The last few years, I reviewed Ohio State's recruiting classes of 2005 and 2006 when those classes were the current seniors. With the 2010 season almost upon us, I felt it was time to review those players who are now seniors to see what impact, if any, they have had upon Ohio State football since they signed on the dotted line for the Buckeyes in February 2007.
The 2007 recruiting class was relatively small, with only fifteen players signed. Scout.com ranked Ohio State's class as the sixteenth best class, behind Michigan in Big Ten rankings. Rivals.com ranked Ohio State's class fifteenth overall, again behind Michigan in the Big Ten rankings. Both services ranked Florida's class as the top overall, with both services ranking QB Jimmy Clausen as the top high school football player in the nation.
Generally, I believe that any recruiting class operates by a rule of thirds ~ a third of the players will become starters, as the coaches would hope for at some point in their career. A third of the players will contribute in some fashion, possibly as dependable backups or special teamers. And a third will not contribute, possibly transferring, having academic issues, or other off the field issues.
Looking at Ohio State's 2007 class, you will see that Ohio State's coaching staff again have done a very good job of maximizing the contributions of this fifteen man class they signed back in February 2007. 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 (7 players)
DL Cameron Heyward - Heyward surprised many by returning to Ohio State for his senior season, when he could have left for the NFL. Heyward was thrust into action in his first game, against Youngstown State, when his teammate Lawrence Wilson sustained an injury. Heyward is a preseason All-American and could be a captain for Ohio State this fall.
RB Daniel "Boom" Herron - I struggled listing Herron as a starter, when I believe Brandon Saine may be the starting tailback against Marshall in the opener. Regardless, Herron splits carries with Saine, and was arguably the starter for most of the 2008 season when Saine was injured. Herron reminds me of former NY Giants RB Joe Morris, with his physical style and deceptive speed. Herron was redshirted in 2007, and could return for another season in 2011.
DB Jermale Hines - Hines contributed as a freshman on special teams, and has been a consistent performer for Ohio State in the secondary. Hines was not a starter at the beginning of last season, but is expected to man one of the safety positions this season.
LB Brian Rolle - Like Jermale Hines, Brian Rolle made his impression primarily on special teams his first two seasons. Last season, Rolle filled the Mike linebacker position, coming up with a critical interception in the season opener against Navy. Rolle may not be as tall as other linebackers, but he has certainly been productive when in the lineup for the Buckeyes.
RB Brandon Saine - Saine contributed as a true freshman in 2007, while battling injuries as a sophomore in 2008. Saine rebounded last year, leading Ohio State in rushing while sharing carries with Daniel "Boom" Herron. Saine has tremendous speed, and I will be curious to see if Ohio State uses him more as a receiver out of the backfield this coming season.
WR Dane Sanzenbacher - Sanzenbacher actually scored the first touchdown of Ohio State's 2007 season against Youngstown State, on his first career reception. Sanzenbacher is a dependable possession receiver who has better speed than opposing defenses realize.
CB Devon Torrence - Torrence played sparingly as a freshman at wide receiver and on special teams in 2007. Torrence moved to the secondary, and will start at an opposite corner with 5th year senior Chimdi Chekwa.
II. The Contributors (5)
OL/DL Evan Blankenship - The lone offensive lineman of this class, Blankenship reportedly moved to the defensive line during spring football. Blankenship redshirted in 2007, and could potentially return for a fifth season in 2011.
DB Donnie Evege - Evege redshirted in 2007, and battled injuries in 2008. Evege made a mark as a solid special team performer in 2009, and could return for a fifth season in 2011.
DB Nate Oliver - Oliver was the very first verbal commitment for his class. Oliver redshirted in 2007, but has been a letterman the past two seasons with his contributions on special teams. Oliver could return for a fifth season in 2011, and should also see playing time as a backup in the secondary.
DE Solomon Thomas - Thomas redshirted in 2007, and could return for a fifth season in 2011. Thomas has played sparingly, but should see more game action this coming season on the defensive line.
WR Taurian Washington - Possibly the most enigmatic member of his class, Washington has usually performed well in the spring game, but has not been able to translate those performances into live game action. Washington actually played in the opening 2007 game against Youngstown State, catching a touchdown pass. It truly is a case of now or never for Washington this season, as he is out of eligibility after this season.
III. The Departures (3)
DB Eugene Clifford - Arguably the highest rated player in the class, Clifford played for Ohio State during the 2007 season. Clifford had repeated off the field issues, and transferred to Tennessee State.
DB Rocco Pentello - Pentello was a late addition to the recruiting class, and transferred to Ashland this past February due to a lack of playing time. Pentello supposedly is playing both quarterback and wide receiver for Ashland.
DB James Scott - Scott played as a true freshman in 2007, but left the team in 2008. Scott transferred to Ole Miss, but never played.
CONCLUSION: Out of 15 players, Coach Tressel and his staff have 7 starters, 5 contributors, and only 3 players who are neither playing or contributing. As I wrote up above, to have 12 of 15 signees playing or contributing, a 80% success rate, is a tribute to Coach Tressel and his staff's talent evaluation and talent development.