Looking Back At OSU Recruiting – 2004

Sweeping 10 of the top 15 players in Ohio, four top players from Pennsylvania and a couple more from Florida made Jim Tressel a happy man on national signing day in 2004. In all, the Buckeyes signed 23 prospects to letters of intent and earned a seventh-place ranking as far as the national recruiting experts were concerned.

“It’s a very diverse class that we have,” Tressel told reporters during his annual signing day news conference. “We have 14 players from the state of Ohio, four from Pennsylvania, two from Florida and several others. We have guys with all different kinds of academic interests. The positions are diverse and all across the board. Right now, we have 12 on the offense and 11 on the defense, and today one of those guys asked me, ‘Which way are you putting me? Offense or defense?’ So it could be 11 on offense and 12 on defense.

“But I think the diversity is straight across the board. The needs that we felt we had to address to make this team as deep and as strong as it needs to be really symbolized this recruiting class. It’s an extraordinary group of young men.”

Although the Buckeyes sent a strong message about keeping the proverbial fence around their home state, a couple of teams did manage to sneak into Ohio. Among the five players ranked in the top 15 that Ohio State did not sign, three of them were in the top five. They were receiver Fred Davis of Toledo Rogers, offensive lineman Brandon Braxton of Youngstown Ursuline and defensive lineman Michael Massey of Cleveland St. Ignatius.

After moments of flip-flopping back and forth, Davis opted to sign early with Southern California while Braxton chose Oklahoma and Massey decided upon Michigan.

Davis had a rocky beginning with the Trojans but wound up a two-year starter and winner of the 2007 Mackey Award, symbolic of college football’s top tight end. He was a second-round selection by Washington in April’s NFL draft.

Braxton, who is now spelling his first name Branndon, has been a spot starter at right tackle the past three years for the Sooners. He enters the 2008 season as the favorite to anchor the right side of the OU line. Meanwhile, Massey will begin his senior season with the Wolverines in ’08 battling for the starting tight end position.

Even with those defections, none of the national experts seemed to mind.

“They did a great job in-state – I think Fred Davis is the only one they really wanted that they go – and a real good job out-of-state,” said national recruiting expert Tom Lemming. “(Ohio State is) getting even better with their out-of-state recruits, and I think they’re just going after the top players and doing a good job of getting them.”

Most of the experts couldn’t stop talking about the crown jewel of the class, defensive back Ted Ginn Jr. of Cleveland Glenville. He was rated the top prospect overall in Ohio and the No. 2 player in the nation.

Southern Cal easily outdistanced everyone else in the national rankings for the No. 1 spot, followed by LSU, Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and Michigan. The second five of the top 10 was Oklahoma, OSU, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Here is a complete rundown of the players in the 2004 recruiting class along with career highlights:

Nader Abdallah (6-5, 290, 4.9), Metarie (La.) Archbishop Rummel

Rated as No. 24 prospect in Louisiana regardless of position

As a senior, totaled 78 tackles, 11 sacks, two interceptions and five pass deflections in just eight games

Selected to play in U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Signed with Ohio State over Colorado, Florida State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Tennessee

Won first varsity letter in 2007 as backup defensive tackle

Alex Barrow (6-4, 250, 4.9) Dublin (Ohio) Coffman

Earned second-team Division I All-Ohio honors as defensive lineman

Rated as No. 24 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

Senior statistics consisted of 95 tackles, including 27 for loss and 14 sacks

Selected to play in Ohio North-South All-Star Classic

Signed with Ohio State over Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan

Two-year letterman for Buckeyes (2006-07)

Decided to forgo final year of college eligibility after graduating from Ohio State

Todd Boeckman (6-5, 235, 4.75), St. Henry, Ohio

First-team Division V All-Ohio quarterback

Four-year starter for Redskins who led team to state championship game as freshman; threw for 2,520 yards and 23 TDs that season

Finished prep career with 7,021 yards and 64 touchdowns

Signed with OSU in 2003 but opted for a grayshirt year, delaying his enrollment; ranked as No. 19 quarterback nationally as a senior

Signed with Ohio State over Maryland and Pittsburgh

Started all 13 games for Buckeyes in 2007, completing 191 of 299 pass attempts (63.9 percent) for 2,379 yards and 25 TDs

Enters 2008 season as returning starter at quarterback

Albert Dukes (6-2, 185, 4.58), Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central

First-team all-state performer at wide receiver

Ranked as No. 14 receiver prospect in the country

Totaled 56 catches for 1,046 yards and a state-best 17 TDs as a HS senior

Also a star performer for his school’s basketball and track teams

Signed with Ohio State over Florida, Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina State

Redshirted during first season with Buckeyes (2004)

Ruled ineligible to play for team during Alamo Bowl in wake of charges of having improper sexual contact with a minor in his hometown the previous summer

Left school for winter quarter 2005 to deal with legal trouble

Returned to school and reinstated to team for spring quarter 2005

Played with Buckeyes through 2007 season

Left team prior to 2008 spring practice

Marcus Freeman (6-2, 240, 4.6), Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne

Consensus prep All-American

Earned first-team honors from USA Today and Parade magazine among several others

Rated as No. 3 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 4 inside linebacker prospect nationally

As a senior, totaled 127 tackles and four sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered three others

Selected to play in U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Signed with Ohio State over Florida, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Tennessee

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2004 spring practice

Starting linebacker for Buckeyes (2006-present)

Finished second on team in tackles with 109 total stops in 2007

Vernon Gholston (6-3, 238, 4.5), Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech

Rated as No. 12 prospect in Michigan regardless of position

Played both outside linebacker and defensive end in high school

As a senior, totaled 75 tackles and six sacks

Signed with Ohio State over Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa

Two-year starter at defensive end (2006-07)

Established new single-season school record with 14 sacks in 2007

First-round selection by New York Jets in 2008 NFL draft (sixth pick overall)

Ted Ginn Jr. (6-0, 170, 4.4), Cleveland Glenville

USA Today national defensive player of the year

Consensus prep All-American

Rated as No. 1 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 2 prospect in nation regardless of position

Saw time at quarterback, receiver, running back, cornerback and kick returner during high school career

During senior season, had eight INTs and returned five of them for touchdowns; one went for a state-record 102 yards

On offense, threw and ran for 1,777 yards and 29 TDs; also added one kickoff and four punt returns for touchdowns as a senior

Selected to play in U.S. Army All-American Bowl

World-class track athlete in hurdles; helped Tarblooders win Division I state track title as senior

Signed with Ohio State over Southern Cal, Michigan, Miami (Fla.) and Pittsburgh

Lettered in his first season with Buckeyes (2004)

Appeared in all 12 games in ‘04 for Buckeyes, including six starts at flanker

Led nation in individual punt return average as freshman (25.6 yards)

Established new single-season and career records at OSU for most punt returns (4)

Finished OSU career with six punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns

First-round selection by Miami Dolphins in 2007 NFL draft (ninth pick overall)

First-year stats: 16 games, 9 starts, 34 receptions, 420 yards, 2 TDs; 24 punt returns, 9.6-yard average, 1 TD

Erik Haw (5-11, 205, 4.4), Columbus Independence

Ohio Division II offensive player of the year

Rated as No. 14 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

His final two seasons as a prepster resulted in more than 4,271 yards and 44 TDs

Topped 3,000-yard mark as a senior and tallied 30 touchdowns; averaged more than 8.0 yards per carry

Turned in 4.21 time in 40-yard dash at OSU summer camp in 2003

Signed with Ohio State over Michigan, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh

Never lettered for OSU

Transferred to Division I-AA Jackson State after 2005 season

Was Tigers’ leading rusher in 2007 with 630 yards and seven TDs

Chad Hoobler (6-5, 225, 4.7), Carrollton, Ohio

Three-time first-team Division II All-Ohio performer

Rated as No. 7 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

Starred at both tight end and linebacker during prep career; owned his high school’s career tackles record by end of his junior year

Extremely tough individual who played most of his senior season with a broken bone in his leg

Also basketball and track standout for Warriors

Signed with Ohio State over Penn State

Two-year letterman with Buckeyes (2004-05)

Transferred to Division II Ashland College following 2005 season

Registered 37 tackles, including five for loss, for Eagles in 2006

Serious knee injuries ended his career in 2007

Dionte Johnson (5-11, 225, 4.5), Columbus Eastmoor Academy

First-team Division III All-Ohio fullback

Displayed excellent speed for fullback; utilizes excellent blocking skills learned while playing center on offense prior to senior season

Son of former OSU All-American linebacker Thomas “Pepper” Johnson

Signed with Ohio State over Bowling Green

Four-year letterman at fullback for Buckeyes (2004-07)

Team co-captain in 2007

Signed free-agent contact in 2008 with Arizona Cardinals

Dennis Kennedy (5-11, 190, 4.4), Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Stranahan

Speedy offensive and defensive player who was recruited to play running back at Ohio State

Rushed for 967 yards and seven TDs during senior HS year; totaled 54 tackles and three sacks as linebacker on defense; also returned punts

Standout track performer at Stranahan; personal bests were 10.8 seconds in 100 meters, 22.6 in 200 meters, 45-6 in triple jump

Also starred on high school basketball team, averaging 20.0 points per game

Signed with Ohio State over Wake Forest and Central Florida

Did not qualify academically to attend Ohio State through NCAA clearinghouse

Never played for Buckeyes

Eventually enrolled at Akron and became Zips’ leading rusher in 2006

Has rushed for 1,070 yards and 9 TDs over past two seasons

Shaun Lane (5-11, 175, 4.45), Hubbard, Ohio

First-team Division III All-Ohio running back

Rated as No. 10 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

First player in class to verbal to Buckeyes, committing in February 2003

Ran for 2,044 yards and 27 TDs as a junior, then added 1,700 more yards as a senior

Also totaled nine INTs over his final two prep seasons and returned punts for Eagles

Son of former OSU defensive back Garcia Lane, an All-Big Ten selection in 1983

Three-year letterman who has become valuable special teams player

Devon Lyons (6-2, 210, 4.45), Pittsburgh (Pa.) Woodland Hills

Rated as the No. 14 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 5 safety nationally

Starred on offense and defense in high school

As a senior, recorded 52 tackles and four INTs on defense; caught 23 passes for 756 yards (32.9-yard average) and 14 TDs on offense

Also outstanding track prospect; personal best times of 10.9 seconds in 100 meters and 22.8 in 200

Signed with Ohio State over Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame

Battled injuries throughout OSU career; lettered only in 2004

Has transferred to West Virginia to play his senior season in 2008

Kyle Mitchum (6-6, 265, 5.0), Erie (Pa.) McDowell

Consensus prep All-American

Earned first-team honors from USA Today and Parade magazine among several others

First-team all-state performer on offense and defense

Rated as No. 4 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 6 offensive tackle prospect in nation

Playing nose guard and defensive tackle, registered 75 tackles, including 18 for loss and nine sacks as senior; also caused six fumbles

Regarded as outstanding run and pass blocker on offense

Signed with Ohio State over Iowa, Michigan, Tennessee, Boston College, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin

Has battled injuries throughout his OSU career

Two-year letterman who figures into the offensive line rotation in 2008

Rory Nicol (6-5, 245, 4.75), Beaver (Pa.) Area

Three-year varsity starter

Rated No. 12 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 4 tight end prospect in nation

During senior year, totaled 18 passes for 234 yards and five TDs; also lauded for dominating blocking skills with good hands and quick feet

Also a track and basketball standout; ran 110-meter hurdles in 15.8 seconds, and averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds as center on basketball team

Signed with Ohio State over Florida, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh

Starter at tight end for Buckeyes (2006-present)

Has 29 receptions for 235 yards and three TDs combined the past two seasons

Nick Patterson (6-2, 200, 4.5), St. Louis (Mo.) Hazelwood Central

Rated as No. 10 prospect in Missouri overall and No. 30 all-purpose athlete in nation

Two-way player who starred at receiver and defensive back in high school

During senior year, totaled 45 receptions for 876 yards and 11 touchdown on offense; registered 74 tackles, two INTs and two forced fumbles on defense

Signed with Ohio State over Missouri, Notre Dame and UCLA

Three-year letterman

Expected to play on special teams and provide depth at safety position in 2008

Ben Person (6-4, 305, 5.1), Xenia, Ohio

Considered one of the most potent run blockers in Ohio during senior prep season

Rated No. 8 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 10 offensive guard prospect nationally

Graded out at better than 80 percent blocking efficiency during senior season and did not allow a single sack

Played left tackle in high school but projected as either guard or tackle at college level

Signed with Ohio State over Boston College, Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Stanford

Starter at right guard for Buckeyes (2007-present)

Antonio Pittman (5-11, 195, 4.45), Akron (Ohio) Buchtel

First-team Division III All-Ohio running back

Rated No. 6 prospect in Ohio regardless of position and No. 13 running back prospect nationally

Missed three games of senior season with turf toe injury and still managed to rush for more than 1,300 yards with 17 TDs; also averaged better than 12 yards per carry

Signed with Ohio State over Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Toledo

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2004 spring practice

Leading rusher in 2004 Spring Game with 105 yards on 21 carries for victorious Scarlet team

Three-year letterman for Buckeyes (2004-06)

One of only five OSU running backs ever to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons

Finished career as No. 8 all-time rusher in school history (2,945 yards)

Fourth-round selection of New Orleans Saints in 2007 NFL draft

Released by Saint and signed with St. Louis before ’07 season began

Appeared in 11 games and rushed for 139 yards in backup role for Rams

Steve Rehring (6-8, 314, 5.4), West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West

Rated No. 15 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 29 offensive tackle prospect in nation

Regarded as excellent run blocker who is very quick in a limited space

Also is an excellent straight-ahead blocker who moves well laterally

Signed with Ohio State over Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Virginia and Wisconsin

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2003 spring practice

Starter at left guard for Buckeyes (2006-present)

Jon Skinner (6-5, 285, 5.1), Mount Carmel (Pa.) Area

First-team Class 2A all-state offensive lineman

Rated No. 27 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 39 offensive line prospect in nation

As big, durable and technically sound offensive lineman, helped team to 10-2 finish during senior year

Led squad to perfect 15-0 season and state championship as a junior despite playing with a torn ACL

Strong and intelligent; bench presses over 385 pounds and graduated high school with 4.00 GPA while scoring 1230 on SAT

Signed with Ohio State over Purdue, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Duke and West Virginia

Lettered in 2005 and 2006

Leg injuries have hampered him the past two years and seriously threaten his career

Brandon Smith (6-3, 230, 4.6), Euclid, Ohio

Earned Division I All-Ohio special mention as linebacker

Off-the-radar prospect who parlayed an excellent senior season into a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes

Totaled 125 tackles, four sacks and three INTS during senior HS year

Had 70 tackles as a junior

Blend of speed and power; runs 40 in 4.57 seconds, benches 320 pounds and has a squat max of 430.

Signed with Ohio State over West Virginia, Cincinnati and Connecticut

Three-year letterwinner for Buckeyes (2005-07)

Enters 2008 season as backup tight end

Curtis Terry (6-2, 205, 4.5), Cleveland Glenville

Off-the-radar prospect who played only one season of varsity football in high school

Raw talent who produced 48 solo tackles, including 25 for loss and 12 sacks, as a senior for the Tarblooders

Displays excellent speed and ran track for Glenville; 4.5 speed in the 40, 21.7 in the 200 and a vertical leap of 40 inches

Signed with Ohio State over Cincinnati and Akron

Three-year letterman (2005-07) who sat out last season with injury

Returns for senior year and could see action at fullback, linebacker and on special teams

A.J. Trapasso (6-1, 220, 4.6), Pickerington, Ohio

Two-time first-team Division I All-Ohio; earned honor as a placekicker during junior year and then as a punter during senior season

Averaged 40.9 yards per punt as HS senior

Also played running back and totaled 3,754 yards and 50 TDs during prep career

Excellent all-around athlete; also played baseball in high school

Signed with Ohio State over Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2004 spring practice

Entering fourth season as Buckeyes’ punter

Career numbers: 145 punts, 40.9-yard average, 57 inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line, 0 blocks

Brandon Underwood (6-1, 170, 4.5), Hamilton, Ohio

Rated No. 13 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 16 cornerback prospect in nation

During senior year, totaled 60 tackles after a junior year that featured 50 tackles, three INTs and 15 pass deflections

Outstanding athletic ability; 4.45 time in 40-yard dash to go along with 38-inch vertical leap

Younger brother of OSU cornerback E.J. Underwood

Signed with Ohio State over Arizona State, Iowa, Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State and Purdue

Lettered one season for Buckeyes (2006)

Scholarship revoked by OSU prior to 2007 season

Transferred to Cincinnati

Working to gain academic eligibility with Bearcats in order to play in 2008

Sirjo Welch (5-11, 180, 4.45), Columbus Beechcroft

First-team Division III All-Ohio defensive back

Rated No. 11 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 17 safety prospect nationally

Displays excellent ball skills and recovery speed; had eight INTs and 182 yards in returns during senior prep season

Helped Cougars to state playoffs as a senior playing both wide receiver and free safety

Signed with Ohio State over Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin

Two-year letterman for Buckeyes (2004-05)

Left OSU in 2006 because of academic problems

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Here is a list of those celebrating birthdays today: former middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta; author and TV producer Earl Hamner Jr. (“The Waltons”); Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver; rocker Ronnie James Dio; former Wimbledon, Australian and U.S. Open singles champion Virginia Wade; TV actor Ron Glass (Detective Harris on “Barney Miller”); folk singer Arlo Guthrie (Woody’s son); pop singer Greg Kihn (“Jeopardy”); Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant; former MLB outfielder Andre Dawson; banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck; antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan; Florida head football coach Urban Meyer; Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox; guitarist Elijah Blue Allman (son of Greg Allman and Cher); and singer/professional airhead Jessica Simpson.

AND FINALLY

** Hey, Dennis Dodd! Your “Dodds and Ends” blog on CBSSportsline.com can be very entertaining, but twice in the past week you have referred to Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis as “Jim.” The kid’s preference is James, so would it be too much trouble for you to call him James? Or would you just prefer we start calling you “Denny”?

** Things are bigger in Texas and so goes the Josh Hamilton legend. Last night, facing Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez – he of the major league-leading 35 saves – Hamilton golfed a 3-1 pitch over the right field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning for a walkoff homer. That gave Hamilton 20 home runs and 89 RBI with four games remaining before the All-Star break. He leads the American League in RBI, is third in home runs and his .307 batting average is 12th. No one has won the Triple Crown in batting since Boston outfielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. If you know the last NL batter to lead the league in homers, RBI and average in the same year, you are a true baseball trivia expert. I’ll give you his name at the end of this entry.

** If you are Cincinnati Reds fan still lamenting your team allowing Hamilton to be traded away, remember that Edinson Volquez came to the Queen City in that trade. Volquez is 11-3 with an NL-leading 2.36 ERA and I shudder to think how deep in the Central Division cellar the Reds would be without his first-half performance.

** Next time you think it’s a good idea to go to the website of an opponent and start flaming, check out what this idiot did. OU Cocaine Charges Are Internet Hoax. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll think twice about what you think is harmless fun.

** Arizona basketball signee Brandon Jennings has decided to back out of his commitment to the Wildcats and will instead play professional basketball in Europe. If you think this is a one-time deal, think again. It’s a wonder that Ohio State center Kosta Koufos didn’t do it last year, and the option of playing a year overseas – for money, free meals, free housing and free cars – and then declaring for the NBA draft sure sounds a lot better than slaving away in some biology class for nothing. Thanks again, David Stern, for your bit-by-bit decimation of college basketball.

** Here’s something you don’t see every day. Over the past couple of weeks, several college football players – including Michigan running back Kevin Grady, whose blood alcohol level was reportedly 3½ times the legal limit – have been arrested on drunk driving charges and pleaded innocent. It is assumed if you fight DUI charges and go to court, you can plead down to a reckless driving charge that carries no jail time and looks better on record when the insurance bill comes due. Then, there’s Tennessee punter Britton Colquitt, who was arrested for DUI and actually pleaded guilty to the charge. And perhaps the punishment Colquitt received for coming clean is why others are in no hurry to plead guilty. In addition to losing his license for a year, Colquitt received a suspended sentence of nearly a year in jail, a $350 fine plus court costs and a five-game suspension for the beginning of the 2008 season. Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer also revoked his scholarship. If you think that last part was rather harsh, understand that Colquitt was also suspended from the team as an incoming freshman in 2003 after a series of alcohol-related incidents.

** The last National Leaguer to win the Triple Crown for hitting was Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals. Never heard of him? Maybe that’s became he won his Triple Crown in 1937. Medwick, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1968, had a 17-season career that lasted from 1932 to 1948 during which he posted 205 homers, 1,383 RBI and a .324 average. He died March 21, 1975, at the age of 63.

** To finish the Triple Crown trivia, only 11 batters have accomplished the feat since 1901– two of them twice. Rogers Hornsby did it for the Cardinals in 1922 and 1925 and Ted Williams won the crown in 1942 and ’47 for the Red Sox. Believe it or not, Williams – who always had a frosty relationship with the media – failed to win the American League MVP award in either year he won the Triple Crown, losing to a pair of Yankees – second baseman Joe Gordon in ’42 and outfielder Joe DiMaggio in ’47. Williams finished second both years.

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