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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Ten Young Bucks - 2012
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Thomas5A year ago the Ohio State recruiting class of 2012 was close to being written off as a down unavoidable consequence of the trials and tribulations the program went through in 2011. But starting on November 28, the day Urban Meyer became the head coach of the Buckeyes, the team’s recruiting fortunes turned around. Meyer and his staff finished with a flourish, landing several top-rated prospects in the last few weeks before signing day, and arriving in early February with a class ranked among the nation’s top three or four by most of the scouting services.

A handful of this year’s freshmen enrolled early and went through spring football, but the majority have yet to suit up for their first full practice session, so projecting the ten most likely to contribute significantly in 2012 is guesswork on the order of...well...of last week’s Ten Breakout Buckeyes. But here we go.

Asked in February which of his new signees he expected to redshirt in 2012, Meyer’s response was, "We don't redshirt. We're going to recruit the caliber of athlete you do not redshirt at Ohio State." I do believe Meyer will use his freshmen early and often, not least because, with the exception of his running back and defensive line units, his current roster is not a very deep group at all, and the incoming group is loaded with talent. In the Tressel years, about half of any freshman class would redshirt for a variety of reasons, and although Meyer wants all of his first-year guys to be ready to play, invariably some of them will end up saving a year of eligibility.

Incoming offensive linemen Kyle Dodson and Jacoby Boren are coming off surgeries in the offseason, so caution may rule the day with them, even though Boren all but won the backup center spot this spring. Other newcomers will find themselves nowhere near the two-deep lineup, and will have to wait for blowouts to get onto the field, if they see it at all.

First year defensive backs and linebackers have the best chance to see early playing time because they’ll show up on special teams units, and that’s one of the reasons my list has seven defenders and only three offensive players. One running back, one receiver and one offensive lineman make the most-likely-to-contribute list, and the rest are on the other side of the ball.

Some of the freshman defensive linemen are just too promising to keep off the field, and this year’s Buckeyes are likely to employ at least an eight-man rotation on the D-line, giving the youngsters some early visibility. Three talented young OSU linebackers make the list, and while there’s only one defensive back listed below, two others were a coin flip away.  

From a class of 25 incoming freshmen then, these are the ten kids I think will make the biggest impact on the 2012 Buckeyes.


CamWilliams1 copyCamren Williams - LB - 6’ 2”, 215 lbs - (West Roxbury, MA) Catholic Memorial School
Williams was an early Penn State commit who came around to the Buckeyes when the scandal erupted in State College. He was Rivals #8 ranked inside linebacker, while Scout had him as the nation’s #16 outside backer, and the #22 overall player in the East. Williams is a versatile athlete who played wide receiver on offense in high school. His film shows a young man with a powerful upper and lower body, who is able to take on blockers and is a strong tackler. Some on the OSU staff are said to be projecting him as a middle linebacker in college, but inside or out, Williams brings welcome athleticism and speed to a linebacker unit that has been short on both of late. His high school teammate, 4-star cornerback Armani Reeves is also part of this incoming class. Video1 -

Pittman1Se’Von Pittman - DL - 6’ 3”, 259 lbs - (Canton, OH) McKinley H.S.
Pittman enrolled early and went through spring football in Columbus, performing impressively before a minor knee injury cut short his spring season. Ranked the nation’s #9 DE according to Scout, and #8 by Rivals, Pittman projects as a pass rushing end, capitalizing on his speed and his length to get after the quarterback. He made an early verbal commitment to Michigan State, but soon after Meyer was hired at OSU, Pittman made his interest in the Buckeyes clear to the OSU staff, and within two weeks he had flipped his commitment to Ohio State. Every major scouting service ranked Pittman among the nation’s Top 100 players overall in the 2012 class. As you’ll see below, he’ll have plenty of competition among his fellow freshmen for playing time at defensive end, but his brand of “big speed” is a rare commodity, and if the knee is healthy, he should make his mark in 2012. Video1 - Video2

marcus2Jamal Marcus - LB - 6’ 2”, 225 lbs - (Durham, NC) Hillside H.S.
One of the latecomers to the class of 2012, Marcus’ stock rose in part on the basis of a highlight video Urban Meyer called “borderline ridiculous”. A first team all-state player on North Carolina’s state championship team, with 17.5 sacks as a senior, Marcus began accumulating offers fairly late in the process, eventually narrowing his choices to UNC, East Carolina and Florida, to be joined later by OSU under Meyer. Marcus played defensive end in high school but says the OSU coaches have told him he’ll be used as an outside linebacker at Ohio State. His film shows an extremely strong player who is also blessed with a very quick first step off the snap and the ability to penetrate, shed blockers, and wrap up. Marcus was rated the nation’s #9 OLB by Rivals and #70 at defensive end by Scout. Video1 - Video2

Thomas1Michael Thomas - WR - 6’ 2”, 193 lbs - (Woodland Hills, CA) William Howard Taft H.S.
Thomas made a big splash this spring when he was paired with Braxton Miller on the Scarlet team in the Spring Game, and came away with 12 receptions on the day to lead all receivers by a wide margin. He was an Under Armour All-American in the class of 2011 coming out of southern California, and was high on the prospect lists of all the major programs, but he decided to go to prep school instead, landing at Fork Union Military Academy in the fall of 2011, where he played with fellow-OSU enrollee QB Cardale Jones, before committing to OSU and enrolling early for spring ball in Columbus. His hands are exceptional, and he shows an ability to adjust the ball in the air that can’t be taught. He has good, not great speed, with good running instincts and elusiveness after the catch. Thomas (pictured at top) got a good head start on the other two incoming receivers this spring, and figures to be the first freshman WR onto the field this fall. Video1

Spence2Noah Spence - DE - 6’ 3”, 240 lbs - (Harrisburg, PA) Bishop McDevitt H.S.
By landing one of the nation’s top overall prospects in Spence just three weeks after he was hired, Urban Meyer served notice that things would be different for OSU recruiting. Ohio State was barely on Spence’s radar until Meyer went after him, but the nation’s #2 defensive end liked what he heard from the new coach, and verbaled to the Buckeyes on December 17. Spence is a superb overall athlete, with elite speed for a defensive lineman, to go with a long wingspan and great upper body strength. He was rated Scout’s #1 player in the East region, and the #10 overall player in the country. Rivals rates Spence a 5-star talent and the nation’s 9th best overall player. All the press clippings will mean little come September, but OSU fans can rightly be excited about watching Noah Spence in Scarlet and Gray in about seven weeks. Video1 - Video2

Murray4Najee Murray - DB - 5’ 11”, 172 lbs - Steubenville (OH) H.S.
Murray was an outstanding two-way star for the Big Red, leading them to two playoff appearances. A hard-hitting safety and running back at the prep level, Murray was rated the nation’s #16 safety by Rivals and #20 by Scout. His jarring hit against Cardinal Mooney in the playoffs has a YouTube video all its own. Many experts expect Murray to play cornerback for the Buckeyes, but he’ll first have to convince the coaches of his coverage skills. There is no question about his speed, aggressiveness and overall athleticism. Murray was voted first team all-state in Div III, and won the AP co-defensive player of the year award. He also excelled as a kick returner, and at the very least should be expected to help out on special teams for OSU this season. Video1 - Video2

Perkins3David Perkins - LB - 6’ 2”, 210 lbs - (South Bend, IN) Washington H.S.
Perkins is another of the highly rated national recruits that had made a verbal commitment to another this case, his hometown team, Notre Dame...until he visited Ohio State, met Urban Meyer, and fell in love with the idea of being a Buckeye. Versatile enough to be rated at the position of “athlete”, Perkins was recruited by many programs as a running back, but he will play outside linebacker at Ohio State. He racked up 103 tackles as a senior, including an impressive 22 TFL, and seven sacks. Urban Meyer made a priority of adding speed to his linebacking unit, and Perkins is Exhibit A that he has succeeded. Scout had him rated the #22 OLB in the nation, and Rivals ranked him as their #13 athlete. He profiles as the kind of player who has the natural ability (4.43 speed, 36” vertical) to come in and contribute on special teams, and maybe get some early field time in the rotation at OLB. Video1 - Video2

Decker4Taylor Decker - OT - 6’ 7”, 310 lbs - (Vandalia, OH) Butler H.S.
OSU fans who follow recruiting were mystified as to why Taylor Decker had failed to get an offer from last year’s OSU coaching staff, as he was one of Ohio’s top prospects at a position of crying need for the Buckeyes. He committed instead to Notre Dame, having established a relationship with Irish coaches Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton. All’s well that ends well though, as Meyer brought Warinner and Hinton over from South Bend to serve on his Ohio State staff, and once he was offered, Decker decided to become a Buckeye as well. He enrolled early and by the time spring ball was over, Decker was the first backup at both tackle spots, and will compete this fall for the starting right tackle position. The coaches are impressed with how quickly he has mastered the playbook, and how advanced he is in terms of technique in the infancy of his college career. He possesses the height and wingspan to go with the quick feet and mobility favored in Meyer’s spread offense, and he’ll have an advantage over the Buckeyes’ other freshman tackle Kyle Dodson when they open fall camp. Video1 - Video2

Washington1Adolphus Washington - DL - 6’ 3” , 289 lbs - (Cincinnati, OH)  Taft H.S.
Washington was the top rated football player in the state of Ohio after a 2011 season in which he registered 23.5 sacks and 90 tackles for Taft High. He won the Div III co-defensive player of the year award, and was voted first team all-state. To top off his senior year, Washington led the Taft basketball team to the state semifinals, and for the second time was voted the Gatorade Ohio Basketball Player of the Year. So it would redundant to follow that by saying OSU has landed a special athlete in Adolphus Washington. On the high school football field he often appeared to be a man among boys. The national scouts agree, ranking Washington the top player in the Midwest, with Scout rating him the #3 defensive end prospect in the nation, with Rivals pegging him at #5. Washington has not tried to add weight and bulk due to his now completed basketball career, so his upper body can and probably will get bigger. An eventual move inside to tackle is a possibility, but for now he’s a defensive end with speed and power... and a world of potential.  Video1 - Video2

Dunn7Bri’onte Dunn - RB - 6’ 1”, 220 lbs - (Canton, OH)  Glen Oak H.S.
Dunn is one of top early recruits in Ohio State’s 2012 class, but for a time it looked as if this Canton product might slip away. Dunn committed early, but as the uncertainty began to mount in Columbus, the Michigan staff did all they could to lure the 5-star running back up north. One of Urban Meyer’s top priorities on taking the job in November was to secure the commitment of the state’s best runner, and within two weeks, Scout’s #7 running back had declared himself to be “150% Buckeye”. Dunn’s speed-power combination is reminiscent of OSU’s Chris Wells, and he showed this spring that his ability to run the football can translate quite well to the college game. He finished his brilliant prep career with 5,533 yards and 53 touchdowns, to go with two playoff appearances for his Glen Oak team. Meyer gave Dunn ample opportunity to show what he can do this spring, and the results were impressive. He’ll most likely start out this fall as the first backup to Carlos Hyde at running back, which should garner him plenty of carries as a first-year player. Don’t be surprised to see him take on a larger role as he gains confidence and experience as the season goes along. Video1 - Video2


Notes: If I’d gone for a dozen, defensive backs Devan Bogard and Armani Reeves would probably have been the two to make the list, but you’ve got to stop somewhere. Of course most of the focus these days is on the Class of 2013...and even the Class of 2014, as Meyer and his staff settle in and chart the course for the future of Ohio State football talent acquisition. We’ll get around to a recruiting update sometime in August, but these are the guys who’ll be putting on the pads this month and making their first appearance in the Horseshoe before you know it.  


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Dan’s OSU Links and Resources


More Spring Football coverage at TCF

Ten Breakout Buckeyes

Buckeye Leaves - 6/24 - Profiling new OSU coaches

Buckeye Leaves - 6/9 - Previewing OSU non-conference schedule

Buckeye Leaves 5/20 - Meyer measuring up to Tressel legacy

Buckeye Leaves - 5/6 - CFB Playoffs, Schlichter

Meyer's Buckeyes Take Off - Spring Game recap

Buckeyes on Fast Forward - 4/12

Transforming the Buckeyes - 3/27


(photo credits - Jim Davidson and Dan Harker -;;;

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