Ohio fans have been clamoring for a recruiting class they can truly get excited about for years. But despite sustained success, and a legendary coach, the 'Cats have hovered around the middle of the MAC, or even the bottom of the barrel, for years in recruiting. But, Wednesday the Bobcats put together a deep 24-man class that hit several of Ohio's needs, while bringing in a handful of top mid-level recruits.
|OHIO BOBCATS 2014 CLASS|
|Boland, Brennan||Highland, Kan. (Highland Community College)||TE||2-Star||6'5''/250lb||YES|
|Brown, Connor||Miamisburg, Ohio (Miamisburg)||TE||3-Star||6'6''/225lb||YES|
|Brunis, Herman||Fairfield, Ohio (Fairfield)||WR||NR||6'0''/170lb|
|Duckworth, Joey||Louisville, Ohio (Louisville)||QB||3-Star||6'3''/215lb||YES|
|Dudziak, Brennan||Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington Central)||OT||3-Star||6'6''/265lb||YES|
|Irons, Maleek||Abbotsford, BC, Canada||RB||#1 Player in Canada||6'1''/205lb||YES|
|Jones, Tyler||West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West)||WR||2-Star||6'1''/185lb||YES|
|Kuhar, Kyle||Avon Lake, Ohio, (Avon Lake)||TE/DE||2-Star||6'4''/245lb||YES|
|Langenkamp, Steve||Cincinnati, Ohio (Archbishop Moeller)||OG||2-Star||6'4''/280lb|
|Lowery, Joe||Tallmadge, Ohio (Tallmadge)||OT||3-Star||6'6''/280lb||YES|
|McCreay, Jared||Minford, Ohio (Minford)||OT||3-Star||6'4''/303lb||YES|
|Meyer, Andrew||Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington Central)||WR||2-Star||6'1''/190lb||YES|
|Murray, Chris||Huchinson, KS (Hutchinson Community College)||WR||2-Star||5'10''/180lb|
|Pruehs, Jake||Lakewood, Ohio (St. Edward)||C||2-Star||6'2''/285LB|
|Royster, Pierce||Hudson, Ohio (Hudson)||K||2-Star||5'9''/170lb||YES|
|White, Papi||Ada, OK (Seminole)||RB||2-Star||5'9''/168|
|Walker, Robbie||Washington, D.C. (Gonzaga)||ATH/RB||3-Star||5'8''/162lb||YES|
|Berger, Kent||Mento, Ohio (Mentor)||DE||2-Star||6'4''/240lb||YES|
|Bonnstetter, Mitch||Fort Dodge, IA (Iowa Central Community College)||P||2-Star||6'0''/190lb|
|Brumfield, Jared||Dayton, Ohio (Stebbins)||OLB||2-Star||6'3''/220lb|
|Brunson, Curits||Farmington, MI (Farmington)||CB||2-Star||5'11''/170|
|DiCillo, Bryan||Stow, Ohio (Walsh Jesuit)||OLB||2-Star||6'2''/215lb||YES|
|Fox, Jalen||Cincinnati, Ohio (Wyoming)||CB||2-Star||5'10''/175lb|
|Frueauf, Chalmer||Cincinnati, Ohio (Archbishop Moeller)||DT||NR||6'3''/245lb|
|Layton, Brett||San Jacinto, California (Mount San Jacinto Community College)||CB||2-Star||6'0''/190lb|
|Nelson, Kylan||Lexington, KY (Lafayette)||CB||NR||5'10''/180lb|
|Wshington, Check||Mansfield, Ohio||S/WR||NR||5'11''/183lb|
A season ago, Ohio's class was dominated by one position in particular: defensive linemen. But, in 2014, with less drastic needs, the Bobcats were able to put together a well-balanced class, while still filling several key needs.
Ohio had a few clear-cut needs in this recruiting season. No. 1 was running backs. Ohio lost its two leading rushers at the end of the 2013 season, and didn't feature a true every-down back on roster. The 'Cats went hard after running back, signing three, all players with various skill types and immense upside. Offensive line was another area of concern for Ohio fans. The 'Cats line struggled mightily in 2013 as it attempted to replace several multi-year starters, while also battling injuries. Several untested players were thrust into starting roles in 2013, including a freshman, so adding depth, and high-quality depth at that, was key.
Frank Solich and his staff responded by signing five offensive line, three of which are 3-Star players, and a pair of tight ends as well (Ohio has been cursed at the tight end position in recent years with several players suffering career-ending injuries).
Another are of concern was adding depth across the defense. Several starters are gone, and despite having backups more than capable of stepping into starting roles, Ohio still needed to bulk up its coffers at positions such as cornerback and defensive end. In the end the 'Cats compiled a 24-man class, featuring a mix of players from nearly every position—even punter and kicker, where Ohio struggled mightily for much of 2013.
With a class so deep, and balanced, it's important to look at who the standout guys are. Players who can either come in and make an immediate impact, or who's potential could develop into something special in a few seasons. Here they are.
This player isn't rated by any major scouting services, but he could wind up being the best player to come out of Ohio's 2014 class. Maleek Irons, a running back out of British Columbia, Canada, is considered by many to be the top recruit in Canada. The 6 foot 1 inch, 205 pound running back has fantastic size, speed, athleticism. His stats are absolutely mind boggling. For his career he ran for 6,175 yards and 76 touchdowns. 5,948 of those yards and all the touchdowns came in his final two seasons. (HIGHLIGHTS HERE)
A power runner who is also deceptively fast, Irons appears to have all the tools to be a dynamic running back. However, there are obvious concerns about the level of talent he faced in the Vancouver region. But it didn't scare Washington, Washington State or Colorado, all of which offered Irons. With Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin both gone now due to graduation, and Daz' Patterson returning as the team's leading rusher, it's likely Irons will contribute right away. He provides Ohio with a true power rushing attack.
Other players of note include the other two backs in Ohio's class, Papi White and Robbie Walker. Walker, a 3-star running back out of Gonzaga High School in Washington D.C.. At 5-foot-8, 162 pounds, he's not a power runner by any stretch of the imagination. His 4.52 40-yard-dash time is deceiving as well. On the field, with the ball in his hands, Walker is a play-maker with game-breaking speed. Walker's one of those players that can line up in the backfield, or in the slot, and be effective.
White is similar to Walker, but with Irons' stats. This past season the 5-foot-9, 168 pound dynamo ran for 3,220 yards and 41 touchdowns. Out of Seminole High School in Ada, Okla., White was committed to Southern Mississippi in the days leading up to signing day, before Ohio flipped him. White is faster than Walker, at least on paper, but is more of a raw talent. Either way, if Ohio can adjust it's offense to make use of these two, and current do-it-all slot/back Daz' Patterson, the 'Cats could have one dangerous offense.
Sticking on offense, Joey Duckworth, Ohio's top-rated recruit, is another name to keep an eye on. The Louisville, Ohio product is considered the 37th best pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class. Duckworth was garnering interest from top schools before suffering a knee injury at the end of his junior season. Another knee injury that resulted in him having season-ending surgery early on in his senior year all but cut him off from the BCS schools, but by then he had already committed to Ohio. A true pocket passer, Duckworth is incredibly accurate, has good mechanics, great footwork and the size of an NFL quarterback (6-foot-3, 215 pounds). Darrius Vick is the clear-cut start in 2014, but if Duckworth can redshirt this season, get healthy, and learn Ohio's offense to a T, he could challenge Vick in 2015, when Vick would be a senior.
One last offensive player to note is Jared McCray, a top-100 offensive tackle out of Minford, Ohio. At 6-foot-4, 303 pounds, McCray already has great size for a MAC offensive tackle. The former Louisville commit flipped to Ohio after Charlie Strong decided to grayshirt him. What was the Cardinals' loss was a big gain for an Ohio squad that has battled an insane amount of injuries on the o-line in the past two seasons.
Switching over to defense now, Jared Brumfield is the type of freakish athlete that make coaches drool. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, the Dayton, Ohio product is listed as an outside linebacker, but also played running back in high school. His upright running style means it's unlikely we see him continue to get reps out of the backfield in college, but still has the physical tools. Now it's just getting his technique down.
One other player to watch, and one who will surely have an immediate impact on the team is the JUCO punter, Mitch Bonnstetter. Ohio's punting game was atrocious in 2013. Bonstetter meanwhile has average well over 40-yards a punt in his two seasons at Iowa Central Community College. I'm making the prediction now that Bonnstetter will be Ohio's starting punter in 2014.
Ohio's recruiting classes in years past have relied heavily on prep academy recruits. Despite not having to dip into those ranks this year, Ohio actually managed to put together a better, more complete class. The 'Cats addressed nearly every position in this class, adding plug-and-go pieces where it needed immediate help, and project type player with high upsides where depth was an issue.
Solich and his staff also managed to go back to Ohio and milk in-state talent. Out of the 24 signed, 18 of the recruits came from the Buckeye state, the most in any of Solich's recruiting classes since he came to Ohio 10 years ago. Getting local guys is huge for any program, especially in a state as crowded as Ohio. It was also nice to see Ohio go after more athlete type players, such as Walker and White. With Tettleton, Blankenship and Foster gone, the 'Cats offense is going to have to adapt, and we may finally see Solich open up the playbook for a more up-tempo style attack that features slots doing more than just diversions. If Ohio can try to emulate how other slots have been used around the conference, with it's roster of athletes it could create a nasty fast-paced attack that might be what it needs to finally win another MAC Championship.
As an Ohio fan, it's hard to find much to complain about with this class. Some higher caliber players would have been nice, as would maybe another linebacker (3-stars), but even without those things, Solich put together one of his best classes since coming to Athens. Ohio came in at No. 12 in the MAC in recruiting classes in 2013, but is likely to finish in the Top 5 when final rankings come out.
OFFICIAL HUSTLE BELT GRADE: A
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