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Mr. B Re-Claims His Throne

To me, the Super Bowl this year seemed as anti-climactic as the faux mythical national championship for college football. Just not that satisfying, with all the pomp and façade of grandeur. Our anticipation for the actual sporting events themselves is suddenly far out-stripping the games when they are eventually played.

I'm back, baby!!!

That’s probably why I like following recruiting so much. We can make up our own fantasy ideals and – from the perspective of a pundit – very few of you will remember what was said two years from now. Maybe that’s why there are so many experts in the recruiting biz!

One of my football buddies dismisses recruiting mania and its incessant coverage as “foreplay” for people with performance anxiety about the games themselves. To me, it’s a parallel universe of infinite fun and mischief where most of your predictions are so soon forgotten that you can make up as outlandish of proposals as you can conjure. And we do. But many of the stories and recruiting anecdotes live on. Since Bucknuts was originally created as a “fantasy recruiting site,” the stories here become cumulative and – of course – many are embellished over time.

So, it was nice to hear Colin Cowherd, a guy we once spent an hour with at a Bucknuts tailgate party before the Texas game in Columbus, intoning before the Super Bowl two weeks ago: "I love college football recruiting. While the rest of Indy is out partying tonight, I'll be reading Bucknuts.com."
Me? I remember a thousand anecdotes, each worth a story on their own, about characters like Jason Gwaltney and Buster Davis and Lamarcus Joyner and Fred Davis and Kenyon Buford and Durrell Price and Derek Morris’s dad.

Ah, the memories.

I remember back to 2008 when Kevin Hart staged his own signing with Cal and in 2000 when Jonathan Colon signed with Florida and Miami. Or the kid that a newspaper reporter completely fabricated and we watched Max Emfinger give him three stars “after seeing his films”!

Well, so much for the afterglow. February is the recruiting month that really does roar in like a lion and then we all feel sheepish a few weeks later. That’s when our lust for recruiting seems somehow sated and we have to, well … start all over again. Class of 2013? Already? They haven’t even said who won that Class of 2012 recruiting championship! I’m assuming it’s a school in a league that can sign an extra dozen kids…

But we are playing the hand we are dealt and we are coming up aces all of a sudden. Remember 60 days ago when we were recruiting linebackers and had a three-star kid (Luke Roberts from nearby Lancaster) and a player that would probably end up at another position (Josh Perry). Well, roll the tape George Michael and… we ended on a better note with a bunch of headliner linebacker recruits including David Perkins and Camren Williams and Jamal Marcus – each one a four-star guy!

So, fasten your seatbelts, Bucknutters. The only constant is change. That and the fact that old Mr. Bucknuts is always willing to go out on a recruiting limb despite many of you reading me, with chainsaws in hand…

* * * *

From the recruiting odds and end zones; some final tallies

Like an endless loop tune that you can’t get out of your head, here are some of my last random thoughts on the post-2012 recruiting class. I need to get these from my head to yours:

1) Not too early and not too late …Thankfully, my continued requests to the NCAA for an early football signing period were ignored along with all of my other reasonable requests. Had they not ignored me, the Buckeyes would be SOL on all these guys that signed way-late:

a) Armani Reeves
b) Camren Williams
c) Joey O’Connor
d) Tommy Schutt
e) Taylor Decker
f) David Perkins
g) Se’Von Pittman
h) Kyle Dodson

Geez, that’s probably a better “late class” right there than the entire Wisconsin recruiting class!

2) And a late signing period?... Well, it worked for the Bucks (uh, somewhat…) with Terrelle Pryor in 2008. It was still open for the Urbanator with Stefon Diggs but it appears Stefon was a home boy all along…

3) Let’s just re-name the “Big Ten” conference the “Big Babies” conference …we can forget “Legends” and “Leaders” (if only…) since most of our head coaches seem to be neither all of a sudden. How about “Whiners” and “Winners?” Some anecdotal examples of the former:

Dantonio is exercised about his flippers: He was especially irritated by the Buckeyes' poaching of one-time top Spartan commit Se'Von Pittman, something his mentor, Jim Tressel, likely wouldn't have done. “They've got a new coach and it's different,” Dantonio said. "I would say it's pretty unethical, in the end." I guess it is whose end is getting ripped, eh? This is the same coach that played felons and miscreants without a qualm. And what about the recruit he flipped from Toledo the week before commitment day? But that doesn’t count if you are the only ethical coach in the league.

BB stands for Big Baby and Bret Bielema: “I can tell you this,” said Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC - in any way, shape or form.” More great quotes to remember for the future. Now, let’s clear up any misperception that Bret was talking about how the SEC keeps winning national championships. He was using his broad and coarse brush to paint Urban as a renegade with SEC recruiting tactics at his disposal.

This – about that – from The Sporting News:

So the question then becomes: What’s more important - an agreement or a championship? Either the Big Ten bows to Urban, or Urban bows to the Big Ten.

“There’s a common thread in this league,” Bielema said. “Every time we walk into a coaches meeting in the offseason, there’s a mutual sign of respect.”

That and a nine-year streak of watching someone else hold up the Waterford crystal trophy at the end of the season. Fall in line or fall behind.

Hey Bret – ask your buddy Bo over at the basketball office how to handle your problem: Just deal with it. Here’s how Urban dealt with it: “You're pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we got nine guys who better go do it again. Do it a little harder next time."

“Delusion” must be a tributary of “denial”…From a Michigan blog story entitled Recruiting: Don't Fear the Urban Reaper, written by one Ryan Murphy: “Fellow Big Ten coaches are already pointing out Meyer’s shady “SEC style” to the media and to recruits. With the cloud already over Ohio State’s program (remember, they are on PROBATION - a bowl ban and scholarship reductions!), Meyer’s win-at-any-cost mentality is casting him in a bad light. Image is everything, and OSU’s new messiah’s halo will be a bit crooked and tarnished for the next recruiting cycle.” Wait … weren’t these guys the first ones in to flip Kyle Kalis?

And this from a guy that wanted to coach Michigan: Les Miles screwed that pooch a few years ago and then screwed up recruiting Gunner Kiel this year. He absolutely ripped Kiel – his character and his decision. I bet he wouldn’t have said the same thing if Kiel would have enrolled at LSU after de-committing from Indiana. Could there be a better example of the kids versus the coaches? Meaning, what’s good for one is not necessarily good for the others? The coaches ignore contracts and commitments and programs with a sneer and a how-de-do but the players that they inevitably screw over? “Where’s your integrity, son? Didn’t we teach you better?” No, you didn’t…

Finally, from “Inside the Irish” (whose team had three recruits flip late…): Here’s a report from a surprisingly objective source: “How bad was it? The writing was on the wall when Urban Meyer offered [Taylor] Decker a scholarship, then proceeded to bring in Irish coaches Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner, Decker’s area recruiter and position coach, respectively. Decker was one of two offensive tackles in a three-man offensive line class, and the 6-foot-8, 320-pound prospect certainly looked the part of a blue-chipper. That it took Meyer only a few weeks to undo a commitment that had been one of Notre Dame’s longest gives you a glimpse into how things are going to go in the Midwest now that Ohio State is being run by one of the sports most ruthless recruiters.”

4) Other Big Ten shortcomings:

1) Wisconsin signed 12 recruits. Twelve! When pressed, Bret the Bulbous one said, “Hell, I thought we were only going to get nine.” Great class. And a classy retort…

2) Michigan finished like most of their recent football seasons: they started fast and finished, well … lame. Or let’s say: they struck early and then struck out late. In the last five months (since August) they picked up two 3-star players and one four-star. And that’s what they got. The ones they lost?

OL Diamond – Auburn
OL Garnett – Stanford
OL Kozan – Iowa
TE Grant – Oklahoma
CB Reeves – Ohio State

And all those guys they lost were better than any of the guys they got over those months.

Wait – how can it get any better? Do I sense a Dymonte Thomas spatula coming to Ann Arbor? Look out, Michigan, Urban is flipping crazy!

3) Penn State

Despite Ohio State taking arguably the best four players out of their class, Penn State ended up with 19 recruits, only four of whom are of the four-star variety and a couple that are that dreaded two-star appellation. If anything, they over-achieved given the circumstances. And with Jesse James enrolling early in Happy Valley, they might be looking at stealing a few commits back from us next year!

4) The rest of the Big Ten

a) Iowa was ranked only 37th and had just three four-star kids and five (!) two-star kids. A disappointing year by their standards.
b) Michigan State was ranked even lower than Iowa!
c) Nebraska did make the Top 30 but that’s supposed to be a good year for that once-elite program? And no real four-stars at the skill positions…
c) Indiana and Minnesota and Northwestern and Illinois and Purdue? Even the ranking services didn’t care…

In a Bucknutshell: The Big Ten recruiting was way down this year. Again. Michigan and Ohio State had the only Top 10 kinda classes. And Mr. Bucknuts final answer? Michigan had a very good Big Ten class. Ohio State had a very good SEC class.

OK, class, now carry on…

* * * *

Our lucky ’13

In my last Bucket I regaled you with a superficial and glib treatment concerning the recruiting Class of 2013. The class is going to be sensational and would rank #1 or #2 in the country except for the mitigating factors like:

1) We will only take 18-20 kids so the “services” will extrapolate downward and …

2) Some SEC teams could take 10 more kids than us, so if the totals are simply multiplying stars by commitments, well…

But since even in the SEC you can only play 11 players at a time, the ones you recruit that actually play mean so much more. And we have a chance to have all 4- star or 5-star kids in this next class. Really!

First, let’s start with the denominator number of how many recruits we will harvest. We have to stay at 82 total and there are only 14 seniors right now on next year’s team. So, the simple math says we will only take 14, right? Wrong. And even though we have already lost a number of scholly underclassmen players that have left the team such as Jamaal Berry and Melvin Fellows (medical) and Scott McVey (medical) and Taylor Graham and Jeremy Cash and Dominic Clarke and Derjuan Gambrell, I am projecting four-to-six more will bail out of Camp Meyer before Commitment Day 2013 rolls around. That leaves 18-20 possibilities and I will leave it at that for the moment. Let’s look at the positions and let’s build us a #1 class:

Running Backs

We have senior Jordan Hall and junior Carlos Hyde returning for the bulk of the carries. I am hoping that Rod Smith builds on his previous rep. We have two future stars in Brionte Dunn and Warren Ball and at least one will redshirt. To keep the pipeline full-to-overflowing with big-time talent, we will recruit one great Meyer-esque RB.

Who we are looking at thus far: Derrick Green is the man and the name at the top of the list unless we go maybe even farther up the list with Ty Isaac. From Ohio? Deveon Smith is a four-star substitute for either of the above.

Star quality: At least four stars for Derrick and four for Deveon and more than four for Ty.

Quarterbacks

A position of need since Graham left. Brax is #1 but prone to injury. Guiton has yet to play and the only other scholly QB is newbie Cardale/Cordale Jones. We need a second “heir apparent” behind Jones.

Who we are looking at thus far: Malik Zaire and Jalin Marshall will both be Buckeyes and are both currently quarterbacks. If the staff thinks that one will succeed at that position in Columbus, our search is done. Otherwise, it’s gotta be a real storm bringer from a national perspective (Aaron Bailey? Tyrone Swoopes?).

Star quality: Both Zaire and Marshall are at least four stars and both have been mentioned as five-star guys by at least one rating service. If someone else comes in, think “five stars” for him…

Wide Receivers

Not a position “of need” if Jalin Marshall fills one of two recruiting spots here. We have a large unproven flock so Urban will likely take two – or more since Stefon stiffed us. The best in the country is probably Robert Foster, who we have offered. Also a recent offer went out to four-star-er Laquon Treadwell. From Ohio? Rob Wheelwright would probably be next in line; maybe Shelton Gibson.

Star quality: Marshall and Foster are BOTH five-stars

Tight Ends

We have Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett coming back for two more years and Blake Thomas fills the role of unproven recruit. In the Urban system, the tight end is more of an offensive threat than a blocker (see: Jake Stoneburner). So do we have the next ‘Burner?

Who we are looking at thus far: Mostly Adam Breneman and mostly because he’s the best that fits this description so far. From Ohio? Maybe Jacob Matuska or Jake Butt, who could both also play elsewhere. Others nationally? Maybe Marcus Baugh? It’s too early to tell here.

Star quality: Four or five stars, depending upon how much a service values a particular tight end!

Offensive Linemen

We still have needs here since the 2011 class is pretty much a washout other than Brian Bobek. You gotta assume at least three guys with a focus on tackles, since they can always “move down.”

Who we are looking at thus far: Billy Price is the big name but he is as likely to end up as a “bigger John Simon” on defense. The Ohio studs include Centerville’s Evan Lisle, Wayne’s Lovell Peterson or Sam Coverdale. I assume a national 5-star kid will be in this chase or we will only pick a “Dodson-type” four star recruit

Star quality: Billy gets five wherever he plays. And the other yet-to-be nameds have to be five in order to beat out the Ohio boys.

Defensive Linemen

We are stacked at DE so you only take “best in the country,” if available. We are pretty good at DT and if Billy Price plays there, we might be done.

Who we are looking at thus far: A lot of big-name out-of-state kids that are all 4-5 star quality (Chris Fox, Logan Tuley-Tillman, Hunter Bivin, etc.). In Ohio? Believe it or not, other than Price, there are not really any pure Top 10 DL’s in this class.

Star quality: I say we take one DE and one DT and one is four-star and one is five…

Linebackers

All of a sudden, we went from “dearth” to “depth.” Even “logjam!” But we have to take two more to keep the logs jammed for the next couple of seasons.

Who we are looking at so far: The Ohio boys are Courtney Love and Ben Gedeon. The national superstar is Jaylon Smith (Rod’s brother) and Devaris Brunson is often mentioned.

Star quality: I say we get one from Ohio (four stars) and the one from Indiana (five stars).

Defensive Backs

You almost always take two corners and two safeties and figure out later which plays where. Since we have Cam Burrows coming and Eli Woodard in our gun sights, this is becoming a position of greed rather than need!

Who we are looking at thus far: In addition to the aforementioned, Caleb Day – with qualifiers - is an Ohio boy in an otherwise down year at the DB position (plus or minus flipping Dymonte Thomas!) and the out-of-state kids are still sorting themselves out.

Star quality: Believe it or not, we could end up with three five-star kids here and one “lowly” four star player …

The incredible conclusion:

Discounting the fact that we might have to take a punter or a kicker (and Frank Epitropoulos might solve that first issue), all other positions will be manned by four- and five-star recruits. Has that ever happened in the sodden history of the college football recruiting spectacle? I can make a logical case that – by one of the service’s standards (and we do tend to use that info that shows us in the best light!) – the Class of 2013 will have 19 entries, five of whom will be five-star recruits and 14 will have “earned” four. Add it up and it might not only be the best recruiting class in the nation (natch), but the average star quality could be a stunning 4.3 average. Going out on a limb here: That’s likely a record and one not likely to be broken now that the SEC can’t winnow out their lower dozen to get to 25 or so all-stars as they have in the past.

I have said it before and I will say it again, that while the rest of our league is looking for good Big Ten classes, we are looking at great SEC classes. Enjoy the ride, Buckeye Nation!

* * * *

Finally, my fantasy season revealed … And, no, it has a lot more to do with Taylor Decker than Brooklyn Decker…

Here’s the fantasy and it has some resonance with its nearby cousin: “reality.” I say that the Buckeyes run the table in 2012 and are the only undefeated team in the nation come end-of-November. I say then that the Big Ten “championship” game is marginalized to the point of meaninglessness as #2 faces off against #3 after each have been done in by #1.

Then? The AP, one of the few groups left not kidnapped and extorted by the evil BCS Empire, votes Ohio State as the #1 team in the nation – your true national champions - as the AP is permitted to do. The Mythical National Championship game is then played out anti-climactically in January? It will match two inferior teams that are playing for, well … what, exactly?

And if we can keep E. Gordon’s mouth full of his feet - also good odds on that - the Big Ten could shock the world in advance and be the ushers in this theater of a playoff world.

That’s right – we win the national championship in 2012 while destroying the fallacy of the exhibition conference championship games and blow up the BCS all at the same time.

Now that’s a hell of a year!

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