On Monday I talked about recruiting rankings with regards to team success and national championships, taking a look and how each champion from the last seven years fared in the four years of recruiting leading up to winning the crystal trophy. After receiving feedback from a few different sources I decided to dig a little deeper into the individual rankings of the past decade, more specifically of individuals who were graded a 3-Star coming out of high school but performed at a 5-Star level by the time they exited the college scene.
On Monday I stated that, “Ranking recruits isn’t exactly a science. On an individual player-by-player basis, it’s determined strictly on opinion based on game film, statistics, physical measurables and conversation.”
To be fair, the three major ranking services (Rivals, Scout and 247Sports), for the most part, do a fantastic job accomplishing what they set out to do. They pick apart every aspect of every recruit in the country, by the hundreds, and attach a ranking to each one based on a 5-Star scale, with five being the highest grade possible. It’s a gauge for coaches, players and fans alike, and typically a very good one at that.
These rankings aren’t based on a specific test score or perfectly tangible quality within any recruit’s performance or skill set. That fact lends itself to 5-Star athletes not panning out on the college level, or 2- and 3-Star athletes making it all the way to Super Bowl MVP (cough, cough: Santonio Holmes). That’s not to say the original ranking wasn’t accurate. It could very well have been, as it’s a current-day ranking – not necessarily a projection of future performance.
Much can happen on and off the field during a student-athlete’s journey through college athletics. Some positive, some negative. Today we focus on the positive, going back through a decade’s worth of Ohio State’s 3-Star recruits who made it to the finish line with a much higher grade.As we did on Monday, we’ll use Rivals as our only source of individual rankings to keep the comparison consistent player-to-player. A quick scan of each Ohio State football class from 2002 through the class of 2011 will give you a number of names who performed better than 3-Star quality on the field even though, as freshmen, they came in as just that.
You’ll see a couple of names from the class of 2002, A.J. Hawk and Santonio Holmes, who are still excelling in the NFL in 2012. Holmes earned Super Bowl XLIII MVP honors for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009 after posting a nine-catch, 131-yard performance in beating the Arizona Cardinals, including the game winner with 35 seconds remaining. Hawk has recorded 595 career tackles as a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and now has a Super Bowl ring of his own.
Skip ahead a couple of years and you’ll find 2-Star punter A.J. Trapasso in OhioState’s class of 2004, who now has employment with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos to add to his résumé. Of course you won’t find many punters entering the college ranks with more than a 3-Star ranking, but A.J. was actually just a 2-Star. I would venture to guess an NFL career wasn’t readily predicted early on in his Ohio State career.
The Buckeyes’ class of 2005 brings us four different names that, while rated 3-Stars as incoming freshmen, ultimately left Ohio State with an NFL contract in hand. The short-list includes wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie, along with defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and linebacker James Laurinaitis.
Class of 2006 3-Star Chimdi Chekwa did the same when he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2011, and Class of 2007 3-Star Dane Sanzenbacher was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Bears in 2011 and has since made the most of his opportunity.
All told, that list spans six years of rankings and has given us nine former Buckeyes who have turned their individual 3-Star rankings into an NFL career. It’s also supplied three Ohio State All-Americans, including Hawk (twice), Laurinaitis (three times) and Malcolm Jenkins.
The success of more recent classes has yet to be determined, but there are a few who most certainly could (and will) find an NFL contract upon exiting The Ohio State University.
The classes of 2009 and 2010 have given us three 3-Stars that, while today still wear Scarlet and Gray, will very likely be playing on Sundays in the years to come.
John Simon, class of 2009, will absolutely move onto the NFL after this season if he so chooses. Big Johnathan Hankins and last year’s freshman cornerback standout Bradley Roby, both 3-Stars when they committed to the class of 2010, have visions of NFL contracts of their own and, if kept on the same path, will very likely realize those plans within a couple of years.
So what other 3-Star athletes remain on the current Ohio State roster that have NFL potential? Well, considering each is young enough to still make quite a bit of their college careers, the correct answer would be, “all of them.” But a couple of names stick out as I scan the individual rankings of those within the class of 2011 who have already suited up for the Buckeyes.
Current 3-Star wide receivers Evan Spencer and Devin Smith are about to have their worlds turned upside down in Urban Meyer’s new offense, giving them near-complete control of their own destinations. Meyer is known for churning out NFL talent, even though, under normal circumstances, the talent was added to his team by his own doing. Spencer and Smith were not, but that won’t make a difference once the ball is snapped this September. Aside from having Meyer as their head coach, and offensive wizard Tom Herman as their new offensive coordinator, they both have the advantage of getting on the field turf at the Horseshoe very early in their careers. With at least two years remaining for both of them, they have plenty of time to shine and earn their way into the League before all is said and done.
And finally, true freshman cornerback Tyvis Powell, from the class of 2012, and Urban’s thirteenth commit to the class of 2013, 3-Star ATH Darron Lee, are about to embark on the opportunity of a lifetime. Tyvis is a tireless worker and if he can pack some weight onto his 6’4″ frame, especially as a defensive back, the sky is the limit for him. Lee is a multi-tool athlete who can fit into a number of spots on either side of the ball. They join Elyria, OH defensive end Tracy Sprinkle as 2012-13 3-Star commits, but only time will tell what they’re able to turn their careers into. There is no ceiling.
One thing we know for certain: the individual recruiting rankings doled out by the groups of analysts each year, while a good guide, aren’t etched in stone as the limit to one’s abilities or potential. These kids carve their own paths through college athletics, and The Ohio State University is a prime place to do so.
Tyvis. Darron. Tracy…..you’re on the clock.