Quarterback Terrelle Pryor acknowledges the crowd after his Jeannette team won the Pennsylvania Class AA championship at Hershey in December.
COLUMBUS - The 2008 recruiting class at Ohio State looks like a group that could line up right now and give more than a few teams a pretty
There's a wealth of strength along the line, speed and athleticism outside, and some ferocious hitters on the defense.
The only thing missing is the quarterback. And if the Buckeyes get the guy they are after at that position, they could have something very close to the top class in the land.
"Right now, it's as good a class as Jim Tressel has had in his years at Ohio State. But the one thing that's missing is a quarterback, and if he gets the quarterback he wants, you could make a pretty strong case that this will be one of the best classes in the country," said Steve Helwagen, managing editor of Bucknuts, an internet and publishing entity that extensively tracks Ohio State's recruiting efforts.
Terrelle Pryor is the quarterback Ohio State covets, but there's been a crowd at his front door for quite a while.
A fast, athletic 6-6, 220 pounder, Pryor recently
became the first high school player in Pennsylvania's storied football history to throw for more than 4,000 yards and also rush for more than 4,000 in his career. Those numbers draw a lot of attention.
As the Feb. 5 signing day gets closer, the Buckeyes will have to beat out rival Michigan, along with Florida, Penn State, Oregon and LSU to land Pryor. With the recent transfer of red shirt sophomore Rob Schoenhoft, the Buckeyes will have just returning starter and senior-to-be Todd Boeckman, and redshirt sophomore Antonio Henton back at the quarterback position.
"They didn't take a quarterback last year, so they've got to get one in this class, and Pryor is really the only one left out there," Helwagen said. "He is one of the top five players in the country, and Ohio State has as good a chance as anyone to get him."
Pryor has to like the shadows cast by his prospective protection package at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have firm commitments from a trio of behemoths on the offensive line: Ohio's Mike Adams (6-7, 308), Floridian Michael Brewster (6-6, 305) and Texan J.B. Shugarts (6-7, 300).
Adams of Dublin Coffman is considered by many the best offensive lineman to come out of Ohio since Sandusky's Orlando Pace, a former Ohio State star. Brewster is regarded as the ideal combination of talent and nastiness, while Shugarts is athletic enough to also play tight end.
"Those are cornerstone type guys," Helwagen said, "and since they all committed fairly early, they've done a lot to build this class from the ground up."
The Ohio State commits have gone to work on Pryor and other potential recruits, calling and text-messaging them and establishing long-distance friendships. Helwagen said the phenomena could close the deal on Pryor.
"Brewster has been the ringleader of the whole thing, but as a group they've networked, and put together the machinery to go after these other players," he said. "Pryor has built a great
rapport with these other guys."
One apparent coup for Tressel and the Buckeyes involves the solid commitments from a pair of standout players from Miami. A number of scouting services have 6-3, 225-pound linebacker Etienne Sabino (pronounced: A-T-N) rated as the top player in the country at his position. Sabino's high school teammate, defensive back Travis Howard (6-0, 172), is also very highly regarded.
The Buckeyes landed linebacker and special teams demon Brian Rolle along with defensive back James Scott from Florida last year, and Helwagen sees Tressel maintaining a solid base in that distant state.
"He got two of the top guys in Florida last year, and now he gets Sabino, one of the best linebackers in the whole country," Helwagen said.
"This tells us two things - Tressel continues to do well in Florida, where he got guys even back when he was coaching at Youngstown State. And now we've got an unusual year when Florida, Florida State and Miami all did not win a bowl game, so it seems like there's an opportunity to catch them a little off-guard."
Besides Adams, the in-state talent the Buckeyes have lined up includes Beavercreek safety Zach Domicone, whose size (6-3, 215) and speed (4.47) have the OSU defensive coaches giddy; the long and athletic wide receiver DeVier Posey from Cincinnati and solid Dublin receiver/tight end Jake Stoneburner (6-5, 215).
NCAA guidelines prevent Tressel from commenting on prospects or recruits until a signed letter of intent has been received by the OSU athletic department, but he has outlined his overall approach in the past.
"We like a blend of in-state and out-of-state players,"
Tressel said. "This is a year-round operation for us and we always have certain parameters when we go about recruiting. We want good people who want to earn a degree from the Ohio State University."
Helwagen said Ohio State will spend the final two weeks before signing day trying to close the deal on Pryor, work on the 2009 class a bit, and maybe add
another player or two to the 2008 class.
"Potentially, this is the kind of class that will set them up for success thru 2010 and 2011," he said. "It couldn't have gone much better for them so far, and getting Pryor is still a strong
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