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Ohio State experiences ‘hit and miss’ on signing day

COLUMBUS — Despite locking up 18 recruits on the first day for football signings Wednesday, much of the focus on Ohio State University’s recruiting class will be on the players who got away.

Coach Jim Tressel and his staff picked up two quarterbacks, two running backs, three defensive linemen and several other quality prospects, yet the talk will likely focus on the loss of several major players from within Ohio’s borders.

The Buckeyes, who usually fatten up on Ohio-bred blue-chippers, signed just nine in-state players. To put that into perspective, Michigan signed 10 players from Ohio.

“If you look at the whole group, we got nine Ohio kids and nine out-of-state kids,” Tressel said. “I think it’s a very good group and a group that’s very interested in meshing.”

Tressel said he was waiting for one other decision — obviously touted Minnesota offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, who ended up going to Southern California.

The top names on the OSU recruiting list were Roderick Smith, a running back out of Fort Wayne, Ind., and James Louis, a wide receiver out of Delray Beach, Fla. Both are listed among the top 100 recruits by ESPN Scouts Inc.

According to at least one assessment by recruiting experts, the Buckeyes only got five of the top 12 players in the state and didn’t get anyone ranked among the top 50 recruits in the nation.

Balancing that, Tressel did have two highly rated classes each of the last two years.

“We like their versatility, their maturity and their passion to be part of this, as opposed to simply what will this do for me individually,” Tressel said.

Ohio State is coming off an 11-2 season in which it won its fifth straight Big Ten title and beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

The Buckeyes have big holes to fill on a unit that was among the national leaders in defense. Gone are tackles Doug Worthington and Todd Denlinger, along with end Thaddeus Gibson, linebacker Austin Spitler and backs Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman. The only vacancies on offense are at tight end and left tackle, where Jake Ballard and Jim Cordle used up their eligibility.

The two quarterback recruits — including Taylor Graham, of Wheaton, Ill., who is the son of former Buckeyes QB Kent Graham — were important because they will have at least a year to be groomed to replace two-year starter Terrelle Pryor, who is coming off a big game heading into his junior season. Should Pryor elect to make himself available for the NFL draft a year from now, the Buckeyes will need a replacement, and the incoming freshmen will vie for the job with backup Joe Bauserman.

Just half Ohio State’s class came from inside the state, a smaller percentage than normal, with promising stars such as West Chester linebacker Jordan Hicks choosing Texas and several other locals electing to not sign with the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes, used to taking whomever they wanted out of the talent-rich state, also missed out on Notre Dame signees quarterback Andrew Hendrix, of Cincinnati Moeller, offensive lineman Matt James and tight end Alex Welch, of Cincinnati Elder, along with running back Spencer Ware, of Cincinnati Princeton, who is headed to LSU. The Irish are coached by Brian Kelly, the former Cincinnati coach who succeeded Charlie Weis.

Fullback Carlos Hyde, a 6-foot-2, 230-pounder from Naples, Fla., signed with the Buckeyes a year ago but came up short academically. He spent this past year at Fork Union Military Academy and then re-signed with Ohio State. One of his teammates at Fork Union, defensive end Jamel Turner, also hit the books for a year after leaving Youngstown’s Ursuline High School.