Under Coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State has already begun the process of evaluating players for its 2014 class. Taking that into consideration, these are players who have just concluded, or are in the process of concluding, their respective junior years of high school football competition.
I enjoy football recruiting as much as the next college football fan. I will merely offer some words of caution and restraint, from past experiences.
In 1995, I was a volunteer recruiting assistant for Ohio State. The opportunity to scout high school players within the Columbus area, for then-Ohio State recruiting coordinator Bill Conley, led me to a scouting internship with the NFL's Washington Redskins in the summer of 1996.
When I helped Ohio State back in 1995 as a recruiting volunteer for Coach Conley, the Internet was not a factor. I can honestly tell you that "the board" Ohio State used was just that – a board. I remember Ohio State's top quarterbacks were Mark Garcia out of a California junior college, who then-Ohio State quarterback Coach Walt Harris loved and wanted, Tim Couch, and Rashard Casey.
Coach Harris scouted Tim Couch at one of his Kentucky high school games, and loved him. Couch never truly considered Ohio State before signing with Kentucky. I sometimes wonder how Couch's career may have turned out if he had been coached by a true guru of the West Coast offense, like Coach Harris, instead of the offense Tim Couch eventually played in at Kentucky under Hal Mumme.
Rashard Casey of New Jersey signed with Penn State. Casey eventually started for Penn State as a dual-threat quarterback from 1998 through 2000.
For those who remember in 1996, Ohio State's Bobby Hoying had concluded his Ohio State career. Stanley Jackson was returning, as well as some other quarterback named Joe Germaine, whom the coaches did not really seem excited or enthusiastic about heading into spring football in 1996.
Ohio State signed Mark Garcia, and he hardly played. For all of the recruiting hype and excitement the Ohio State coaches had for Mark Garcia, Garcia could not beat out either Stanley Jackson or Joe Germaine at quarterback.
Flash forward to the fall of 2001. Mike D'Andrea was rated as one of the top linebackers in the nation. D'Andrea was signed in the same linebacker class as A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and Stan White, and was more highly-touted than his classmates.
Mike D'Andrea never developed into the dominant player recruiting analysts predicted. Injuries ended D'Andrea's career, which was unfortunate, but honestly, how many big plays was he involved in at Ohio State as a middle linebacker?
Now with Curtis Grant, it seems as though Ohio State has missed the boat again on a highly-touted middle linebacker. Curtis Grant was beaten out at middle linebacker by Zach Boren, a former high school linebacker, and Storm Klein. For what it is worth, Curtis Grant was ranked the second-best prospect in the country for the 2011 recruiting class.
Not Ohio State's recruiting class. The entire country, in 2011.
My point? Sometimes it seems as though Ohio State fans jump up and down about how so-and-so is rated as a 4 star player or 5 star player commits to Ohio State, and the guy just does not seem to measure up. And the reality is recruiting analysts who rate them are not football coaches, whose livelihoods are dependent on making accurate assessments.
Am I suggesting that Ohio State is the only team to have recruited players not turn out as expected? Not at all.
Between now and February, players will commit to Ohio State. Players will turn Ohio State down. And I will maintain my strong faith in Coach Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff on their collective evaluations of the players who decide to become Buckeyes.
No matter who finishes up Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class, my biggest concern is not how many recruiting analysts' stars will be next to the player's name, but how that player will wind up contributing as a Buckeye.