Urban Meyer has injected much needed life into the Ohio State Football program. One area of expertise he has brought is in recruiting. His presence was felt immediately as the 2012 class went from barely in the top 25 into the top 5 by many college football recruiting services. But as well all know, recruiting is as much an art as it is a science and sometimes lower star players become stars and higher star players fizzle. Briefly we will look at some five-star players who were not "stars" at Ohio State and hope that players like Noah Spence, Jalin Marshall, Joey Bosa, and Cameron Burrows, current players or commits who have a five-star rating from a recruiting service, do not fall into this category of players with five-star ratings who were not stars (see also three star players who were stars). Remember players like AJ Hawk and Malcolm Jenkins? Chris Gamble and James Laurinaitis? Donald Washington and Brian Robiske? All were three-stars or below who later played or are still playing in the NFL. The star ratings will be based on Scout.com.
O'Neal was labeled Super Mario out of high school and committed to Ohio State before his
junior year. Blessed with speed (4.45 40-yard dash) and size (6'1"), Super Mario began to show that he was not invincible before coming to OSU when he was unable to shut down Mario Manningham in a high school game.
He did not have a bad career. He played 29 minutes his freshman year and became a starter in Week 6 of his sophomore year, but was never the superstar DB that fellow Cleveland Glenville 5-star Donte
Whitner was. O'Neal was not a bust and made some decent contributions to Ohio State's success, but often seemed to get lost in coverage.
In 2006, Connor Smith was the only one of the top offensive lineman in Ohio that pledged to Ohio State, although Justin Boren would later transfer after a stint at TSUN. Smith was a must get for OSU and Tress and compay got him.
Smith made contributions, but never cracked the starting lineup for any extended period of time and has largely been used on special teams. Scout.com rated him the most dominating offensive lineman in the Midwest, but he was not able to be dominant while at OSU. He is commended for not publicly complaining about playing time and being a team player and leader.
Mike D'Andrea was in the same recruiting class as A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter. Of the three, D'Andrea was easily the most heralded. He was considered to be the nation's No. 1 linebacker prospect and drew comparisons to Andy Katzenmoyer. His toughness showed, as he played through a knee injury his freshman season but was never fully healthy to make a contribution.
With Carpenter and Hawk having such great careers, one wonders how much greater the defense would have been with a healthy Mike D'Andrea.
Clifford was a Parade and USA Today All-American out of high school and also participated in the coveted U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Clifford was not redshirted and played in four games his freshman year. But he was suspended in 2007 for violating team rules, and the next year was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly hitting two employees at a restaurant.
Clifford would transfer to Tennessee State and had a very good career there. He was undrafted in 2011 and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. He was a good prospect for the NFL, but staying at OSU would have given him a national spotlight, to say nothing of superior coaching.
How can someone who won a Rose Bowl and later defeated an SEC team in another BCS Bowl (though the victory was officially wiped out) be considered a five-star that was not a star? Partially because Pryor will forever be linked to selling his OSU memorabilia for money and causing trouble for Ohio State tootball. What was once considered a selfish, entitled football player, has had some new light shed on his circumstances. In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter Pryor said the motive behind him selling memorabilia was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent:
"She was four months behind in rent, and the (landlord) was so nice because he was an Ohio State fan. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and she said, 'My son will pay you back sometime if you just let me pay you back during my work sessions.' She ended up losing her job, and she and my sister lived there. Let me remind you it was freezing cold in November, December, and she's using the oven as heat. That's what I did as a kid. I was telling the NCAA, 'Please, anything that you can do. I gave my mother this so my sister wouldn't be cold, so my mother wouldn't be cold.' They didn't have any sympathy for me. It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans. It's documented. Whenever I write my book the proof will be in there, the receipt that the money I gave my mother was to pay the electric and heat bill. The truth is going to come out one day when the time is right. I don't think I deserved (being punished) in that way, because of the reason I was doing it. I felt like I was doing God's work in a way, and I was getting driven into the ground."
But even though there is new evidence that does not demonize Terrelle Pryor, the end of his career screams that he did not get the most out of it. Without a doubt he could have been a candidate for the Heisman his senior year as well as the leader of a potential national championship run. But he, along with some fellow teammates, endured suspensions, and Pryor later left Ohio State for the NFL supplemental draft. Jim Tressel was forced to resign and later retire and Ohio State had one of its worst seasons since 1897. OSU lost in the Gator Bowl while being banned from a bowl in 2012 season. Not the makings a five-star who was a superstar.
We can only dream what could have happened had Clarett stayed two years after his freshman year. After helping lead Ohio State to its first national championship since 1970, Clarett went crazy on Ohio State. Signs were present during his freshman year when he was photographed throwing a jersey in the air and declaring one and done. His injured shoulder kept him out of spring ball in 2003 and he would never carry the football for Ohio State again. First, he challenged the NFL and eventually lost his case to enter early. Then he was drafted in the third round by the Denver Broncos. Clarett never learned his lesson and was rumored to feeling "entitled" to special treatment and believing he could make demands unworthy of a first year third-round pick. He was eventually cut and the Broncos declared that they made a mistake in drafting Clarett. His history of accusing Ohio State is legendary, likely causing an earlier than expected retirement of AD Andy Geiger, and Clarett was later sentenced to jail time. He seems to have his life in order now, has made good choices, and is back in organized football playing for Omaha. But what could have been? Could he have won the Heisman twice like Archie? Could he have led OSU to another national championship the next year? OSU's running game the year after the national championship season was anemic at best. Oh, what could have been. Hopefully, Clarett will continue to make good choices but he failed to reach "superstar" status.