On February 6th of 2013 Urban Meyer signed a consensus top three recruiting class. The final number of recruits that signed on the dotted line was 24. 24 of the best players in the nation decided to play college football for one of the greatest programs of all time, the Ohio State University. Although a strong recruiting class gives a team an obvious advantage over their opponents, it doesn’t always translate into success. Unfortunately, many five-star high school standouts don’t become impact players in college or first round draft picks in the NFL. It’s not always the top-tier recruits that become collegiate All-Americans or Heisman trophy winners, but sometimes the three star, “diamonds in the rough” instead.
Let’s take a look at the commitments in the 2013 recruiting class on the offensive side of the ball and predict how successful they will be throughout their careers and whether they will have an immediate impact or not. We’ll start with the earliest commitment and move towards the most recent.
Jalin Marshall – 6-1, 190lbs – WR – Middletown HS (OH) – Committed 1/30/2012
It’s tough not to admire a player like Jalin Marshall. Instead of waiting until National Signing Day and gaining the attention of the National Media, he committed to Ohio State on his father’s birthday to honor him. Urban Meyer has said several times, if a player like Marshall waited until February 6th to decide, he would have been one of the most highly anticipated announcements on ESPN.
Although Marshall will be one of the key contributors to this Ohio State offense in 2013, a lot of fans are confused as to what his actual role will be. The assumption has always been that he will play the “Percy Harvin role”. It seems that every time Ohio State lands a versatile player this is how they are labeled. Marshall is fast, but he doesn’t have lightning speed like Harvin. I see Jalin Marshall lining up at slot receiver. Marshall’s not only capable of running routes but he can also come out of the backfield and take an option or even a direct hand off. He has shown that he is more than comfortable doing so as he was a “dual threat” quarterback in high school.
Marshall should see the field from day one but his playing time is still up for debate. He chose not to enroll early but this shouldn’t hurt him much given his position. When a program brings in a strong recruiting class many people seem to forget about the players already with the team and assume these talented recruits will come in and take their spot. There is definitely room for growth at wide receiver, giving a young guy like Marshall a chance to see the field early and often, but with Devin Smith, “Philly” Brown, Michael Thomas, Evan Spencer, and Chris Fields all returning, Jalin Marshall will have to earn the right to play as a freshman. With all of this being said, I see Marshall having one of the most significant impacts on this Ohio State offense.
Evan Lisle – 6-6, 275 – OT – Centerville HS (OH) – Committed 2/28/2012
Like Marshall, Evan Lisle grew up dreaming of dawning the Scarlet and Gray. There’s something about a player that only has interest in playing for the Buckeyes, despite receiving offers from virtually every school in the nation. It makes you want 24 more players just like him in the class.
In 2016-2017, when these kids are moving on to the NFL, Lisle will have had one of the best careers at Ohio State out of anyone else in this class. Ohio State is very thin at offensive line and Lisle should be starting as a sophomore (or redshirt freshman). I was very impressed with his play in the Army All-American Bowl and could see him getting some reps his freshman year. He seems like a smart player who could adjust easily and learn quickly. Lisle won’t have much of an impact in his first season with the Buckeyes but should end up being a 3-4 year starter along the offensive line.
Ezekiel Elliott – 6-0, 200 – RB – John Burroughs School (MO) – Committed 4/1/2012
Ezekiel Elliott is one of my favorite players in this class. Elliot was one of the first to commit but had second thoughts approximately one month prior to National Signing Day. He decided to visit the University of Missouri, a school that both of his parents attended. Following in his parent’s footsteps, along with the opportunity to play for the “hometown” school was enough to scare Ohio State fans leading up to Signing Day. Despite a great official visit to Mizzou, Elliott reaffirmed his commitment to Urban Meyer on February 6th.
Elliott has the talent to start at almost any college in the country as a freshman, but with Ohio State’s depth at running back, I’m not sure how much playing time he will get this season. If I had the opportunity to choose one player in this class to redshirt, it would be Ezekiel Elliott. He is someone who I could truly see in New York one day as a Heisman finalist so it doesn’t seem smart to waste a year of eligibility for minimal playing time behind Hyde, Smith, Dunn, and Ball. Elliott is an extremely versatile running back who has the speed, agility, and strength necessary to excel at the next level.
One thing that stands out about Elliott even more than his athleticism is his character. He comes from a great family that understands what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level. It’s always comforting to know that a player of his magnitude will be smart and won’t be on the front page of ESPN for making the wrong choices and bringing the program down.
Marcus Baugh – 6-4, 230lbs – TE – J.W. North HS (CA) – Committed 4/10/2012
It’s funny how fans perceive a recruit’s role when coming to Ohio State and playing for Urban Meyer, especially for tight ends and athletes. When an athletic RB/WR is recruited by Meyer, he is automatically labeled as playing the “Percy Harvin role” and when it’s an athletic tight end he will be immediately compared to Aaron Hernandez. Although a little played out, the comparisons probably aren’t that far off from Meyer’s actual recruiting pitches. Baugh has said before that he will be used the same way as Hernandez was when playing under Urban Meyer at the University of Florida. Unlike the blocking tight ends recruited by Jim Tressel, Baugh is a muscular tight end with the speed of a wide receiver. He was also a great basketball player in high school, showing his athleticism.
Like Elliott, Marcus has the skills to come in and play immediately but will be limited due to Ohio State’s depth at Tight End. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have played extremely well and it will be difficult for a freshman to gain a considerable amount of playing time over either one of them. I could definitely see Urban working Baugh in as the season progresses in hopes of getting him acclimated to the offense and using him throughout the entire 2014 season. As far as 2013 is concerned, I envision Marcus Baugh playing a lot of special teams with the occasional reps at tight end.
J.T. Barrett – 6-2, 205 – QB – Rider HS (TX) – Committed 4/18/2012
Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman should take the bulk of the credit for reeling in this four star quarterback out of the lone star state. Considered by many as the number one dual threat quarterback in the nation, Barrett chose the Buckeyes over several southern schools including LSU, Baylor and Texas Tech before tearing his ACL during his senior season. Many recruiting analysts believe that had he not undergone a season ending surgery, Barrett could have earned a fifth star and been a top three quarterback in this class.
It should be an easy decision for the coaching staff to redshirt J.T. Barrett in order to let his knee heal properly and give him an extra year of eligibility. The staff seems impressed with his progression thus far after enrolling early and learning the system. There is no reason to think that Barrett won’t be Braxton Miller’s successor so it only makes sense to keep him sidelined for 2013 while Kenny Guiton is still there and let him come into 2014 as a redshirt freshman for one season backing up Miller.
Tim Gardner – 6-5, 320lbs – OG – Lawrence Central HS (IN) – 6/27/2012
Considered by many as the lowest rated prospect in the 2013 class, Tim Gardner is one of my favorites. While attending a camp at Ohio State, Gardner made it clear to the coaching staff that he wanted to be a Buckeye. Urban Meyer told him that if he was able to get down from approximately 350lbs to 320lbs by the time Ohio State’s “Friday Night Lights” came around, they would extend a scholarship offer to him. Sure enough he showed up the camp weighing in at 320lbs. He was offered a scholarship and committed on the spot. This exemplifies everything a coach wants in a player. Not only did he show a tremendous amount of drive and determination, but he proved how much it meant to him to be an Ohio State Buckeye.
Gardner’s work ethic alone makes me believe that he can be successful at Ohio State. He clearly has the size necessary to play along the offensive line and the coaches saw enough in his athleticism to bring him on board. I’ve heard a few recruiting experts and people close to the program say that he could be the highest rated NFL prospect coming out of this class.
Don’t expect to see much of Tim Gardner during the 2013 football season and a redshirt wouldn’t surprise me either. There is definitely an opportunity for him to break into the “two-deep” roster but it’s unlikely. With Ohio State replacing four of their five starting offensive linemen in 2014, Gardner has every opportunity to succeed. What he makes of it will be up to him.
Corey Smith – 6-1, 190lbs – East Mississippi JUCO (MS) – 1/29/2013
Corey Smith’s recruitment was unique, to say the least. Prior to his senior season at Akron Buchtel HS, Smith was ruled ineligible to play Ohio High School football in 2011. Smith had originally committed to the University of Tennessee to play as a wide receiver but found himself playing for Grand Rapids Community College after some academic issues arose. After a one year stint at GRCC he was forced to transfer to East Mississippi Community College where he had a stellar season and the offers began to pile up. Smith decided to give a verbal pledge to Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Alabama and Ohio State began to battle for Corey’s services once it was determined that grades wouldn’t be a problem. After a couple visits to the Ohio State University, Smith knew that he wanted to be a Buckeye. Once some transcript issues were resolved, he made it official on 1/29/2013.
I fully expect Corey Smith to be one of the main contributors to this Ohio State offense in 2013. With only two years of eligibility remaining, he picked Ohio State not only because of their coaching staff and tradition, but because he saw an opportunity to succeed early and position himself to be drafted into the NFL. After watching film, it’s evident that Smith is extremely illusive and has great hands as well. He is someone who can line up in the slot or out wide at the X or Z. He will come in and play immediately and could even see some action on special teams at either PR or KR.
Dontre Wilson – 5-10, 180lbs – WR/RB – De Soto HS (TX) – Committed on 2/4/2013
Dontre Wilson is the guy that people see as the most electrifying player in this class. Wilson originally committed to play for Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks but maintained a strong interest in Ohio State. When Kelly decided to leave for the NFL, Wilson chose to jump ship and commit to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Dontre Wilson finished his senior season with 48 total touchdowns in Texas 5A football which is arguably the toughest division in the country.
It’s difficult to imagine another player being more impactful than Wilson in the 2013 class. He will play every game this season whether it’s at WR, RB or PR/KR. Meyer made it clear that he was recruiting Wilson as a slot WR, not RB. If there is a “Percy Harvin” in this class it is definitely Dontre Wilson. He is both illusive and powerful which should lead to several different option packages out of the backfield as well as quick WR screens.
James Clark – 5-11, 170lbs – WR – New Smyrna Beach HS (FL) – Committed on 2/6/2013
James Clark’s commitment came as a shock to most people while he was long considered a Florida lean. Clark is somewhat of an “under the radar” type of guy as Rivals didn’t even have him rated in their “Top 250” despite having scholarship offers from virtually every school in the country and being rated as a four star prospect. He may also have the most impressive highlight tape in this class. It seemed as if the only play his team needed to run was a bubble screen to Clark and he was off to the races.
Clark is another player that should see the field quite a bit in his first season at Ohio State. I would have to imagine that he will play either the X or Z and be the recipient of some Braxton Miller bombs. Clark reminds me of a more agile Devin Smith that can not only burn his defender deep but also take a WR screen 70 yards for a touchdown. With his speed, it’s quite possible that we will see him get some reps at PR/KR too.