National Signing Day 2011 is fast approaching and the Buckeyes currently have 21 commitments in their 2011 class, which is ranked No. 6 by ESPN.com, No. 2 on Scout.com and No. 7 on Rivals.com.
After considering talent level, immediate and future impact, rankings and video evidence, here are the top 10 2011 Buckeye football commitments.
No. 10—Jeremy Cash
There isn’t a recruiting category for hybrid defensive backs. If there was, Cash would be higher on that list than he is on some safety rankings. He fits the mold of the “Star” position at OSU, a combination of a linebacker and safety.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound Cash will probably need to pack on a few more pounds before he can take the punishment of the Star position at the college level. However, he does have a nose for finding the ball-carrier and tackles like the former linebacker that he is.
It takes awhile for players to grow into the Star position. Both Jermale Hines and Tyler Moeller earned their stripes as backups and as special team players before they matured into their hybrid roles on defense. Expect Cash’s route to be similar.
No. 9—Evan Spencer
The only wide receiver in this top 10 is Spencer, who hails from Vernon Hills, Illinois. After seeing video of Spencer, two things are clear: he’s got good hands and he’s got the so-called Ginn Stride. He’s not as fast as Ted Ginn Jr., but the two have similar 180-pound body types (Spencer is two inches taller at 6-foot-1) in addition to running with longer strides than of what one sees out of your typical player.
Spencer is your prototypical do-it-all receiver: he sets up his blocks well on reverses, he’s not afraid to take a screen pass over the middle and he great on “go” routes because of his ability to hit top speed quickly.
Odds are, Spencer probably won’t see the field as a freshman. DeVier Posey (once he’s back from suspension) is the No. 1 with Philly Brown and Chris Fields probably next in line. Check back on Spencer in 2012.
No. 8—Chase Ferris
A lot of scouts dog Farris for being relatively slow-footed as far as change of direction plays. I don’t see it. Is he DeMarcus Ware? No. But he's no sloth either.
Farris stands 6-feet-6-inches tall, weighs 265 pounds and exhibits great strength both as an offensive and defensive lineman. On the defensive side, he sheds blocks very well and while he may not be great in pursuit, he still causes havoc in the backfield.
There’s a good chance Farris could be a poor man’s Cam Heyward. Or he could be moved to the offensive side of the ball. It’s too early to tell. But the key for Farris is once he finds a position he needs to perfect the technical aspects of his game, because he’s already got all the physical gifts.
No. 7—Kenny Hayes
Hayes edged Farris by the slimmest of margins because the vibe is Hayes is slightly more ready for college football. At 6-foot-5-inches and 250 pounds, Hayes is built like an NFL defensive end, but could move inside if he adds more weight.
He doesn’t have the speed of Steve Miller or Ryan Shazier, but Hayes is very, very strong and looks like he would be able to handle a double-team pretty well. It will be interesting to see if he’s moved inside to defensive tackle or remains at end.
As far as an immediate impact, I just don’t see Hayes cracking the rotation in 2011. He should, however, make a big impact at OSU before his career is over.
No. 6—Brian Bobeck
Think current OSU center Michael Brewster but only three inches shorter. Bobek doesn’t grade out quite as well as Brewster did as a prospect, but he’s not far behind. Those who have watched him play say Bobek is a very cerebral lineman who is able to recognize blitzes quickly.
Bobek, who is stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 275 pounds, chose OSU over Michigan State, where his brother Jeff is a fullback. During his U.S. Army All-American Bowl practice interview, Bobek cited aggressiveness what seemed like a dozen times. He claimed he was a really aggressive lineman style-wise, but that he also needed to be more consistent with that style.
With Brewster coming back for his senior year and Corey Linsley being a safe option as a backup, Bobek may redshirt and sit a few years before seeing the field. But when he does secure playing time, OSU fans can expect to see a center that won’t be fooled by blitzes and has the technique to handle any defensive linemen.
No. 5—Michael Bennett
Bennett was a two-way stud as an offensive and defensive lineman. After watching this Centerville, Ohio monster of a man on tape, one word came to mind: Disruptor. He’s a menace on both sides of the ball, pancaking overmatched defenders on one play and bulldozing offensive lineman on another.
However, sheer talent won’t make him a star at the next level. The 6-foot-3-inch, 275-pound Bennett is incredibly athletic for a lineman, but he lacks the requisite strength to play right away.
It appears Bennett, who broke his left forearm in the third quarter of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl last week but should be ready to go when he enrolls in OSU in June, will play defensive tackle in college. He’s certainly athletic enough to play offensive guard too. Keep an eye on him as he looks like a pretty safe redshirt bet.
No. 4—Ryan Shazier
The Plantation, Fla. product, who was an originally a Florida commit before having second thoughts after Urban Meyer stepped down, was a pass-rushing machine at defensive end in high school and will continue that as an outside linebacker at Ohio State. At 6-foot-2-inches and weighing a hamburger over 200 pounds, Shazier doesn’t exactly have linebacker bulk, but that should come with weight training.
Watching Shazier on tape, it’s easy to see how big an upside this kid has. He’s already a college-level pass-rusher, using his non-stop motor and cornerback speed to drag down opposing ball carriers.
One thing to look for in Shazier’s transition to linebacker is his ability to shed blocks at the point of attack. If he can add the necessary strength to do that, he’s got a chance to be an All-Big Ten linebacker.
No. 3—Doran Grant
Grant ((pictured above, top right) could be the next great one at “Cornerback U.” He’s that good. What Grant lacks in ideal size and technique, he makes up for with ball skills and agility. The 5-foot-11-inch, 177-pound Akron Saint Vincent-Saint Mary cornerback also excelled as a wide receiver and return specialist in high school, but will probably be relegated to cornerback duties in Columbus.
What Grant also has going for him is that while plenty of players saw time in the injury-ravaged OSU secondary this season, there weren’t any breakout stars. This could lead to Grant seeing backup duty as a freshman and perhaps making an impact on special teams.
Once Grant perfects his technique, the sky is the limit for him. Why? He’s already developed a football sixth sense of baiting quarterbacks, something that can’t really be taught. And after he makes an interception, he’s extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands.
No. 2—Steve Miller
It was apples and oranges choosing between Miller and Grant for the No. 2 spot. Miller got the edge because it was determined he may have a better chance at seeing the field next season. A few things stood out to me about the 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound Miller after watching him on tape.
The first was for not being the strongest looking guy, he did pretty good job discarding lineman at the point of attack and getting to the ball. Another thing is that he’s got a really good motor, which will suit him well in terms of getting on the field as a freshman, even if it’s special teams. The final item that stood out was Miller’s exceptional tackling ability, which also will pay dividends in the future.
Look for Miller to be wrecking havoc in opposing backfield’s perhaps as early as next season, especially if he can add more muscle to his somewhat gangly frame.
No. 1—Braxton Miller
The undisputed crown jewel of the 2011 class is Miller, the 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound dual threat quarterback from Huber Heights, Ohio.
At first glance Miller will remind OSU fans of a taller, less stockier Troy Smith. But don’t confuse Miller with Smith; Miller has big-time wheels (4.47 40-yard dash) and the juking moves of a slot receiver.
In many regards, Terrelle Pryor’s heir apparent is already a better QB than the current OSU starter in the traditional sense of the term: Better footwork, better at going through progressions, better accuracy and the ability to make every throw.
What will be worth watching is how he adjusts to a more traditional offense in Columbus. He was mostly in the shotgun in high school, but since he has already enrolled at OSU and will go through spring practice, perhaps he can nip that potential transitional problem in the bud before fall camp.
Miller is expected to be the starter in 2012, however, fans will be calling for Miller during Pryor’s suspension in 2011, which currently stands at five games, but could be reduced.
If Miller doesn’t see any action during Pryor's absence, bet on Tressel redshirting him so not to waste a year of Miller’s eligibility.
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