Keep an eye on Devin Smith...
Drew Thurman (3:46 pm)

Last year at this time, I wrote about a few players in the 2010 class that fans should not forget about, and I decided to look at few guys in this class as well.

Obviously the 2011 class is a very solid one for the Buckeyes, and one of the better classes in the country this year. There is a lot of star power to be excited about, with guys like Braxton Miller, Doran Grant, Michael Bennett, Ryan Shazier and Steve Miller all coming to Columbus. With National Signing Day just around the corner, there is also the chance to grab other superstars in the making like Curtis Grant, Aundrey Walker and JaJuan Story. Honestly, this could be Tressel's best class ever when the dust settles.  

With that said, Buckeye fans should not forget about some of the lesser hyped players in this class. Tressel has been one of the best coaches in the country at developing two and three star players, and as Jason of 11W wrote about earlier this week, the numbers prove it. Not that any of us need the numbers for proof. Just go back at look at guys like AJ Hawk, James Lauriniaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, Chimdi Chekwa, Donald Washington or Dane Sanzenbacher, and you quickly realize how great Tressel is at making these low profile players into gems. So, let's take a look at a few guys who could fit into that category in this class, I call them "The Forgettables."   

WR Devin Smith: 

Now some of you may give me a hard time because Smith has garnered a bit more attention than the other guys later on this list. Still, he is widely regarded as a three star prospect and the second best receiver in this class for Ohio State behind Evan Spencer. Personally, I think he has an opportunity to play early for the Buckeyes, maybe even as a freshman. With Dane Sanzenbacher graduating and DeVier Posey's suspension, there are plenty of holes in the receiving core to start the season. While there is other young blood on the roster for OSU, I'm not sure anyone will have the quickness and play making ability in the air that Smith combines, making him a very viable option. His statistics the last few years at Massillon also suggest a big time player:

"In Smith’s case, it was more often than not that the opponents weren’t able to hit the target. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound wide receiver improved on his stellar first season at Massillon in 2009 with an even better one in 2010, and that is why he was chosen as The Independent’s football Player of the Year.

"Smith caught 60 passes for 1,130 yards with nine touchdowns for the 7-4 Tigers. The receptions and yards both are second-most for a single season in Massillon history, behind Devin Jordan’s record 98-catch, 1,492-yard effort in 2001." 

OL Antonio Underwood:

Everyone knew heading into the 2011 class that the staff needed to grab 4-5 offensive lineman, and they wasted no time grabbing Chris Carter, Brian Bobek, Tommy Brown and Antonio Underwood early on in the process. Of those four Bobek is definitely the premiere player, and I think we would all agree, most of us have a hard time differentiating between the other three. The aforementioned Aundrey Walker is also expected to be in this class, giving the staff the fifth body they are looking for. Besides Walker and Bobek, keep an eye on Underwood. He's got a mean streak and really explodes off the ball with a lot of power. While he needs to work on some technique, I think he gets molded into a good one at OSU. Former Buckeye offensive lineman, LeCharles Bentley, agrees:

I’ve seen some good film of the best offensive linemen in the state and Antonio Underwood is the most college ready of everybody,” said former Ohio State, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns offensive linemen, LeCharles Bentley, owner and operator of The L. Bentley O-line Academy. “Offensive line is the most difficult position to earn a starting nod as a true freshman. Considering Ohio State’s lack of depth and Underwood’s ability, at this time next year he should be training to be a starter.” Well that just about says it all about Antonio Underwood. Then again, maybe not. Underwood was not heavily recruited prior to Coach Jim Tressel offering Underwood a scholarship offer back in March during a meeting between the two in his office. With scholarship offers, at the time, from just four MAC schools, Underwood did not delay, and accepted Tressel’s tender on the spot. But while not many college football programs were chasing Underwood, what Bentley said about him and Tressel’s quick offer all go to show that this kid has talent. Underwood possesses incredible upper body strength and plays with great leverage. He’s a tad smallish as Big Ten linemen go, but that just means Underwood will be the next in line of great centers that have come through Columbus. Watch for Underwood to contribute early and often.
DT Joel Hale:

The staff has arguably assembled one of the best defensive line classes in the country, and maybe the best in all of Tressel's tenure at OSU. With Ken Hayes, Steve Miller, Michael Bennett, Chase Farris and Joel Hale, the Buckeyes have an incredible crop of talent for the future. In fact, with all the losses on the defensive line the last two years, you better believe some of these guys will see the field very early in their career. Of that group the one guy that has flown under the radar is Joel Hale. Part of this is that he comes from Indiana and not Ohio, like the rest of the guys in the group, but he also doesn't have the same kind of national respect. While I'm not sure he plays early in his career, like Miller and Bennett probably will, I think he will be a big contributor down the road. In fact, I look for him to have a similar career to fellow Hoosier Dexter Larimore. Here is what Craig Haubert of ESPN had to say about Hale:

"With the strength of this class being in the trenches, it seems only appropriate to keep an eye on a promising big man from the state. Hale, an Ohio State commit, is not someone you would say flew under the radar (he had a healthy amount of scholarship offers to chose from), but he is somewhat of a hidden gem and has the tools to develop into a good defensive tackle in Columbus. Hale, 6-4, 290 pounds, has good size and should be able to add more bulk and comfortably play at around 300 pounds. He plays with a good motor and can move well. He is tough versus the run and with some development could also be a disruptive interior pass rusher. Hale combines good size and ability and should develop into a very productive member of the Buckeyes' defensive line. Ohio State has only signed two other prospects from the Hoosier state since 2006 they have gotten a pretty good third one from here in Hale."
LB Connor Crowell:

When Crowell first committed to the Buckeyes in November, there was a lot of excitement. Linebacker was a major need for OSU in this class, and before Crowell it appeared the staff may come up empty in this class. Then just a month later Ryan Shazier committed, followed by Ejuan Price, and Crowell quickly became a forgotten man. While Shazier and Price are higher ranked by the recruiting services, and both have athleticism through the roof, don't forget about Crowell. If he recovers from the broken ankle that ended his senior season, I think he has every bit as much  of an upside as the other two guys. In fact, you don't score this high on SPARQ unless you have some serious athleticism:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Heading into the Nike Combine this weekend, all the buzz centered on whether or not North point (Waldorf, Md.) linebacker Conner Crowell would break the SPARQ Rating record.

A year ago, Crowell lit up the Baltimore event with a 121.02 Rating and with just limited improvement, it appeared likely we would have a new name at the top of this year's leader board. Unfortunately, a slightly strained hamstring prevented Crowell from being at the top of his game.

"I was training and just kind of tweaked it," Crowell said. "It really affected me on the 40 because I couldn't explode like I normally do. I tried my best but just didn't have it today."

Despite the sore hammy, Crowell, a rock solid 6-foot-1.5, 211 pounds, still had the top overall rating in the combine with a 115.35, good enough to be among the top 20 overall ratings this year. He actually improved his power ball throw, 38-5 to 44-5 and his vertical jump, 32.7 inches to 34.3 inches but his 40-yard dash time dropped from a blazing 4.55 a year ago to a 4.70 on Saturday. 


01/28/2011 13:37

Great article... with all the hype around potential Buckeyes, it's great to know that we're solid with the guys who want to be here!!

01/28/2011 13:44

Drew, you're dead on...I have put Carter, Brown, and Underwood into the "project" category. After watching Underwood's film, I'm a lot more impressed than I expected to be.

01/29/2011 07:09

If I'm not mistaken...Joel Hale is enrolled early, which always has big benefits.

01/29/2011 08:25

Yes...nice call buckeyenut. He joins Cash, Miller, Heuerman and Shazier.



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