In February of 2008, Ohio State fans eagerly anticipated the news on how the Buckeyes did on National Letter Of Intent Day. Rivals.com ranked Ohio State's class fourth in the nation, as did scout.com. Ohio State actually needed to wait upon the top-ranked player in the nation, who declined to sign a letter of intent until March.
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 how this class of twenty that Jim Tressel and his staff signed compared to this standard.
I. The Starters (13*)
1. OT Mike Adams ~ One of the players who will be suspended for five games this season, Adams has developed into one of the premier offensive tackles in the conference, earning All-Big Ten honors last season. Look for Adams to be a high draft choice in the 2012 NFL Draft next spring. Adams played sparingly as a freshman, making me wonder why the coaching staff burned a crucial year of eligibility, especially when the offensive line numbers are so low. Regardless, Adams will be counted on by the coaching staff and the fans to contribute in the latter portion of the season for the Buckeyes.
2. C Michael Brewster ~ Brewster developed a reputation for recruiting other players to Ohio State, helping to label this class as "The Brew Crew". Brewster was thrust into the lineup early in his freshman season at Ohio State, taking over the starting center responsibilities in game four against Troy. Brewster was All-Big Ten in 2010, will vie for All-American honors this season, and will be a high draft choice in the 2012 NFL Draft. It would surprise me if Brewster is not named a captain for this year's squad.
3. P Ben Buchanan ~ The first player to commit to the 2008 recruiting class, Buchanan emerged as the starting punter for the 2010 season. Buchanan had several ups and downs last season, most notably in the now-vacated 2011 Sugar Bowl when his punt was blocked in the latter moments of the game. Hopefully, Buchanan has a strong season in 2011, improving upon his 41 yds per punt average . Buchanan was redshirted in 2008, so he will have another year of eligibility after this season.
4. DL Garrett Goebel ~ Technically, Goebel has not started for Ohio State, but is being labeled a starter for the 2011 season at nose tackle. Goebel redshirted in 2008, leaving him an additional year of eligibility in 2012. Goebel was, like Head Coach Luke Fickell, a standout high school heavyweight wrestler who will be expected to control the line of scrimmage for the Buckeyes.
5. CB Travis Howard ~ Redshirted in 2008, Howard emerged last season into a reliable cornerback for the Buckeyes. Howard will start for Ohio State this season, and will have one year of eligibility remaining. Hopefully, Howard will return in 2012, but it would not surprise me if Howard declares for the 2012 NFL Draft with a solid performance this season.
6. S Orhian Johnson ~ Johnson committed and signed with Ohio State on national letter of intent day back in 2008. Johnson was a high school quarterback, who converted to defensive back upon arriving in Columbus. Johnson is not the stereotypical safety for the Buckeyes, who will physically level opponents; tackling is not the strongest part of his game - pass coverage is his strength. Johnson will have another year of eligibility after this season.
7. WR DeVier Posey ~ Posey will be suspended for the first five games of this season. Posey scored a touchdown in his first game against Youngstown State in 2008, and has become the best receiver on Ohio State's roster. Posey's absence will be dramatically felt during his suspension. Fortunately for Ohio State, Posey has been doing what he can to prepare and assist other receivers who will need to step up during the first five games.
8. LB Etienne Sabino ~ Like Garrett Goebel, Sabino has not yet started for Ohio State, but is labeled a 2011 starter at linebacker. Sabino has primarily played on special teams during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, redshirting last season. Sabino played middle linebacker during spring, but has moved to strongside linebacker during preseason camp. Sabino broke his hand recently in the jersey scrimmage, but should be able to play in the first game against Akron, if not the second game against Toledo. Sabino will have another year of eligibility in 2012.
9. OT J. B. Shugarts ~ Shugarts will enter 2011 season as his third starting year at right tackle. Shugarts burned up a year of eligibility in 2008, like his classmate Mike Adams. Shugarts hopes for an injury-free season, as he battled a foot injury that plagued him throughout the 2010 season.
10. TE Jake Stoneburner ~ Stoneburner was a high school wide receiver who converted to tight end at Ohio State. Stoneburner is more of a receiving threat at tight end, versus the traditional extra blocker at the position that Ohio State fans have become accustomed to during the Jim Tressel era. With DeVier Posey's suspension, and the relative inexperience of the rest of the wide receivers, look for Stoneburner to be heavily involved in the passing offense this season. Redshirted in 2008, Stoneburner will have another year of eligibility in 2012.
11. LB Andrew Sweat ~ A probable 2011 captain, Sweat has emerged as the probable starter at the middle linebacker position. Sweat was primarily a special teams contributor his first two seasons, while backing up Ross Homan in 2009. Sweat became a starter last season, and should be a steadying presence in the revamped Ohio State defense.
12. DE Nathan Williams ~ Williams has started at defensive end for the past two seasons, arguably becoming Ohio State's best pass rusher entering the 2011 season. Williams can play either as a down lineman or as a linebacker in passing situations, making his versatility a strong asset for the defense.
This next player I am marking with an asterisk. You will understand why after you read it...
13.* QB Terrelle Pryor ~ The player who waited until March 2008 to officially sign with Ohio State as arguably the nation's top player has left Columbus as a pariah in the eyes of most Ohio State fans. Largely considered to be the player most responsible for Jim Tressel's forced resignation from Ohio State, I wonder when or if Terrelle Pryor will ever be welcomed back by the Ohio State faithful. While Pryor's passing skills or technique never fully developed in his time at Ohio State, even the angriest of Ohio State fans would have to acknowledge Pryor's rare athleticism and skills from 2008 through 2010. Thrust into the starting position in game four of his freshman year against Troy, Pryor was able to lead Ohio State to three victories against Michigan, while also winning bowl most valuable player awards for the Rose Bowl and the now-vacated Sugar Bowl.
II. The Contributor (1)
1. DB Zach Domicone ~ One of the last additions to the recruiting class, Domicone was a high school quarterback who moved to defensive back upon arriving in Columbus. Domicone redshirted his freshman year, and has played primarily on special teams the past two seasons. Domicone seems to have a knack for big plays against Minnesota, recovering a fumble against them in 2009, and blocking a punt in 2010. Domicone has another year of eligibility for 2012, but more than likely, will be a contributor for special teams the remainder of his career at Ohio State.
III. The Departures (6)
1. TE Nic DiLillo ~ DiLillo had a strange recruiting odyssey, committing to Clemson, then Pittsburgh, and finally Ohio State. DiLillo never seemed to make an impact at Ohio State, and left the team before the 2010 season.
2. RB Jermil Martin ~ Martin was originally committed to Iowa, then changed his mind to sign with Ohio State as a fullback, and later moved to tailback. Martin's lone shining moment took place against Minnesota in 2009. Caught up in a numbers game at tailback, Martin was supposed to transfer to Ashland. Implicated in the "Tattoogate" scandal at Ohio State, Martin is no longer involved with Ashland.
3. DL Willie Mobley ~ Mobley signed with Ohio State in 2008, redshirted, and transferred at the onset of the 2009 season. In Arizona, Mobley suffered an ACL injury this spring.
4. DL Shawntel Rowell ~ From the famed "Glenville pipeline" like his high school teammate Jermil Martin, Rowell was unable to qualify academically at Ohio State. Rowell eventually landed at a junior college, and signed with West Virginia in February 2011.
5. WR Lamaar Thomas ~ Thomas played considerably for Ohio State in 2008 and in 2009 as a kick returner. Feeling misused by the coaching staff, Thomas transferred to New Mexico where he will play this coming season.
6. DE Keith Wells ~ Wells played sparingly for Ohio State in 2008 and 2009 at defensive end. Wells was academically ineligible in 2010, and there were rumors that Wells would return to Ohio State for 2011. Recently, there have been rumors that Wells may wind up at Kentucky.
Twenty players signed in 2008. Breaking it down by the three categories, Ohio State was able to secure 13 starters (65%), one strong contributor for special teams (5%), and six players either left on their own or were asked to leave by Ohio State (30%). Again, considering the rule of thirds, Jim Tressel and his staff did a great job of identifying talent, but more importantly, developing the talent into strong starters and contributors.
What will the recruiting class of 2008's legacy be? Will it be forever tarnished by "Tattoogate" and the forced resignation of Jim Tressel? Or will the remaining players come together to end their respective Ohio State careers with a flourish of glory? As the season opener against Akron gets closer and closer to September 3rd, those questions will be in the background of many Ohio State fans.