It is always easy to be enamored with the names at the top of a recruiting class, but what generally makes classes great are the names at the bottom who contribute well beyond their rankings.
For instance, the six highest-ranked players in Urban Meyer’s first class at Ohio State were Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, Se’Von Pittman, Bri’onte Dunn, and Armani Reeves. Those six were a large reason the class was ranked fifth in the nation.
At the bottom of the class, however, were names like Tyvis Powell, Jacoby Boren, Cardale Jones, Michael Thomas, and Pat Elflein.
The top half looked good in the national recruiting rankings, but the bottom half ended up starting for a national champion.
Being at the top of the team recruiting rankings is always important. The data and proof is there.
Individually, however, the rankings aren’t any kind of judge and jury when it comes to players. In fact, they are very far from perfect.
Players are “underrated” every single year in every kind of ranking or draft board. No amount of scouting is infallible, just ask the NFL about their hit rate on first-round quarterbacks.
In terms of the most underrated signee for the Buckeyes this year, for such a small class, Ryan Day is hoping that the bottom of his class will all fit that bill.
And please don’t get upset about the term “bottom of the class,” it’s just a reference to the lowest-ranked players in a class. As we saw with the 2012 class, the bottom of the class is only a reference to the rankings, not the production.
So with that said, three names jump out to me most.
The first is offensive lineman Ryan Jacoby. Jacoby is in the middle of the pack of the class in terms of rankings. He is the No. 23 offensive tackle in the nation, which is also where Kyle Dodson was ranked in 2012. His commitment was celebrated because it happened on signing day. Jacoby’s came nine months before signing day, so the trumpets were unnecessary.
Jacoby is an athletic lineman who has played left tackle since about the seventh grade. He played big-time high school football at Mentor and is better prepared than most.
What struck me in talking to him, however, is that his focus right now isn’t on playing this season, it’s on doing everything he can to be ready when he is called upon. He doesn’t want to let the team down, and that’s an attitude that can drive a player well beyond his rankings.
The next player on my list is running back Marcus Crowley, who is the No. 26 player at his position in the nation. Crowley was a late target by the Buckeyes. He was committed to Miami before Ohio State came calling. He put up massive numbers in a very good league, but didn’t show up on many radars until late in his senior season.
For some, that would put a chip on their shoulder. For Crowley, the lack of attention didn’t bother him because he’s at Ohio State now. “I still did what I did,” he said.
The third player on my list is linebacker Craig Young. At least, he’ll start out at linebacker. He is currently listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but we’ll see where he is when he arrives in the summer.
Young is one of six 3-star prospects in the class and the No. 34 athlete in the nation.
What is to like? He scored 17 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior and ran a 10.7 100M that year as well. He was also productive on the football field, catching 35 passes for 700 yards as a senior.
I don’t know where he will end up, but when he gets there, he’ll be 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds and running a 4.6.