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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Recruiting and the 2011 Buckeyes
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

KennyHayes1The next time you see the Ohio State football team play a regular season game, chances are you’re going to need a program. They won’t look anything at all like the 12-1, 5th-ranked 2010 version of the Buckeyes. Eleven starters have graduated, including seven on defense, and four key returning skill position players on offense will sit out the first five games of the season. By my count that means 15 new regulars will line up when the Buckeyes host Akron on September 3rd.

The 12-month long recruiting season is closing out for 2011’s freshmen. We’re less than two weeks away from national signing day, and the OSU staff has 21 commitments as this is written, with no more than two or three additions likely. The services that rank such things have this Buckeye group pegged anywhere from 3nd to 7th to 11th in the country.

All the standard recruiting disclaimers apply. As always, it’s as much art as it is science. But Jim Tressel clearly continues to operate in the big leagues in terms of talent acquisition, losing only the occasional stud from Ohio, a state that produces lots of them. He maintains a strong presence in Florida, and swoops in to snag elite players from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan, seemingly at will.


The OSU Recruiting Machine

That’s about as good a job as any northern school can expect to do these days. In the Scout ranking, for example, Notre Dame is the only other school in the top ten not located in the South or West regions of the country. Those regions produce more talent, and proximity to home is still the biggest factor in a deciding a recruit’s college destination. It’s almost as simple as that.

Still, there’s a certain kind of high school football player that relates to what Jim Tressel offers in the Ohio State program no matter where he grows up, and Tressel is, like his forebear Woody Hayes, a master “in the living room” with parents of recruits. As long as Ohio continues to produce top-level football talent...and it shows no sign of slowing down...Tressel should keep getting the best of it.

The formula for 2011 follows the recent pattern for the OSU staff. (Likewise, the early commits for 2012. )  It goes like this: Get the best in-state players to sign on as early as possible....pick up a blue-chip regional recruit or two along the way, and then stay in the chase for some of the top national recruits who wait till signing day to decide on a school....then add the best of the annual Glenville crop right around signing day.

The Buckeyes got commitments from the two best defensive linemen in the state, Kenny Hayes of Toledo Whitmer (pictured at top) and Canton McKinley’s Steve Miller, way back in the fall of 2009.  The nation’s top-rated quarterback, Braxton Miller was in the fold by early June. Of the 21 current commits for 2011, 17 had verballed to OSU by July 2. With two weeks to go, Tressel is still in the hunt for a top-rated linebacker and a wide receiver from out of state, and everyone expects massive Glenville offensive lineman Aundrey Walker to sign with OSU by February 4.

If the staff can’t fill that last spot or two with the caliber of player they want, it’s possible they’ll bank one or more slots for next year, because the 2012 class is loaded, and the number  of scholarships available will be limited.  What I’ll try to give you below is a quick look at the incoming freshmen and their possible impact on the OSU two-deep this fall, and then project what that two-deep will probably look like by Labor Day with the returning talent on the roster.


The only returning OSU starters on offense for the 2011 opener will be right tackle J.B. Shugarts, center Mike Brewster, tight end Jake Stoneburner and fullback Zach Boren.  Even at that, it’s hard to project any of this year’s incoming freshmen into significant playing time. Perhaps the best possibility is at quarterback, where Braxton Miller will benefit from enrolling early in January and going through spring ball.


Incoming Freshmen:

braxtonmiller2Braxton Miller - (6’ 3”, 185 lbs. - Huber Hts. Wayne) - Rated No. 1 or No. 2 among the nation’s high school QB’s, Miller was offered by everyone from Alabama to Florida to USC.  He’ll have a shot at the job for the first five games because there’s no clear leader among the current backups on the roster. More on Miller from an April Buckeye Leaves. And here are some YouTube highlights.

Projected 2011 Starter:

Until Terrelle Pryor returns from his suspension, this is as wide open a position battle as any on the team for 2011. Perennial backup Joe Bauserman has the most playing time, but he has looked fairly pedestrian in his time on the field. Redshirt freshman Taylor Graham has impressed the coaches, but his next snap in a game will be his first. Sophomore-to-be  Kenny Guiton has shown flashes, but Miller can do everything Guiton can do, and he has a better arm. I can’t even hazard a guess as to what Tressel and his staff will decide. Talk to you after the Spring Game on this one.

Running Back

Incoming Freshmen - None

Projected 2011 Starters: - The reason there are no running backs in the 2011 class is that the Bucks are loaded with young backs in junior Jordan Hall,sophomores Jaamal Berry, and Carlos Hyde, and redshirt freshman Rod Smith, and they decided not to further crowd the pipeline. On top of that, they already have commitments from the state’s top two running backs for 2012 in Warren Ball and Brionte Dunn.

Smith got raves in bowl practices and may be too good to keep off the field. With Boom Herron returning, there just aren’t enough carries to go around. Until Herron gets back from his suspension, the guys who fumble least in practice will probably play., and the first five games will serve as an audition for 2011 and beyond. The depth at RB is as good as it has been in several years.

Offensive Line:

Incoming Freshmen:

BrianBobek1Brian Bobek - (6’ 2.5”, 278 - Palatine IL,  Wm. Fremd) - Rated the nation’s No. 1 center by Scout. Bobek (pictured) did a nice job in the Army All-American Game this month as the East’s starting center.

Chris Carter - (6’ 4”, 350 lbs - Cleveland JFK) - projects as a guard at OSU...not a highly rated recruit prior to the OSU offer. Now a 3-star and ranked #27 nationally by Scout. If nothing else, he’s got a great Buckeye name.

Tommy Brown - (6’ 5”, 300 lbs. - Akron Firestone) - Another under-publicized recruit offered by OSU in the early going. Good athleticism for a big man, but still a project. Could end up at guard or right tackle.

Antonio Underwood - (6’ 3”, 295 lbs. - Shaker Heights) - Another early signee now rising up the rankings owing to his OSU offer and a good senior year. Scout has him as a 3-star and the No. 22 ranking at guard.

Possible Addition to 2011 Class:

Aundrey Walker - (6’ 6”, 355 lbs. - Cleveland Glenville) - This kid is all but a mortal lock for OSU. He started at RG alongside Bobek in the Army A-A Game this month, and nobody moved him. He may be the biggest offensive guard I’ve ever any level. He’s a 4-star prospect and rated the nation’s 9th best guard by Scout.

Projected 2011 Starters:

At tackle, returning starters J.B. Shugarts and Mike Adams will both be seniors, and sophomore Andrew Norwell should capably hold down Adams starting job while he serves his suspension. Marcus Hall is back with three years of eligibility remaining, and will be a factor at either tackle or guard.

Both guard spots are open, and along with Marcus Hall, third-year sophomores Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort look like the best bets to start. If he signs with OSU, Walker has a shot to earn some freshman playing time if he shows up in shape and turns out to be a quick learner. Mike Brewster returns at center for his fourth year as a starter, and Corey Linsley will back him up.  None of the freshmen on the offensive line is likely to make a big impact in 2011.

Wide Receiver:

Incoming Freshmen:

EvanSpencer1_PEvan Spencer - (6’ 1”, 185 lbs. - Vernon Hills, IL) - Son of Buckeye great Tim Spencer, Evan is a versatile athlete who might be just as comfortable at safety or running back. The nation’s #19 receiver, and a 4-star prospect, Spencer (pictured) could conceivably make some noise on special teams as a freshman.

Devin Smith - (6’ 1”, 175 lbs. - Massillon, OH) - Scout’s #29 wide receiver, Smith has big-play potential. Long arms, great ball skills and open field elusiveness. It would only be a mild surprise if he saw the field as a first-year player.

Possible Addition to 2011 Class:

There’s still a chance that OSU could land JuJuan Story, a 6’ 4”, 192 receiver from Brooksville, Florida. Story is in Columbus on his official visit the weekend of Jan 21-22. His size and speed combination would look good in Scarlet and Gray. Stay tuned. Here’s a highlight video.

Projected 2011 Starters:

Of course, DeVier Posey is the man when he gets back after his Tattgate suspension. Painesville’s Chris Fields had a strong bowl practice season, which had his teammates talking him up as a player to watch in 2011. Corey “Philly” Brown showed some flashes as a freshman in 2010, so he’ll be in the mix too. And the coaches are very excited about T.Y. Williams, the long, lanky redshirt freshman from Shaw. Floridian James Louis is another promising receiver who redshirted his first year last fall, and who figures to get a long look this spring.

Freshmen Spencer and Smith could make an early splash, but there are enough talented receivers returning to make that an uphill battle. I look for Fields, Brown and Williams to see most of the action until Posey returns.

Tight End

Incoming Freshmen:

Nick Vannett - (6’ 6”, 240 lbs. - Westerville Central) - One of two highly-rated tight ends in this class, Vannett is ranked by Scout as the nation’s 14th best at the position. He is looked at as more of a receiving tight end by the OSU coaches, and he’ll be groomed to replace Jake Stoneburner eventually in that role.

Jeff Heuerman - (6’ 5”, 240 lbs. - Naples, FL, Barron Collier) - Heuerman has good hands, but he played in more of a power rushing offense as a prep player, and has the size and skills to be a very good blocker down the road. Ranked by Scout as the nation’s #24 TE.

Projected 2011 Starter: Jake Stoneburner is the returning starter, and Reid Fragel is a capable backup. Barring injuries, the freshmen probably won’t make much of a mark in 2011.



Defensive linemen John Simon and Nathan Williams are back for 2011, along with safeties Orhian Johnson and a rehabbed Tyler Moeller, but many of the other names on defense will take some getting used to for OSU fans this fall.  One of the obvious strengths of the incoming freshman class this year is the defensive line group. The rich get richer...


Defensive Line

Incoming Freshmen:

stevemiller2Kenny Hayes - DE - (6’ 5”, 255 lbs. - Toledo Whitmer) - A 4-star prospect, Hayes is ranked the #14 DE by Scout. He is still growing, but his speed and long arms could project him toward the stand-up, Leo role in OSU’s system. In the long run, it’s easy to see him moving inside to tackle if he puts much more weight on his huge frame.

Steve Miller - DE - (6’ 4”, 235 lbs. - Canton McKinley) - Miller (pictured at right) is one of two 5-star prospects in the class, and has been ranked among the top five defensive ends in the country. He has less size but more speed than Hayes, and will probably be tried at both the Leo spot and on the strong side. One of the few freshmen who could see early playing time.

Michael Bennett - DE/DT - (6’ 3”, 275 lbs. - Centerville, OH) - Bennet is ranked the #8 defensive tackle in the nation acording to Scout. The latest in a long line of OSU players from Centerville (Nugent, Hawk, Herstreit) Bennett is a special athlete who could play on either the offensive or defensive line at OSU. He broke his arm in the Army All-Star game, but he should be ready to roll by summertime.

Chase Farris - DE/DT - (6’ 6”, 270 lbs. - Elyria, OH) - More size and versatility on the defensive line is what you get with Farris, who could play inside or outside once he gets settled in Columbus. Ranked the #10 DT in the nation, Farris is a very intriguing prospect who tends to get overlooked in this strong D-Line class.

Joel Hale - DT - (6’ 5’, 295 lbs. - Greenwood, IN) - Hale could play on the O-Line as well, but he’ll be tried as a defensive tackle to start with at OSU. Rated the #30 DT in the country, Hale will have to be special to get noticed over his more celebrated classmates.

Projected 2011 Starters:

At the defensive ends, Nathan Williams is a sure thing, and both junior Johnny Simon and sophomore  Adam Bellamy have received playing time at end, even though they’ve been primarily defensive tackles. Melvin Fellows and redshirt freshmen Darryl Baldwin and J.T. Moore are also possibilities to contribute at DE. Solomon Thomas has to serve five games of suspension, but he finished the 2010 season with a flourish, and he’ll be a factor in the second half of the campaign.

On the inside at tackle, it’ll be Simon, Jonathan Hankins, Bellamy and Garrett Goebel in the rotation. Baldwin could see some time on the inside as well. I do think it’s possible for some of the true freshmen to make significant contributions on Jim Heacock’s defensive line as the season goes along. I’m guessing that Hayes, Miller and Farris would be the best bets for early PT.


Incoming Freshmen:

Shazier1Ryan Shazier - OLB - (6’ 2”, 202 lbs. - Plantation, FL) - Shazier (pictured) was a Florida Gators commit until Urban Meyer resigned and he opened his recruitment back up.  He’s a speed edge rusher, something that the Buckeyes have in short supply. Shazier is rated the 5th best OLB in the nation by Scout.

Conner Crowell - MLB - (6’ 1”, 219 lbs. - Waldorf, MD) - Crowell was pulled out of Penn State and ACC country by the Buckeyes when he picked OSU over offers from the Nittany Lions, Maryland, WVU and Stanford among others. Rated the nation’s #24 MLB.

Ejuan Price - MLB - (6’ 0”, 235 lbs. - Woodland Hills, PA) - Price committed to OSU just last week after reducing his choices to the Buckeyes and Iowa. He’s an inside linebacker with excellent quickness and above average speed. Scout rates him the #14 MLB in the country.

Possible Additions to 2011 Class:

Curtis Grant - Grant is a 5-star prospect from Virginia, and the No. 1-ranked outside linebacker in the country. He visited OSU a few weeks ago, and lists the Buckeyes as a very serious contender for his commitment. The ranking of the OSU class would get a real boost if Tressel could reel in this playmaker to finish off his recruiting year.

Projected 2011 Starters:

On the inside, look for Andrew Sweat or Storm Klein to grab the starting spot, with Dorian Bell, Jonathan Newsome and Etienne Sabino competing for time on the outside. The freshmen linebackers will have a chance to make an impression on special teams, and work their way onto the field for scrimmage downs. The ranks are a bit thin at linebacker on the 2011 OSU roster, which could allow some young players to rise quickly.

Defensive Backs

Incoming Freshmen:

DoranGrant2Doran Grant - CB - (5’ 10”, 177 lbs. - Akron St. Vincent - St. Mary) - One of the jewels of the 2011 class, Grant (pictured) is a homegrown product from Akron. He’s a shutdown cover corner with the loose hips, ball skills, speed and recovery instincts that scouts love. Scout’s #5-ranked cornerback.

DerJuan Gambrell - CB - (6’ 2”, 180 lbs. - Toledo Rogers) - This 4-star prospect was one of the first to commit for 2011. His length and leaping ability combine with great speed and cover skills to make Gambrell a promising Buckeye corner for the future. Scout’s #22 corner.

Ron Tanner - S - (6’ 1”, 190 lbs. - Columbus Eastmoor) - Tanner is a bright kid, and a big, rangy hitter with excellent football instincts. Rated the nation’s #11 safety by Scout. His size and physical style could get him a look at the Star position.

Jeremy Cash - S - (6’ 2”, 190 lbs. - Plantation, FL) - Size and smarts are what the OSU staff is looking for at safety, and Cash fits the bill. He’s a bit raw and needs to get stronger, but could blossom into a special player with leadership skills and great athleticism. Rated #29 at safety by Scout.

Projected 2011 Starters:

At safety, the Buckeyes have starter Orhian Johnson returning, and Tyler Moeller coming back from injury (again) to give another go at playing his senior season, probably at the Star position.  C.J. Barnett turned heads at safety last year, winning the starting job for the opener before going out with a knee injury, and he’ll be back in the mix. Verlon Reed and Jamie Wood are a couple of other up and coming safeties clogging up the depth chart.

At cornerback, Travis Howard and Dominic Clarke would probably start if the game were tomorrow. Sophomore Christian Bryant, who played at the Star position a year ago could compete at corner or safety if Moeller starts at Star. Florida State transfer Dionte Allen could be a surprise contributor with some game experience. Corey Brown will be in the mix too, if his knee injury rehab has gone well, and Bradley Roby is another young cornerback on the rise.

It’s conceivable that 2011 recruit Doran Grant could crack the two-deep at corner before the season ends, but most of these freshman DB’s will probably redshirt, and those that don’t will be limited to mostly special teams duty.

The One That Got Away:

OSU dominated the state of Ohio in 2011 recruiting, landing as many as eight of the top ten players in the state according to the lists of most of the experts. Only the loss of Springfield outside linebacker Trey DePriest kept Tressel from a clean sweep of Ohio’s elite talent. DePriest is rated as the best linebacker in the country by Scout talent evaluator and Ohio recruiting expert Bill Greene. Scout has him ranked as the 6th best player in the country overall. Nick Saban grabbed DePriest for the Crimson Tide, so we should all be seeing him play on the big stage in the years to come.

Idle Speculation

To recap the class of stands at 21 commits, and the best bets to join that group by signing day are Glenville lineman Aundrey Walker, Virginia linebacker Curtis Grant, and Florida receiver JaJuan Story. Despite the probable top five national ranking for Tressel’s 2011 group, and the 15 starting spots up for grabs for the season opener, no more than a couple of the newcomers look capable of making the two-deep roster and making a significant contribution to the 2011 Buckeyes on the field.

The heavy graduation losses, plus the key suspensions would seem to portend a down year for OSU in 2011. Getting through the first five games without their four best offensive skill position stars (counting left tackle) will be a very tall order, especially if the suspensions are not reduced on appeal, and the Bucks have to go to East Lansing for Game Five without Pryor, Posey, Herron and Adams.

But all of the usual contenders for the Big Ten title...Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa...all experienced significant losses of key players as well, and no single team...including Nebraska... looks like a clear favorite to unseat the Buckeyes atop the conference. No team in the conference has the depth of talent that Jim Tressel brings to the field every Saturday, and this top-rated 2011 class will only further enrich the pipeline.

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