According to 247Sports’ in-depth process for churning out player rankings, Ohio State has received commitments from a whopping 40 five-star recruits since 2000. Of that group, 13 are either on the current roster or committed to future classes (i.e. Garrett Wilson).
This impressive number spans four Ohio State head coaches, and is more than twice as many as Michigan has managed in the same time frame. That tidbit of information isn’t necessarily relevant to this write-up. However, passing up an easy dig at Michigan football isn’t something for which I’d forgive myself.
Now, since I love lists, I’ve ranked those remaining 27 five-star recruits whose days as a Buckeye has passed. Many, like Nick Bosa, will appear on this same ranking in a matter of months, but with careers still being defined, I felt it was best to leave them off for now.
This list, from least productive to most, only includes the individual’s career while at Ohio State. If their playing career at OSU was nonexistent, then I used their collegiate careers elsewhere as a tiebreaker.
20. Mike D’Andrea
Mike D’Andrea was selected by many publications to be the top defensive prospect in the nation when he committed to the Buckeyes as a part of the 2002 class. As it played out, the violent linebacker was not able to do much for OSU, as shoulder and knee injuries derailed his playing career.
The highest-rated prospect in a Buckeye class that contained three other five-star players on this list, D’Andrea ended up taking third billing (or fourth, if you count TE/LB Stan White, as well), since Bobby Carpenter and A.J. Hawk were also in the 2002 class. Despite his lack of success on the field, D’Andrea has gone on to own a training facility. There, he helps mold the skills of other premier athletes.
19. Sam Maldonado
This bull of a running back was ranked by some sites as the top RB in his 2000 class. This ranking was well-earned, as he rushed for over 7,000 yards and 100 touchdowns at his New York high school. Maldonado made it onto the field as a true freshman, even scoring a touchdown against Penn State.
As a sophomore, he was third on the depth chart and received about four carries per contest. Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall with the signing of another five-star running back, Maldonado transferred to Maryland. His playing career continued, including a redshirt transfer year, and he eventually rushed for just over 1,000 yards in his career.
18. Jamario O’Neal
O’Neal, another in the long line of Cleveland Glenville grads, was rated as the third-best cornerback in the 2005 class when he committed to Ohio State. His combination of size (6’1″, 205 lbs) and athleticism seemed to put him as shoo-in to hold down a starting spot for multiple seasons. O’Neal stayed at OSU for the duration of his college career, but simply had trouble putting it all together.
He earned playing time on special teams as a freshman, and eventually took over at safety for an injured player in his sophomore year. It seemed inevitable that he would hold on to that role. However, his junior and senior years saw him go back to special teams and backup duties, as other players moved up the depth chart around him.
He later said that his own work ethic did not match that of players like Donald Washington and Malcolm Jenkins, and he wished that he had spent more time training and preparing as they had done. O’Neal would go on to a successful Arena Football League career.
17. Noah Spence
A member of the 2012 class, Noah Spence was listed by 247Sports as the fifth-best player in the nation, which makes sense for a defensive lineman that combined for over 200 (!!) tackles and 35.5 sacks in his junior and senior seasons. His explosive speed and pass-rush abilities made him an intriguing prospect for the Buckeyes. Spence came in and saw game action right away, earning playing time in all twelve of Ohio State’s games in their undefeated 2012 season. He followed that up by starting in thirteen games as a true sophomore and racking up 50 tackles and eight sacks.
Unfortunately, that would be the last of his OSU football career. Spence was suspended for the 2014 Orange Bowl due to a positive test for a recreational drug. Upon a second failed test a few months later, he was ruled ineligible for the 2014 season (which, you’ll recall, ended up being a good one for OSU).
The athletic defensive end transferred to Eastern Kentucky where he played one season with the Colonels and earned Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors for the Ohio Valley Conference. He was then drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he figures to be a factor in the normal defensive line rotation.
16. Etienne Sabino
Pulling a highly-touted recruit like Sabino from Florida is always a major event, and that’s exactly what Jim Tressel and Luke Fickell did in the 2008 class. Etienne was ranked as the third-best linebacker in the country and backed up James Laurinaitis in 2008. Still, he saw playing time in each game in both his freshman and sophomore campaigns. The 2010 season was a difficult one for him, as he lost a starting linebacker spot to Andrew Sweat. The coaching staff decided to redshirt him as a healthy junior, thus buying him two more years of eligibility.
He bounced back from that disappointing year with a strong junior season, amassing 62 tackles. Then, despite missing time due to an injury, finished out his Ohio State career as a four-year letterman on 2012’s undefeated team. Sabino got chances to make a roster in the NFL, making practice squads for both the Giants and Rams, but was not able to see game action.