The Fault In Their Stars
This week's This & That: the problem with too much star gazing, tracking a blazing Buckeye, d-line guru lays down the law, Urbz is E.F. Hutton and a bad Primetime program.
Taking Stock Of The Stars
Each recruiting cycle we're endlessly bombarded with the names of high school players who are 3, 4, or 5-star recruits. Recruiting analysts gush about the amount of 5-star players committed to a given school and fans begin making space in their wardrobe for national championship shirts and hats. Well, here's a bit of advice: don't get too caught up in how many stars recruiting analysts assign to these kids. Sometimes those ratings change well after a player's season has ended. Mission Hills, CA wide receiver Chris Olave was a 4-star recruit when he committed to Ohio State a few weeks ago. When he woke up the next morning, he had been downgraded to a 3-star by one recruiting site. Why??!! He had not played a game since December 2nd! Did he all of a sudden become less talented in the few hours after committing to his chosen college football program? This isn't just a complaint about a future Buckeye being downgraded. There are a few examples of OSU commits being upgraded for seemingly no reason. I realize these dedicated people (and I do believe they are very dedicated) have a ton of tape to watch while trying to rate an incredible amount of high school players. But, by mid-January, a player shouldn't be moving up or down.
It must be pointed out, recruits with a 5-star rating generally turn out to be pretty good football players. If you look at ESPN's Top 300 for 2013 (these players were fifth-year seniors for the 2017 season), all of the top ten players are in the NFL. So, Buckeye fans can feel pretty good about Urban Meyer bringing in cornerback Tyreke Johnson, defensive tackle Taron Vincent, inside linebacker Teradja MItchell and offensive tackle Nick Petit-Frere. All have 5-star ratings, all are going to be very good players. But, does signing a bunch of 5-stars mean success for your program? Not necessarily. Looking again at the 2013 recruiting class, MIssissippi, Notre Dame and Florida signed two players each in the top ten. None of those programs have sniffed a national championship in the five years since.
The rankings and development of Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class is a great example of why you shouldn't get your drawers in too much of a bundle over a player's recruiting ranking. That group of Buckeye signees was led by Eli Apple, who was a starter on the 2015 National Championship team and first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Buckeyes also recruited Evan Lisle, a 4-star recruit from Centerville. Lisle was the nation's number four offensive tackle; a player ranked ahead of future stars Zeke Elliot and J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes also signed that year a defensive tackle from the Youngstown area, who barely made it into ESPN's Top 300.
Fast-forward to the end of this past season. Lisle never started a game for the Buckeyes and was a graduate transfer to Duke after the 2016 season. He became an immediate starter for the Blue Devils and helped them to a win in the Quick Lane Bowl. Remember that Youngstown-area defensive tackle, who barely made ESPN's Top 300? All he did was become a four-year starter on the offensive line, was a two-time All-American, won the Rimington Award for college football's best center and will be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Billy Price was not a highly regarded recruit for the Buckeyes, he wasn't one of those "must have" types. He was a hidden gem and a very good reason not to get too caught up in recruiting rankings. Want one more example? Darron Lee, a starter on that 2015 National Championship team and 2016 first-round draft choice, was not only left out of ESPN's Top 300, he was rated as only the 28th best player in the state of Ohio! For all of the high-profile recruits Urban Meyer has brought in, I promise there will be a few who don't pan out and and a few Billy Price's and Darron Lee's.
Yeah, That’s Fast
Buckeye cornerback Kendall Sheffield made his debut with the Ohio State track team an impressive one this weekend. The sophomore from Missouri City, Texas clocked a 6.71 in the 60 meter dash finals of the Music City Challenge in Nashville; good for second place in the event. It is the 6th fastest time in Ohio State history.
Ok, so we know he’s fast, but can he cover? Based on what I saw in the Cotton Bowl, I think the answer is yes. If you recall, Sheffield started the game in place of Denzel Ward, who chose to sit out after declaring for the NFL Draft. Yes, Sheffield gave up some completions, but the difference in what I saw at the Cotton Bowl compared to early in the season is what gives me hope that he can step in and be a “shutdown” cornerback. Although he’s spending time with the Buckeye track team, he will not be skipping spring practice. He’s going to be in the middle of a three-player battle with 2017 starter Damon Arnette and much-heralded sophomore-to-be Jeffrey Okudah for the two starting cornerback spots. My choices? Unless Arnette makes a leap this spring, I think it will be Sheffield and Okudah when the Buckeyes open the season with Oregon State.
Let's Try This Again
Defensive tackle Antwaun Jackson is one of the gems in the Buckeyes' most recent recruiting class; he was the number one junior college player in the country. What you may not know is Jackson was heavily recruited by Ohio State two years ago and shocked everyone by choosing Auburn over the Buckeyes. According to a story by Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch, it took Jackson two days after arriving at Auburn to realize he'd made a mistake and asked his high school head coach to call the Buckeyes and tell them so. Enter Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Sr. When Jackson opened up his recruitment again after transferring to Blinn College for the 2017 season, the country's best d-line coach told Jackson, "If we come down this road again, you're going to show me it's real. We're not going to do any babysitting, calling you. We've done that already. The minute you take a trip somewhere else, I'm pulling the scholarship offer. We're done." Jacskon signing with the Buckeyes after being spoken to like a six-year-old is a testament to the respect Coach Johnson commands.
He Speaks, They Listen
Do you remember the old E.F. Hutton commercials? They're the ones with the "When E.F.Hutton talks, people listen" slogan. It looks as if Urban Meyer's replacement for recently departed defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs is going to be Taver Johnson. Johnson served in the same capacity for Jim Tressel from 2007-11. The Cincinnati native is an excellent choice; he developed All-Americans Chimdi Chekwa and Malcolm Jenkins (yeah, the one who just earned his second Super Bowl ring) during his first stint in Columbus.
So, at this point I know you're thinking, "OK, so what does an old TV commercial have to do with this?" Johnson is the second coach to join Meyer's staff in the last few weeks, who was a defensive coordinator at the school they just left. Johnson was at Temple, while Alex Grinch, another Ohio native, was the defensive coordinator at Washington State before joining the Buckeyes. Coordinators don't leave jobs to become position coaches. They leave to become head coaches or coordinators at more prestigious programs. Grinch is to be the co-defensive coordinator with Greg Schiano and will take over the postition if/when Schiano leaves. But, he's a CO-defensive coordinator. At Washington State he was THE GUY. When Urban Meyer talks, coaches listen. He, along with Nick Saban, get just about whoever they want when there is an opening on their staff.
What Did He Say?
While watching NFL Network's post-game coverage of Super Bowl LII, I heard Deion "Primetime" Sanders question Tom Brady's legacy because, well, this was his third Super Bowl loss. Wait..what? Wondering if I heard him correctly I listened to his statement again and, yeah, that's what he said. Brady may have three losses, but he has FIVE wins. FIVE. Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have six COMBINED. Question his legacy? Really? Only two quarterbacks in league history have won five championships and he's one of them; Bart Starr of the Packers is the other. There are reasons why I usually avoid pre- and post-game shows. Ridiculous obersvations like this are near the top of that list.
Next time I'll take a look at how Urban Meyer changed Big Ten recruiting. Thanks for reading!