Another week, another look at the foundation of what will make up the best of what's yet to come for Ohio State football under head coach Urban Meyer. In today's chapter, we look at Tracy Sprinkle, a mildly under the radar member of Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class. While Sprinkle is rated as but the 35th best player from the class of 2013 in the state of Ohio (per the 247Composite rankings) , Sprinkle was named the Associated Press' 2012 Ohio Division 1 Co-Defensive Player of the Year following his senior year. We saw what last year's wealth of talent meant to the Buckeyes' defensive line, and with the addition of Sprinkle, the rich may be getting even richer.
(Grain of salt) 40 average: 4.75
Bench max: 350
Squat max: 490
Tracy Sprinkle, despite recording 80 tackles, 8 sacks, and 25 hurries his junior year at Elyria in the Cleveland area, wasn't near the top of anyone's recruiting projections going into the heart of Junior Day events for the 2013 class. His first notable offer, however, came at Michigan State's exhibition for juniors, when in late February, former Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio offered the d-lineman. A day later, he'd add a Cincinnati offer from now Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Bill O'Brien and Penn State would follow suit just three days after.
A little more than a week later, then new Pitt coach Paul Chryst gave Sprinkle another high profile offer to his collection. In the month leading up to an early April unofficial visit to Ohio State, Sprinkle would also find himself on the receiving end of offers from Louisville, Indiana, and Arizona State as well. But at the insistance of Stan Drayton, after visiting the Buckeyes April 7th of 2012, Urban Meyer would formally extend an offer to the 250-ish pound defensive lineman. Sprinkle spoke immediately after of having grown up rooting for the Buckeyes ($) and said with the offer they instantly jumped to the top of his list.
Meyer and his staff's m.o. at the time appeared to be to give both high profile and slightly more under the radar but touted alike in-state talents verbal offers, but not necessarily committable ones. Mentor quarterback (and now North Carolina commit) QB Mitch Trubisky and (later Buckeyes commit) DL Donovan Munger both found themselves in this category, and it ultimately proved to burn the Buckeyes in their flirtation with the quarterback.
Despite the murmurs that the offer wasn't actionable, Sprinkle didn't seemed dissuaded from championing the Buckeyes amongst his suitors:
"I was real excited about the Ohio State offer,"
"As it stands now, I have three schools at the top in Ohio State, Michigan State, and Arkansas."
In the week plus that followed, Sprinkle told anyone that would listen that Ohio State was his leader, but it was still thought that his offer wasn't such that he'd be able to give his verbal pledge until a much later date after seeing how some of the other chips had fallen.
Catching just about all the Buckeye recruiting aficionados off guard the afternoon of April 17th, Rivals' Marc Givler broke the news that Sprinkle was officially in the fold for the Buckeyes:
Sprinkle's birthday as it turns out is the 18th, and what a gift to himself the commitment would prove to be. Some would speculate that SEC sides (said to be the likes of South Carolina and Georgia) were lurking and that perhaps granting the acceptance of the commitment was a protection mechanism from the staff leveraged to keep Sprinkle from looking elsewhere. Whatever the driving reason to buck perception, the Buckeyes had an underrated asset they'd projected as either a rush end or a defensive tackle (as Sprinkle told us back in December following his official visit to Ohio State).
Some may have recognized Elyria High as the alma matter of current Buckeye OL (and former DL) Chase Farris. Farris and Sprinkle's former coach would say a day after Sprinkle's commitment:
"He got recruited as a pass rusher, but Ohio State projects him as an inside player," Fell said. "That may be their new philosophy - taking those athletic guys and moving them inside."
Need will probably ultimately determine how the Buckeyes elect to leverage Sprinkle, but it's easy to think back to the multi-faceted ways Meyer, Mike Vrabel, and Luke Fickell made use of Adolphus Washington this past fall and imagine that Sprinkle might wear multiple hats at times.
And speaking of wearing multiple hats, if you need another reason to be excited about Sprinkle's athleticism, the Buckeye freshman to be was a two sport athlete at Elyria where he also was part of the Pioneers' Ohio Division 1 run to the round of 16 his junior year. Sprinkle would later attribute his strong footwork on the gridiron to things he'd learned playing hoops($).
After spending the summer ramping up for his senior year at Elyria, it came out that Sprinkle had been the product of personal tragedy:
The optimism continues to flow from Sprinkle, despite the tumultuous year. The loss of his brother [who was shot and killed during an argument in Cleveland] has actually become a source of energy when he needs to dig deep.
"Every time I'm lifting, working out or am on the field, I usually just close my eyes and try to talk to him," Sprinkle said. "Then I just go straight to it, because it just urges me to do better and keep working hard and never quit.
Sprinkle would turn that added drive into a stellar final high school season. During his senior year, he'd record 103 tackles (an average of an absurd 17 a game), while also accruing an insane 19 sacks. Elyria finished the year 7-3 and missed the playoffs, but even though his team goals came up just short, Sprinkle would (as previously mentioned) be named the AP's D1 co-defensive player of the year and also lead the Plain Dealer's 2012 football defensive all-star team. Surprisingly, he still remained but a 3-star prospecting averaging the recruiting rankings of the four major services.
Along with Cameron Burrows, Eli Apple, Tyquan Lewis, and J.T. Barrett, Sprinkle graduated early from high school and enrolled at Ohio State in early January. A year removed for visiting for the Ohio State spring game, he'll be playing in the next one.
The biggest challenge facing Sprinkle is that he enters into an incredibly loaded, young defensive line corp. But much like Meyer did at Florida, it's expected that'll take full advantage of this good problem to have rotating warm bodies in and out on a snap by snap basis. With Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, and Nathan Williams moving on, the Buckeyes' 2013 line is expected to include Steve Miller, Noah Spence, J.T. Moore, Michael Bennett, Joel Hale, Adolphus Washington, and Tommy Schutt (to say nothing of expected fellow freshmen Lewis, Joey Bosa, Donovan Munger, Michael Hill, and Billy Price).
So where does Sprinkle fit into that crowded picture? If Ohio State follows the same model they did this past season, depending on how spring and summer ball goes, Sprinkle could find minutes late in the non-conference contests that prove to be a showcasing opportunity to potentially garner more snaps come the heart of conference play. Sprinkle's high end speed doesn't wow, but his bullrush (and productivity at Ohio's highest level of high school ball) gives hope that with 8 months under Ohio State strength and conditioning coach Mick Marotti, he can start the process of growing into an impact inside rusher (where many feel he's best suited long term).
Remember, especially given the multitude of counter examples during the Tressel-era, the star system isn't necessarily the be all end all edict on a prospect's actual ceiling. While it might not happen overnight, Sprinkle could become a familiar sight on the Buckeyes defensive line for years to come.
Highlight Jam Session
One of These Things is Blatantly False
- You can follow Tracy Sprinkle on Twitter at @TSprinkle90
- Sprinkle's high school #90 is presently in use by fellow d-lineman sophomore to be Tommy Schutt, so he'll be in the market for a new one with the Buckeyes
- Adding another 9 and making it #99 is very much in play (though if that doesn't fly 93 and 98 are available as well). UPDATE: Tracy will be wearing #93 next season for Ohio State.
- Sprinkle was chosen to represent the United States in the 4th annual 2013 International Bowl. Buckeye left tackle Jack Mewhort is an alumnus of the game (U-S-A U-S-A U-S-A!).
- Fellow early enrollee (and roommate) Cam Burrows thinks Tracy looks nothing like actor Jason Finn from the 2007 film "Freedom Writers"