Five for Friday: Most Underrated OSU Recruits of the Last Decade
By Tony Gerdeman
Now that the 2013 recruiting class has wrapped up for the Buckeyes and everybody is ogling all of the four and five-star signees, let's not forget that there have been plenty of two and three-star prospects to make their marks in college football.
Just because a player does not have that fourth star doesn't mean they were a lesser player, it could simply mean that they were under-scouted, or under-coached, and there's really no telling how a player will mature and blossom under the right coaches. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was a three-star prospect, after all.
So when you look at Ohio State's recruiting class and see three-star prospects like Tracy Sprinkle, Chris Worley or Darron Lee, just remember that stars are only an indicator of future success, not a guarantee.
Everybody on this list was a two or three-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout. There were others who were a three-star prospect by one service, but not the other, so they were not included on this list.
1. James Laurinaitis
Laurinaitis was a three-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout. Scout ranked him the 45th-best linebacker in the 2005 class, while Rivals had him 28th at inside linebacker. He committed to his home-state Minnesota in April of 2004. In December of that year, Ohio State extended an offer and he quickly took an official visit. He committed to the Buckeyes following the visit, and went on to become a three-time All-American. He won the Butkus Award, the Lott Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Award, and the Lowe's Senior Class Award. He was a Lombardi Award semifinalist twice, a Butkus Award finalist three times, and a Nagurski Award finalist twice. He is seventh in Ohio State history in career tackles with 375.
2. A.J. Hawk
Hawk's rankings suffered due to injury, but forgive me if I don't forgive the experts. Scout's experts found 31 linebackers that they believed were better than Hawk in the 2002 class. Rivals liked Hawk a little better, ranking him the #30 outside linebacker. Hawk only went on to lead the Buckeyes in tackles three times, finishing his career as the fifth-leading tackler in OSU history (394). He won the 2005 Lombardi Award, and was a finalist for the Butkus Award that same season. He was a two-time All-American and went on to be drafted fifth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. And a bit of trivia that you probably weren't aware of, he married Brady Quinn's sister.
3. Malcolm Jenkins
Jenkins was so keen to earn an Ohio State offer that while at OSU's camp, he would repeatedly cut to the front of the line in order to get more reps so that he could show the coaches exactly what he was capable of. He did enough to earn an offer, and selected the Buckeyes over his home-state Rutgers. Rivals ranked Jenkins the #61 cornerback, while Scout had him as their #28 safety. Jenkins ended up being an All-American, and won the Thorpe Award in 2008. He was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection, and was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He was a second-team All-Pro selection in 2010.
4. Johnathan Hankins
Because of his size, Hankins was such a question mark that his home-state Wolverines weren't even sure that they wanted him. Ohio State had no such concerns, however. Hankins was a three-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals, and he didn't even rate among Rivals' defensive tackles. Scout saw fit to rank him their #48 defensive tackle. He played early as a freshman and started as a sophomore and junior, forgoing his senior season for the NFL Draft, where he is projected as a first round pick. He was an All-Big Ten First-Team selection this past season.
5. Bradley Roby
Roby was so under the radar that he was seen by most as a wide receiver. In fact, he originally committed to Vanderbilt to play receiver. Both services rated him a three-star prospect. Scout had him as their #44 cornerback and Rivals simply had him as a three-star receiver, but didn't bother rating him among his position group. Roby redshirted as a freshman, but you could tell that he was a difference-maker very early on in practice as a true freshman. Roby will be entering his third season as a starter, and most likely his last as he will have the opportunity to forgo his senior season to go and become a filthy millionaire in the NFL. He was named a First-Team All-American after last season, and will enter the 2013 season as a favorite for the Thorpe Award.
Bonus: Zach Boren
The services weren't sure what to make of Boren. Scout ranked him their #45 middle linebacker, and Rivals copped out almost completely, ranking him as their #78 athlete. He ended up being a four-year starter at fullback, and also somehow saved the season in 2012 by switching to middle linebacker.
Bonus: Brian Robiskie
Robiskie is the first two-star player on this list, which he earned from Scout. Rivals liked him a little better, giving him a third star and rating him the #61 wide receiver. He led the team in receiving twice, and is eighth in school history in career receptions (127). His 11 touchdown receptions in 2007 is good for fourth all-time at OSU, and his 24 career touchdowns is also fourth all-time at OSU.
Bonus: Kirk Barton
Scout rated Barton the #101 offensive linemen in his class. Rivals thought enough of him to rank him #60 at offensive tackle. Barton ended up being the first Buckeye to ever start and win four Michigan games. He was a First-Team All-American, a two-time All-Big Ten Selection, and is still an all-around good guy.
Bonus: Chimdi Chekwa
Chekwa was a two-star prospect by Scout, and a three-star by Rivals. Rivals called him the #45 cornerback in the class. He chose the Buckeyes over Maryland, committing to Ohio State days after receiving an offer. He was a First-Team All-American as selected by the Football Writers Association of America in 2009.
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