With all of the interest and enthusiasm Ohio State fans and college football fans in general have in following recruiting, I thought it would be good to take a look back at the recruiting class Coach Tressel and his staff signed in February 2005. This recruiting class was rated behind Michigan's and Iowa's in the Big Ten when it was signed, and was considered to be the #12 rated class in the country. By comparison, USC had the top rated class that year.
In many recruiting classes, there are the rules of thirds applied - a third will start as the coaching staff would hope, a third will contribute in some fashion, and a third will either fail to develop, transfer, or be lost to injury. As you read this below, you will see Coach Tressel and his staff have done a very good job of maximizing the contributions of this 18 man class they signed back in February 2005. The coaching staff completely nullifies the rules of thirds with this class - an impressive job of talent evaluation and talent development, as you will read.
I. The Starters
1. Alex Boone, OT: Boone committed to Ohio State out of Lakewood St. Edward prior to his junior season of high school. The top player in the state of Ohio, Boone earned playing time as a true freshman in 2005. Boone contemplated declaring for the NFL Draft last season but came back, along with several of his classmates. Being a near four year starter, I believe Boone has lived up to his early scholarship offer as a high school sophomore.
2. Jim Cordle, C: Cordle enrolled early in 2005 for spring practice. Cordle suffered a broken foot in 2005, prompting a redshirt year so he has one more year of eligibility. Cordle took over for Doug Datish at center last season, and had a solid season. With two more years of eligibility, Cordle should be starting barring injury.
3. Todd Denlinger, DT: Denlinger redshirted in 2005 and has two years of eligibility remaining. Denlinger played some in 2006, but played extensively last season as part of the defensive line rotation Coach Heacock utilizes.
4. Brian Hartline, WR: Hartline redshirted in 2005 and has two years of eligibility remaining. Hartline emerged as a contributor in 2006 as both a receiver and as a very good special teams member; some of his biggest plays were against Indiana and Iowa that season. Hartline emerged as Todd Boeckman's primary target on third down last season. Hopefully, he will stay for 2009.
5. Malcolm Jenkins, DB: Jenkins earned his scholarship offer from Ohio State with a good performance in a summer football camp. Not highly touted coming out of NJ, Jenkins emerged as a starter in 2005 and is widely considered to be one of the top defensive backs in the country.
6. James Laurinaitis, LB: Laurinaitis is another player who was not highly-touted coming out of Minnesota, but has emerged as an All-American at MLB. Laurinaitis played as a freshman behind Bobby Carpenter, but earned most of his playing time as a result of Carpenter's injury in the Michigan game. Laurinaitis surprised many by coming back for his senior year when he was projected as a first round draft choice in the 2008 NFL Draft.
7. Brian Robiskie, WR: A late addition to the recruiting class, Robiskie was not highly-touted yet earned playing time in 2005. Robiskie was Ohio State's leading receiver last season and should be again this coming season. Robiskie is more of a possession receiver, yet has shown the ability to come up with some clutch plays.
8. Anderson Russell, DB: Like Malcolm Jenkins, Russell earned a scholarship offer through the Ohio State summer football camp. Russell was a wishbone running back in high school who was also offered by Duke but chose Ohio State and moved to defensive back. Redshirted in 2005, Russell has two years of eligibility remaining.
9. Donald Washington, DB: Like Brian Robiskie, Donald Washington was a late addition as a defensive back. Washington redshirted in 2005 but emerged as a starter in 2006. Washington has had some off the field issues, but has been a solid player at defensive back. Washington has two years of eligibility remaining.
10. Doug Worthington, DL: Worthington redshirted in 2005 and has two years of eligibility. Worthington is probably a better fit at DE but moved to an interior DL position as Ohio State needed help in that area.
11. Lawrence Wilson, DE: The last player to sign with Ohio State, Wilson earned playing time as a true freshman in 2005. Wilson broke his leg last season against Youngstown State and was redshirted, so he has two years of eligibility remaining but I doubt Wilson stays after this coming season if he plays well.
II. The Contributors
12. Andre Amos, DB: Amos redshirted in 2005 and has two years of eligibility remaining. Amos had a good spring game and may earn more playing time with the off the field issues surrounding Donald Washington. Maybe Amos will play more in 2009 as a 5th year senior.
13. Jamario O'Neal, DB: O'Neal was the first player to commit to Ohio State midway through his sophomore year of high school and had high expectations that so far he has not reached. O'Neal is also facing some potential discipline this coming year, along with Donald Washington. Hopefully, O'Neal will play well in his final year of eligibility.
14. Austin Spitler, LB: Spitler redshirted in 2005 and has two years of eligibility remaining. Primarily a backup at MLB behind James Laurinaitis, Spitler has primarily played on special teams and may see time at fullback this season. Spitler should be a potential starter next season.
15. Maurice Wells, RB: Like Jamario O'Neal, Wells was highly-touted coming out of high school but has not had developed into anything more than a role player. Wells contemplated transferring after the 2006 season but stuck it out in Columbus. Wells' role this season will be primarily as a change of pace back who can catch the ball out of the backfield, and may even get time on special teams as a kick returner.
III. The Departures
16. Freddie Lenix, LB: Lenix never qualified for Ohio State academically. Lenix was going to enroll at Cincinnati, but supposedly failed to qualify there as well.
17. Rob Schoenhoft, QB: Schoenhoft transferred to Delaware after the 2007 season. Schoenhoft had some playing time against Youngstown State in the 2007 opener, but saw less time to Antonio Henton (also a transfer) as the season progressed. With the signing of Terrelle Pryor, and a supposed position move to TE, Schoenhoft left the program with Coach Tressel's blessings and understanding.
18. Ryan Williams, DE: Williams transferred to San Diego State after the 2006 season. Williams redshirted in 2005 and also suffered a knee injury that limited his playing time options. A California native, it did not surprise me that Williams left the program a few years ago.
CONCLUSION: Out of 18 players, Coach Tressel and his staff have 11 starters, 4 contributors, and only 3 players who are neither playing or contributing. As I wrote up above, to have 15 of 18 signees playing or contributing, a 83% success rate, is a tribute to Coach Tressel and his staff's talent evaluation and talent development.