When the class of 2011 signs on the dotted line on February 2nd it will mark the tenth recruiting class of the Tressel era. I realize that he was technically hired before the class of 2001 signed, but most of those players were in place before the Senator took office, so we won't include that group in our discussion. Although he has been criticized for failing to close strongly (which has often been true), the fact is that Ohio State has inked some excellent talent and has more often than not been ranked in the top ten by the recruiting services. Once again it appears that the coaching staff is assembling an excellent group of players this year so the question looms how does this class stack up with others in the past decade? Although we don't have a final report card on recent classes let's take a crack at rating the "Tressel Ten" from worst to first:
10. Class of 2003. The biggest dispointment of Jim Tressel's tenure was his second class which came on the heels of winning the national championship. The highest rated players in this class were defensive backs Donte Whitner and Dareus Hiley and tight end Louis Irrizarry, and only one panned out. Not only was it a small class but a majority of players didn't contribute due to academics, off the field issues or injuries: Marcel Frost, Ira Guilford, Irrizarry, Sian Cotton, Reggie Smith, Brandon Maupin, Hiley, Devin Jordan, and Curt Lukens (that is 9 out of 15 if you are counting). The stars of '03 were Whitner, corner Ashton Youboty and receiver Anthony Gonzalez.
9. Class of 2004. In case you wonder why the Buckeyes didn't capitalize on the great 2002 season like they could have, look no further than the two classes signed immediately after that epic success. This group's most celebrated members were Teddy Ginn, Marcus Freeman and Kyle Mitchum. The first two turned out to be stars along with Vern Gholston, and Antonio Pittman. So what went wrong? Consider the following: Devon Lyons, Dennis Kennedy, Albert Dukes, Alex Barrow, Brandon Underwood, Joe Bauserman (baseball...though he did eventually show up - kind of), Eric Haw, Sirjo Welch, and Chad Hoobler, This class was far from a complete loss - there were some stars and a number of solid players, but it wasn't close to as good as hoped.
7. Class of 2007. A very small class that failed to sign some sought after stars, it did include a few big names: Brandon Saine, Brian Rolle and Eugene Clifford. The first two worked out pretty well - especially Rolle. Some guys who didn't get headlines on signing day but performed exceptionally well include Cameron Heyward, Dan "Boom" Herron and Dane Sanzenbacher. The other good players in this class were Jermale Hines and Devon Torrence, while the heartbreakers were Clifford and fellow corner James Scott who both left school.
6. Class of 2005. This was a small class that lacked star power according to the recruiting gurus but wound up with some incredible surprises. The highest ranked players coming in were Alex Boone, Doug Worthington and Jamario O'Neal, and as Meatloaf sang "Two out of three ain't bad." Pleasant surprises included James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Robiskie and Donald Washington. The biggest disappointment along with O'Neal was running back Maurice Wells, although Freddie Lenix never made it to Columbus at all Overall, a good class that didn't have many defections, and included plenty of solid performers like Lawrence Wilson, Brian Hartline, Todd Denlinger, Anderson Russell, and Jim Cordle.
5. Class of 2009. Although the '09 class received a ton of national love it remains to be seen if it will be considered a "great" one. The big names included Jaamal Berry, Dorian Bell and Melvin Fellows, all of whom have talent but have yet to put it all together. Players who have made major contributions include John Simon, Reid Fragel, Jordan Hall and Zach Boren, the latter two in spite of not being that highly touted. Disappointments include receivers Duron Carter and James Jackson with hopes that Chris Fields will be the shining light at that needed position. Keep an eye on Storm Klein, C.J. Barnett and Corey Linsley to make a major impact this season.
4. Class of 2006. An interesting class because it included a lot of guys who were not highly rated by the recruiting services, some of who blossomed nicely. The most highly touted players in the class were Beanie Wells, Robert Rose and Connor Smith, and while Wells was a mega-star the other two didn't even become starters. Ray Small was also part of this class and certainly he had his moments but was a bit of an enigma. However there were plenty of guys who did shine including Ross Homan, Kurt Coleman, Chimdi Chekwa, Thad Gibson, Dexter Larimore, Bryant Browning, and Jake Ballard. Tyler Moeller still has a year of eligibility left and could finish his career as a star, no pun intended.
3. Class of 2011. It will be three or four years before we can evaluate fairly but this class has huge potential. If Aundrey Walker signs as I expect it will mean that the '11 class will have stronger numbers on both sides of the trenches than any in Tressel's career. Certainly there is potential star power in quarterback Braxton Miller, center Brian Bobek, defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Steve Miller, linebacker Ryan Shazier and corner Doran Grant. The interesting thing is that the Bucks always seem to take at least one "project" and sometimes more - guys like Zach Domicone, Jermil Martin, Rocco Pentello, and Curtis Terry to name a few. But this group does not include one player who has flown under the radar - the closest might be lineman Tommy Brown. Hopefully it will be a special group.
2. Class of 2008 (pictured). Talk about star power - this group had it: Terrelle Pryor, Michael Brewster, Mike Adams, Etienne Sabino and DeVier Posey among others Although it has been hurt by defections and ineligibilities like Willie Mobely, Shawntel Rowell, Keith Wells, Lamaar Thomas, and Jermil Martin, it has also benefited from lots of good contributions. Among them: Nathan Williams, Jake Stoneburner, J.B Shugarts, Andrew Sweat, Orhian Johnson, Travis Howard, and Garrett Goebel. It's still too early to give a final grade to the much ballyhooed '09 class, but it should go down as one of the best group of athletes assembled at OSU.
1. Class of 2002. For my money Tressel's first class was his best, although most of the stars were not the ones expected. The big names in this group included Maurice Clarrett, Justin Zwick, Mike D'Andrea and Mike Kudla. Of that bunch only Clarrett was a true superstar and we all know he only played one year. But how about this foursome who didn't garner such big headlines: Troy Smith, A.J. Hawk, Nick Mangold, and Santonio Holmes! Other very good players included Rob Sims, Nate Salley, Quinn Pitcock, and Bobby Carpenter. Beyond that were solid contributors such as Roy Hall, Doug Datish, T.J. Downing, Jay Richardson, Tyler Everett, Brandon Mitchell, Joel Penton and Stan White. It is safe to say that the 2002 team would not have won a national championship without contributions from many of these guys as true freshman, and overall it was a very talented group.
Those are my thoughts on the past decade of recruiting. I would be interested to hear yours.