Bryant Browning in style and build, he should be a guard in college.
DE Tracy Sprinkle
Urban Meyer believes the defensive line is the most important part of the team, but with highly touted D-linemen in both the 2012 and 2013 classes, Sprinkle has gone under the radar. A very athletic defensive end with the desire to work hard, Sprinkle knows cracking the rotation will be no easy task. He is ready to work and do not be surprised if he makes a big contribution when he steps on campus and puts on the pads.
Ohio State has also offered other 3-star prospects like Christopher Worley, Dennis Finely and Jordan Smith. They don’t receive the same fanfare as a 5-star prospect like Cameron Burrows, but based on the past, it would not be smart to discount 3-star prospects.
They could be the future “stars!”