The-Ozone Rewind: Recapping Recruiting Visits Following UM Game, 2000

AJ Hawk Ohio State Buckeyes

[Editor’s Note: From now until Big Ten Media Days, we’ll be reaching into The-Ozone’s 23 years worth of archives and each day we will be posting a story from yesteryear. Big moments, small moments, big games, bigger games, and the random recruiting updates about guys you haven’t thought about in a decade or two.]

This post comes from November of 2000, in the days following Ohio State’s 38-26 loss at home to Michigan. In it are a series of reports of recruiting visits from Bill Kurelic, who used to provide recruiting updates for The-Ozone, and can today be found over at Bucknuts and 247Sports. There are several names you’ll notice, including a future NFL Hall of Famer who wasn’t able to make the trip. Perhaps if he had, the Buckeyes would have actually had some decent receivers in the early-to-mid 2000s, he said sarcastically. — TG

November 22, 2000

There is big news in terms of a super prospect having now scheduled an official visit to Ohio State. RB Kelley Baraka from Portage, Northern High School in Michigan is certainly one of the country’s top running back prospects, there’s no question about that, but one of the questions has been who he would select for his 5th and final official visit.

Baraka has now made a decision on that, and he has selected Ohio State for that 5th and final visit. Baraka has already made official visits to Purdue and Michigan, and he has Notre Dame scheduled for December 1st and Michigan State for December 8th. Baraka had been trying to decide between Nebraska, Wisconsin and Ohio State for his 5th visit. Baraka made an unofficial visit to Ohio State this past Saturday to see the Ohio State – Michigan game, and that unofficial visit has convinced him that Ohio State is the school that he should take his last official visit to.

Baraka told me that he talked to OSU assistant Brian Williams who recruits Michigan and said that right now he and coach Williams have set a date of January 5th for his official visit to Ohio State. Baraka said it could possibly end up being December 15th, but in either case, he definitely will take his 5th visit to Ohio State.

Baraka said, “I liked what I saw at the Ohio State – Michigan game on Saturday. I was really impressed with the tradition at Ohio State and I like the coaches.” He said it also makes it easier for his parents to go with him on the visit since they can drive to OSU for the official visit, and it’s certainly much closer than to either Wisconsin or Nebraska. Baraka did say that Michigan, Notre Dame and Purdue are tied for the top spot in terms of who has the lead for his services.

OL Zach Strief from Milford, Ohio (6-8, 320) made an unofficial visit to Ohio State on Saturday to see the OSU vs. Michigan game and there was a rumor going around that perhaps Strief might be in position to select the Buckeyes. However, that is not the case. Strief has not been offered a scholarship by OSU and told me last night that Northwestern is still his top choice. He is going to visit Northwestern December 1st. He has Georgia Tech January 12th and Wisconsin is still in the picture. All three of those schools have offered him a scholarship, but he Buckeyes have not.

Joining Kelley Baraka to visit the Buckeyes on January 5th will be DB Eric Shyne from California, TE/OL Joe Toledo from California, DE Sean Cody from California and DL Raymond Tago from California. Also scheduled to visit the Buckeyes that weekend are RB Lydell Ross from Florida as well as LB/DE Thomas Carroll from New Jersey.

This past weekend LB Matt Sinclair (6-3, 235) from Missouri and WR Chris Vance from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas made official visits to Ohio State. Sinclair was hosted on his visit to OSU by Ben Hartsock. Sinclair said he had fun at Ohio State and that it was really neat. He said the crowd was unbelievable and he liked the players a lot at OSU. He said that his mom, who accompanied him on the visit, was amazed with the crowd at OSU and that she liked Ohio State quite a bit. Sinclair said that the atmosphere at Ohio State was very similar to the atmosphere at Notre Dame, but the the schools are two totally different types of schools.

He said he did not have any one clear-cut favorite. With Sinclair, I think the Buckeyes certainly have a very realistic shot at landing him. In fact I think the Buckeyes have as good or better shot than anybody at landing Sinclair, but he still has not made a decision. He has visited Ohio State and Notre Dame and still plans to visit Illinois December 1st and UCLA December 8th. However, I think the Buckeyes have edged ahead of the fighting Irish and now they just have to beat out UCLA and Illinois for the services of Sinclair, though he has not said that Notre Dame is out of the running. Sinclair says he grew up watching Andy Katzenmoyer and the Buckeyes have long been one of, if not his favorite school.

On the other hand, WR Chris Vance (6-2, 195) continues to have Ohio State as his clear leader, though he too has not yet made a decision. Vance still has an official visit to Colorado for December 1st, and then he plans to decide between Ohio State, Minnesota and Colorado. All three of which have offered a scholarship, but Vance continues to have OSU as his favorite. Vance had a great official visit with Ohio State and said he like everything about Ohio State, the coaches, the players all get along, and everything he saw in Columbus. Vance is originally from Fort Meyers, Florida and will finish up at Fort Scott CC in Kansas in December and enroll at whatever college he picks in January. Vance was hosted by Darnell Sanders on his official visit to Ohio State. He caught 43 passes his first year at Fort Scott, and 37 this season.

Two outstanding prospects from the State of Florida have now scheduled visits to Ohio State. LB Willie Jones (6-2, 200) from Miami, Florida who set a state record this season for sacks with 33 has scheduled an official visit to OSU for the weekend of December 1st. Jones has already made an official visit to Boston College, and in addition to Ohio State he is also looking at Florida State, Clemson, Oklahoma and North Carolina State.

The Buckeyes have offered Jones a scholarship as has Boston College and the other schools, and the good news is that Jones that Boston College and OSU are his two favorites, and keep in mind that he has already visited Boston College and still has his Ohio State visit yet to go. That certainly would bode well for the Buckeyes.

DB Antrell Rolle (6-0, 200) from Homestead Florida who is one of the country’s top cover corner prospects has also scheduled a visit to Ohio State. He will make a visit to Notre Dame December 1st, Ohio State December 8th, and then Miami December 15th. He also is looking at Florida State, Florida and North Carolina State. All the schools have offered him a scholarship.

He now says that Miami is probably his favorite, with either Notre Dame or Florida next, but certainly it’s encouraging that he has added Ohio State not only to his list but has scheduled an official visit with the Buckeyes. As of a week or so ago, he did not even have Ohio State really on his lists, so certainly the Buckeyes have moved up with Antrell Roll.

RB/WR/DB Jaja Riley from San Diego, California made an official visit to Oklahoma this past weekend and said of his visit, “It was great.” He said that Oklahoma did once again offer him a scholarship but he told the Sooners that he wants to wait until December or maybe even January to make his decision.

Riley said he is still planning to visit Ohio State December 1st and Kansas State December 8th. He has previously made an official visit to Arizona State. Riley had last week said that he was heavily favoring Ohio State and that he might commit to the Buckeyes when on his official visit, but now says that OSU is still his favorite, them and Oklahoma, he said. He said it is hard to say if Ohio State is a clear favorite over Oklahoma or not as his visit with the Sooners went that well.

LB/DE Thomas Carroll from Lakewood, New Jersey did not make his unofficial visit to Penn State last weekend as he had planned. He said that his ride to Penn State was cancelled at the last minute, so he didn’t get to go to the Penn State – Michigan State game. He has made an official visit to Boston College and has Miami scheduled for December 1st, North Carolina State December 8th, Tennessee December 15th though he might have to move that visit to sometime in January, then Ohio State January 5th. Carroll said that Boston College and Miami continue to be his leader, with North Carolina State and Ohio State tied just behind B.C. and Miami.

WR Larry Fitzgerald from Minnesota did not make an official visit to Ohio State this weekend as he had said he would. He did not make it to Columbus for the game against Michigan.

Making unofficial visits to the OSU vs. Michigan game were RB Eric Shelton from Kentucky, WR Fred Lee (5-10, 170) from Harrisburg, Pennsylvainia, TE Ryan Hamby from Cincinnati, DL NaShan Goddard from Dayton, kicker Mike Nugent from Centerville, WR Brian Pickard from Dublin, Ohio, WR Josh Anderson from Canton and LB Trent Cole from Xenia, among others. In the junior class, super quarterback prospect Justin Zwick from Massillon, RB Drushaun Humphrey from Toledo, A.J. HawkJames Davenport, Tyler Everett, Eric Fritz and Mike Donaldson were other fine current junior prospects that made it to the OSU – Michigan game.

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