Looking Back At OSU Recruiting – 1994

Since Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has been the classic overachiever this summer, landing 23 verbal commitments with seven months still to go in the 2008-09 recruiting season, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at how the Buckeyes have done in past years.

Today begins a three-part series looking back at the OSU football classes of 15, 10 and five years ago, remembering some of the can’t-miss players who did and catching up with some of the marginal prospects who went on to become stars.

As difficult as it is to fathom – at least for some us – it has been a full decade and a half since the Buckeyes embarked upon their 1993-94 recruiting efforts. As of this date in July 1993, head coach John Cooper had exactly zero verbal commitments in a class that would eventually number 20.

Coop wasn’t worried, though. Commitments this early in the process were unusual 15 years ago, and the Buckeyes were coming off their best record in six seasons with Cooper as head coach not to mention their first postseason victory since the 1987 Cotton Bowl.

By the time the ink had dried on national letters of intent in February, Cooper had reeled in what many experts believed was one of the finest recruiting classes in 1994.

When a reporter mentioned that some of the recruiting experts had his class rated as high as No. 2 in the nation, the coach couldn’t help but let a smile cross his lips.

“It’s probably the best class we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Cooper said. “It’s a good, solid group of players and that a lot of people wanted as well.”

Just one year before, Cooper was defending his recruiting class to reporters after many of the experts had downgraded it. The OSU coach didn’t back off those statements a year later but did admit that when the class is rated so well, it helps the program.

“I base how we did a lot more on our judgment than I do on some so-called expert,” Cooper said. “But I’m not going to lie to you. It pleases me if Tom Lemming or some of these other gurus think we had a good recruiting class. I’m not going to complain about that.”

Most of the credit for the good recruiting haul could be traced to the Buckeyes’ 1993 season. Their 10-1-1 record represented the first 10-win season for the program in seven seasons, and their tie for the Big Ten championship also ended a seven-year title drought.

“I think the fact that we had a good season certainly played a part in this recruiting season,” Cooper said. “But there were other factors as well. I think the fact that we got on these players early and recruited them hard helped. We got them in here to see us play and I think the fact that we had a good football team last year and a good season played a part.

“Also, we didn’t have a lot of controversy last year, and as far as I know we had very little negative press or negative things that happened around here. There wasn’t any of that ‘Is Cooper here or is he leaving?’ type stuff. That wasn’t an issue with many of the recruits this year.”

The Buckeyes were the consensus No. 2 choice in the country among recruiting experts, including Lemming, Rick Kimbrel, Allen Wallace and Bill Buchalter. Tennessee was the consensus winner, followed by OSU, Michigan, Florida State and Southern California. Alabama was sixth while Penn State, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and North Carolina rounded out the top 10.

Wallace, longtime publisher of SuperPrep magazine, said the Buckeyes were deserving of their lofty ranking.

“Look over their list and just about every name jumps out at you,” he said. “It’s quite possible that Ohio State has the finest crop of linemen in the country. Then you have some other marquee names in there, names that a lot of other schools wanted. The list just goes on and on.”

Despite plaudits from the experts, Cooper and his staff didn’t finish the recruiting season with a perfect record. Several top Ohio plays escaped their grasp, including running back Pat Brown of Westerville North, who signed with Kansas and became a four-year letterman at outside linebacker; defensive back Marcus Ray of Columbus Eastmoor Academy, who became a three-year starter at strong safety for Michigan; and running back Curtis Enis of Union City (Ohio) Mississinawa Valley High School in Union City, who became an All-American at Penn State.

Here is a complete rundown of the players in the 1994 Ohio State recruiting class along with career highlights:

Steve Baird (6-3, 185, 4.55), Hilliard, Ohio

Second-team Division I All-Ohio quarterback

The Columbus Dispatch’s central Ohio back of the year

Threw and ran for 2,135 yards and 27 TDs as a senior

Led team to first-ever appearance in state playoffs

Combined to throw and run for 306 yards and four TDs in regional final playoff game

Lettered one year for Ohio State (1995)

Calvin Brown (6-4, 275, 5.1), East Cleveland (Ohio) Shaw

USA Today honorable mention prep All-American

Three-time first-team Lake Erie League selection

Had 102 tackles and four sacks as a senior defensive end

Two-time all-scholastic team by The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

Sat out 1994 season as Prop 48

Never lettered for Ohio State

Ché Bryant (6-3, 180, 4.5), Canton (Ohio) McKinley

Parade magazine prep All-American

First-team Division I All-Ohio defensive back

Recorded 68 tackles, five INTs, two fumble recoveries as HS senior

Also considered an excellent running back and possible Division I college basketball prospect

Sat out 1994 season as Prop 48

Two-year OSU letterman (1995-96)

Brooks Burris (6-8, 280, 5.2), Logan, Ohio

Second-team Division I All-Ohio offensive lineman

Southeastern District lineman of the year

Played both offensive and defensive line positions in high school

Four-year OSU letterman (1995-98 )

Two-year starter at right tackle for Buckeyes (1997-98 )

Roedell Dupree (6-3, 225, 4.7), Jersey City (N.J.) Ferris

Parade magazine prep All-American

USA Today honorable mention prep All-American

Considered one of top linebacker prospects in country

Had 105 total tackles including 68 solos, three sacks, one INT and three fumble recoveries as senior

Sat out 1994 season as Prop 48

Lettered one year for Ohio State (1995)

Winfield Garnett (6-7, 310, 5.2), Harvey (Ill.) Thornton Township

One of top-rated defensive line prospects in Midwest

Starred on both sides of ball in high school: OSU recruited him for offensive line

Also standout HS wrestler, compiling 32-1 record at heavyweight

Three-year OSU letterman (1995-97)

Two-year starter at defensive tackle for Buckeyes (1996-97)

Played 12 NFL games during one season for Minnesota Vikings (2001)

Dan Gibbons (6-4, 288, 5.0), Birmingham (Mich.) Rice

Earned all-state “Dream Team” honors from The Detroit News as offensive lineman

Also played defensive line and registered 65 total tackles as senior including 15 for loss and four sacks

Sat out 1994 season as Prop 48

Never lettered for Ohio State

Eric Gohlstin (6-5, 295, 5.1), Cleveland St. Ignatius

USA Today first-team prep All-American

First-team Division I All-Ohio offensive lineman

Helped lead his team to back-to-back Division I state championships and the national high school championship as a senior

Cousin of former Ohio State offensive lineman Juan Porter

Sat out 1994 season as Prop 48

Three-year OSU letterman (1995-97)

Three-year starter at right tackle for Buckeyes (1995-97)

Kevin Griffin (5-10, 170, 4.4), Kirkland (Wash.) Juanita

First player to verbally commit to 1994 class

Born in Columbus; moved to Seattle area when he was 11

Played in only seven games as high school senior but still rushed for nearly 600 yards and nine TDs and earned all-state honors

Nephews of former Ohio State players Archie, Ray and Duncan Griffin

Played defensive back and was a valuable special teams member for Buckeyes

Four-year OSU letterman (1995-98 )

Jermon Jackson (5-11, 180, 4.5), Ironton, Ohio

USA Today honorable mention prep All-American

Ohio Division III back of the year

Two-time first-team Division III All-Ohio running back

Rushed for 1,849 yards and 29 TDs as a senior; totaled 4,452 yards and 70 TDs for career

Two-year OSU letterman (1995-96)

John Lumpkin (6-8, 240, 4.8 ) Trotwood (Ohio) Madison

Caught 22 passes for 292 yards and three TDs as senior tight end

Two-sport star in high school; averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game in basketball

Three-year OSU letterman (1996-98 )

Two-year starter at tight end for Buckeyes (1997-98 )

Also played 49 games and started 19 for OSU basketball team; lettered one year (1995)

Dee Miller (6-1, 200, 4.45), Springfield (Ohio) South

Parade magazine prep All-American

Second-team USA Today prep All-American

Regarded as top high school prospect in Ohio regardless of position

Caught 56 passes for 1,139 yards and 16 TDs as senior

Played safety and made 118 tackles and grabbed five INTs

Career prep numbers included 126 catches for 2,756 yards and 36 TDs

Four-year OSU letterman (1995-98 )

Two-year starter at flanker for Buckeyes (1997-98 )

Seventh on OSU career list for receptions (132) and seventh in receiving yardage (2,090)

Joe Montgomery (6-0, 208, 4.45), Oak Lawn (Ill.) Richards

Considered one of top prospects in Illinois after rushing for 1,676 yards and 26 TDs as a senior

Also scored 180 points to set new state record and rushed for state playoff-record 328 yards and six TDs

Battled a host of injuries during OSU career

Two-time OSU letterman (1996, ’98 )

Played 13 NFL games over three seasons with New York Giants and Carolina Panthers, rushing for a combined 372 yards and four TDs (1999-2000, ’02)

Damon Moore (6-1, 185, 4.5), Fostoria, Ohio

Ohio Division II defensive player of the year

Two-time first-team All-Ohio defensive back

Had 72 tackles and six INTs as a senior

Also passed and rushed for more than 1,800 yards as an option quarterback, leading his team to 10-0 regular-season record

Four-year OSU letterman (1995-98 )

Three-year starter at strong safety for Buckeyes (1996-98 )

Co-holder of OSU records for most INTs in single game (3) and most INT returns for touchdowns in career (2)

Four-year NFL career with Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears (1999-2002)

Orlando Pace (6-8, 305, 5.0), Sandusky, Ohio

Consensus prep All-American

Considered by most experts as top offensive line prospect in country

Also played defensive tackle in high school; racked up 80 tackles, six sacks, two fumble recoveries as senior

Starred on high school basketball team at center

Three-year OSU letterman (1994-96)

Started three years at left tackle for Buckeyes (1994-96)

Two-time Lombardi Award winner (1995-96)

Outland Trophy winner (1996)

Finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting (1996)

Left school early to declare for 1997 NFL draft; No. 1 overall pick by St. Louis Rams

Member of Super Bowl champions (1999)

7-time Pro Bowler; 3-time first-team All-Pro

Currently preparing for his 12th NFL season with Rams

Pepe Pearson (5-11, 175, 4.4), Euclid, Ohio

USA Today honorable mention prep All-American

Rushed for more than 4,300 yards during career including over 1,500 as senior

Competed in National AAU Junior Olympics and posted 10.5 second in 100 meters

Four-year OSU letterman (1994-97)

Two-year starter at tailback for Buckeyes (1996-97)

Fifth on OSU career list in rushing yardage (3,121)

Jerry Rudzinski (6-2, 215, 4.75) Kettering (Ohio) Alter

USA Today honorable mention prep All-American

Ohio Division III defensive player of the year

Two-time first-team All-Ohio honors at linebacker

Recorded 142 tackles with 14 for loss and six sacks as senior

Also played quarterback; threw and ran for more than 1,700 yards his final season

Career HS numbers: 302 tackles, passed and ran for 3,704 yards and 42 TDs

Four-year OSU letterman (1995-98 )

Two-year starter for Buckeyes at weakside outside linebacker (1997-98 )

Marcus Spriggs (6-6, 285, 5.0), Washington (D.C.) Woodson

USA Today’s player of year in Washington, D.C., area

The Washington Post’s prep defensive player of the year

Collected 53 tackles and nine sacks as senior defensive lineman

Also served as team’s punter

Sat out 1994 season as Prop 48

Never lettered at Ohio State

Jamie Sumner (6-4, 300, 5.0), Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College

Second-team JUCO All-American

Jayhawk Conference lineman of the year

Prepped at Wichita (Kan.) North, same high school that produced NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders

Joined OSU for spring practice in 1994

Two-year OSU letterman (1994-95)

Two-year starter at left guard for Buckeyes (1994-95)

Jeff Wilson (6-4, 260, 5.0), Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Considered one of the top defensive end prospects in Florida

Totaled 80 tackles as a senior, including four sacks, three fumble recoveries

Three-year OSU letterman (1995-97)

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday is Na’il Diggs, who was born July 8, 1978, in Phoenix, Ariz. His first name means “successful one” in Arabic. After a successful prep career at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, he played at Ohio State from 1997-99, and led the team in tackles with 94 in 1999. Diggs left school with one year of eligibility remaining and was a fourth-round selection by Green Bay in the 2000 NFL draft. He played six years with the Packers and has been with Carolina since the 2006 season, signing a contract extension with the Panthers late last December. His career NFL stats so far: 115 games, including 100 starts, 658 tackles, 10½ sacks, four fumble recoveries and four interceptions.

Also celebrating birthdays today include four-time Olympic gold medal sprinter and hurdler Harrison Dillard; former U.S. Senator and current John McCain adviser Phil Gramm; smooth Sixties and Seventies cabaret singer Steve Lawrence (whose son, David, composed the score for the ridiculously popular “High School Musical”); comic actor Jeffrey Tambor (Hank Kingsley in “The Larry Sanders Show” and George Bluth Sr. in “Arrested Development”); celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck; Oscar-winning actress Anjelica Huston; NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert; actor Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli in “Heroes”); author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen; actor Kevin Bacon; country singer Toby Keith; actor Billy Crudup (also the disembodied voice of all those “priceless” MasterCard commercials); alt rock singer/songwriter Bek David Campbell (better known simply as Beck); and French mathematician Henri Cartan, who is 104 today.

AND FINALLY

** Indiana’s prospects for a decent season improved immeasurably on Monday when head coach Bill Lynch lifted the suspension on quarterback Kellen Lewis, by far the Hoosiers’ best player. Without Lewis, Lynch was staring down the barrel of a nine- or 10-loss season. With the mercurial quarterback, who ran and threw for a combined 3,779 yards and 37 TDs last season, Indiana has a much, much, much better shot at going to a bowl game.

** An annual tradition – one that I must confess I have never quite understood – got under way yesterday with the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Only 13 people were injured, and that was only because a couple of the bulls got loose and ran into the crowd. The event, officially known as the Fiesta de San Fermin, “runs” through this weekend.

** Memo to all of those people who routinely add Cal’s Jeff Tedford to the list anytime a coach at a high-profile school leaves/retires/gets fired. The venerable UC-Berkeley has finally been cleared to begin major renovations at Memorial Stadium, one of the few demands Tedford has ever voiced while with the Bears. That probably means the 46-year-old, who has an incentive-laden contract through 2013, can probably stay in Berkeley as long as he wants.

** If you like the long-running “Inside The NFL” show, don’t look for it on HBO this fall. It is moving to Showtime with new hosts and new graphics. CBS announcers James Brown and Phil Simms will join lone holdover Cris Collinsworth when the show returns Sept. 10. Brown and Simms replace Bob Costas and Dan Marino.

** Because of a rash of injuries, Atlanta recalled outfielder Jeff Francoeur from the minor leagues yesterday just three days after sending him to Double-A, a move Francoeur characterized as a betrayal by Braves general manager Frank Wren. Since when can you hit .234 in 85 games and take a demotion personally? How about a little advice? Shut up, grow up and do a better job.

** All NFL training camps will be open within the next three weeks and still only three of the 31 players taken in the first round of April’s draft are signed to contracts. Miami offensive tackle Jake Long, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and Oakland running back Darren McFadden are the only first-rounders who have put pen to paper so far. Expect a flurry of signings over the next week or so. The New York Jets open training camp first, welcoming rookies on July 16 – that’s a mere eight days away.

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2 Comments

  1. Correction….Jermon Jackson was from IRONTON, Ohio…NOT Jackson, Ohio.

  2. This was truly a great class and good and cool young men. I attended O-State at that time and had a personal relationship with some of them. Most of them like Che’ Bryant, Jeff Wilson, Central M., Na’il Digg were in my class. Clavin Brown stayed in the same dorm for two years, so I knew him well and Percy King.

    Jermon Jackson was my friend D. Mayfield cousin.

    A deep talented class.


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