A young A.J. Hawk at Centerville HS.
Michael Chung (8:09 am)

We are all enamored with the “star” quality of recruits, especially the four and five star ones.  The science of recruiting has improved and ratings are more and more accurate as each year passes, but Ohio State has taken a number of three star athletes who later became ‘stars.’  We will look at some previous Buckeye players who were not as highly rated out of high school but ended up starring at Ohio State and went on to play in the NFL.  This proves that four and five star athletes, though great for overall recruiting rankings, do not always translate into football greatness.  Then we will try to predict which three star athletes from this class couldl become stars.  

Looking at the current Rivals recruiting rankings, schools that averaged 3 stars per player were ranked between 25-35 in the team recruiting class rankings. Clearly, the 10 players below who have played or are playing in the NFL have superseded expectations.

10. Chimidi Chekwa
This 3-star cornerback came to Ohio State via Florida.  He had an interception during his freshman year at USC that was the beginning of a solid four-year OSU career.  He suffered a wrist injury during the Sugar Bowl but he saw time in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders.  

9. Jay Richardson
Jay Richardson was part of the 2002 recruiting class that had other star-studded 3-star players.  Richardson often went under the radar due to names like A.J. Hawk, Troy Smith and others that were stars on the team.  But anyone who watches OSU football knows that Richardson was a solid D-lineman and was drafted into the NFL.   He saw action with Oakland and Seattle but is currently not on an NFL roster.

_8. Dane Sanzenbacher
Sanzenbacher was voted the team's offensive MVP one year and came up big in the Sugar Bowl by scoring the first touchdown off a Terrelle Pryor fumble.  A 3-star prospect out of Toledo, Sanzenbacher proved he had 5-star value to the wide receiving corps.  Though undrafted he landed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears playing in all 16 regular season games and starting one.

7. Brian Robiskie
Robiske was a late commit to the 2005 recruiting class. Many thought he was just a throw-in as Ohio State still had extra scholarships.  But his career at OSU proved he was a top-receiving prospect, and had a stint with the Cleveland Browns.  He now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars and is on injured reserve.

6. Brian Hartline
Brian Hartline suffered a devastating leg injury during his senior season in high school that may have dropped him down to a 3-star level, but his OSU career clearly surpassed three stars.  He was a top OSU receiver and now plays for the Miami Dolphins. He played in all 16 games this season for the Fins while starting 10.

5. Chris Gamble
Chris Gamble did it all at Ohio State.  Recruited as a receiver, Gamble would later be switched to cornerback, shutting down Andre Johnson of the Miami Hurricanes in the 2002-03 National Championship game, and acting as the primary punt returner for OSU during that season. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers and continues to play as a solid DB. He started 15 games this season.

4. James Laurinaitis
The son of former professional wrestler "Animal", Laurinaitis came to OSU via Minnesota as a 3-star prospect.  He played his freshman year in the Michigan game after Bobby Carpenter suffered an injury. He went on to win awards early on in his career as a top linebacker.  He could have left early and likely would have been a top-10 draft pick but stayed in college for his final year.  He is now with the St. Louis Rams and started all 16 games this past season.

3. Malcolm Jenkins
Coming out of New Jersey, OSU fans were wondering who this kid was.  People stopped wondering when he began playing.  He shut down the Big Ten's best and decided not to go to the NFL early, but returned to help lead the team his senior year.  He has won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints and started 15 games this season while battling a neck injury.

2. Santonio Holmes
This 3-star recruit out of Florida became a star at Ohio State.  He later would be a Super Bowl MVP with the Pittsburgh Steelers and also helped the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game. He has struggled personally this season receiving some bad press for being selfish but Jets fans knows he can play and hope he can grow up a little.  He started all 16 games for the Jets this season.

1. A.J. Hawk
A.J Hawk was part of the 2002 recruiting class that featured prominent recruits like 5-star Mike D'Andrea and 4-star prospects Bobby Carpenter and Stan White Jr.  Hawk was under the recruiting radar, but he quickly established himself at OSU, sending Stan White Jr. to fullback while Mike D'Andrea barely played due to injuries.  Hawk was drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers and has already won a Super Bowl.  He has started 14 games this past season for the Pack.

Current Three Star Prospects That Could Be Stars:

Frank Epitropoulos
This kid has Brian Hartline and Dane Sanzenbacher written all over him. WR is often a position of speed, which Frank has, but it is also a skill and Epitropoulos possesses play-making ability as well as an ability to be a third down possession type receiver. Urban Meyer had former Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper on the Gators and currently Cooper is playing in the NFL. Does Frank remind Urban of Riley?

Jacoby Boren
With a name like Boren, he has to be good.  The youngest of the Boren boys, older brother and current starting fullback Zach said of his younger brother that he is 'nasty.'  Older brother Zach was also a three star but was a starter at FB as a true freshman and oldest brother Justin started two years at guard after receiving significant playing time as a freshman while attending 'another' school.  Boren's father Mike seems to think Jacoby is the best of the bunch citing that his technique is more advanced than either of his brothers at the same developmental stage while having the Boren toughness.  No doubt, Jacoby will follow the Boren footsteps and be a star at OSU.

Ricquan Southward
All indications are that Southward will sign with the Buckeyes after rumors had him signing with Florida.  Why is he only a three star?  Some have said his playing time was limited due to injury but he is fast and can make plays, very similar to a past Floridian named Santonio Holmes.  If Southward indeed comes North then he will have to work hard or else he could become another southern burner that did not make a loud mark, ala Albert Dukes.

Luke Roberts
I must confess that I have a strong personal bias towards this recruit. I have known Luke since before he was learning to speak and consider he and his family close friends who I love and appreciate.  I know he has come from a solid loving household who has instilled in him the values that every Ohio State fan wants along with a natural intensity that allows him to drive-drive-drive. As a child he would fall from high places without crying and his endless energy wore out his parents. He possesses the ‘toughness’ that Urban Meyer will instill and do not be surprised if you see Luke on the field next season. 

With that said, I cannot believe the lack of reporting on this recruit and the little news on Roberts has not been positive. Fickell and staff, who would be experts at linebacker, saw in Roberts the makings of a great football player and offered him a scholarship.  Roberts is a hard worker and sometimes spends as long as five hours in the gym.

One thing that will separate Roberts from many LBs in the country is his intelligence.  He scored a 30 on the ACT but I know from personal experience that he has a sharp mind and will be able to pick up defensive concepts fast while being able to anticipate the offense.  He will be the type of player that will always be around the ball.

He is physically no slouch either at 6 feet 2 inches tall, bench-pressing over 305 pounds and running a 4.6 second 40 yard dash, Roberts possesses the physical, mental and intellectual components to be a star linebacker.  He reminds most of Marcus Marek who played linebacker under Earle Bruce. Marek was inducted into the OSU Hall of Fame in 1999 and was always around the ball and making plays.  I believe Roberts will be similar.


01/26/2012 16:43

Nice list Michael. Even forgetting pro careers, their OSU days were pretty good. Someone must have developed them. Curious to see how the prospects pan out.. I'm somehow..optimistic.

r j mitchell
01/27/2012 08:54

Thanks for the great article. I will follow Luke, thanks to your insight.

04/17/2012 11:32

Don't forget Hankins. He will probably be making the big bucks after next season

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