In 2000, the Buckeyes were having a disappointing season. It had started out well with a 5-0 start, but a stunning loss to Minnesota in Ohio Stadium ended National Title dreams.
Losses to Purdue and hated rival Michigan raised the roar of Ohio State fans to a deafening level. An Outback Bowl loss sealed Coach John Cooper's fate and he was fired.
Ohio State turned to a man that embodied Ohio in his stoic "if-it-ain't-broke" attitude. Jim Tressel was a highly successful D-IAA coach at Youngstown State, winning four national titles.
He wasn't a big name and many fans were wary that his throwback style of offense would make Ohio State a dinosaur in modern college football.
His first season didn't do much on the field to inspire hope. It was a 7-5 season and included another Outback Bowl loss to the same South Carolina Gamecocks.
But off the field, Tressel was putting together one of the great classes in Ohio State history. This brings us to our first Tressel Class.
With the gift of hindsight, we can say this class was a total knockout. This class would go undefeated in bowl season, including a National Championship and two BCS games.
The premier names include Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith, and AJ Hawk, but it also includes names many Ohio State fans will recognize as great players: Datish, Salley, Carpenter, Mangold, Pittcock, Jay Richardson, and Holmes.
This class would tie a record for most players from one team taken in the first round of a draft.
These players are directly responsible for Ohio State's success during their time there and are likely in part responsible for the overrated-ness of later Ohio State teams.
This class was a little disappointing both for its size for a National Championship making the rounds, and for its talent depth.
The stars that came out of this class were both in the secondary: Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty, who both left for the NFL as juniors and are both starting on the Bills defense.
They were key players in the 2005 team. There were also eventual starters Kirk Barton and Todd Boeckman, but this class was a serious letdown for a National Championship coach.
A class of diamonds in the rough, the headliner of the group was Ted Ginn, Jr., who was originally a DB but was moved to WR for a premier big play threat.
Marcus Freeman and Vernon Gholston would also be All-Americans for the Buckeyes. A.J. Trapasso, Nader Abdallah, and Rory Nicol were also buried in this class.
On a whole, the class was more quantity than quality. Another slight letdown considering the number of high-rated players who disappeared.
Here is the class that just departed, with a huge amount of disappointment following their whole careers. Alex Boone was the prize of the class, a giant bookend for the Buckeye offensive line.
His career started with high hopes, but his play has never recovered from the schooling Derek Harvey gave him.
DE prospects Doug Worthington and Lawrence Wilson both have been slowed by injury, though Worthington came on at the end of 2008 as a DT.
The real quality of this class was found at its bottom end with All-Americans Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinaitis both ranked very low as prospects. Also Brian Robiskie, Anderson Russell, and Donald Washington III were here.
The individuals of this class were highly successful, but they were never able to get over that last game. In the only bowl victory they were present for they were all freshmen. It was an excellent job of finding under-the-radar players by Tressel, but he had yet to land a top five class.
Blue chip running back Chris Wells was this class, basically. DE Robert Rose was highly rated, but has yet to really hit the field in a major way. He should get a real chance in 2009.
Thaddeus Gibson was also found in this class, as well as Kurt Coleman, both good defensive players for Ohio State. Ray Small was also in this class, but his career has never really taken off, and now with clashes with Tressel there is little hope.
Another good couple of players, but the lack of depth in the last three classes seen in the 2002 class would hurt the Buckeyes.
A tiny class following the Buckeye trip to the National Championship. Very disappointing, a total inability to tap into Buckeye success of the last season.
All these players still have a real chance to start. The standouts thus far have been Brandon Saine and Boom Herron at RB, Cameron Heyward at DT, and Nate Oliver. Didn't give the Buckeyes the boost they needed to get over the top in 2007.
Ah. Tressel starts to recruit like an elite coach! Two huge tackle prospects (Mike Adams and Mike Brewster), an athletic QB prospect like this program has never seen (Terrelle Pryor), a possible No. 1 WR (DeVir Posey), speedy linebackers (Etienne Sabino and Andrew Sweat), a speedster (Lamaar Thomas), and several other highly rated prospects.
The first Top Five Recruiting Class since 2002 and a huge boost for the program.
The season isn't over yet but it's another great class and one word sums it up: speed. There is huge speed in this class: Dorian Bell at LB running a 4.5 40, Jaamal Barry at RB with a 4.43, WRs James Jackson with a 4.31, and Chris Fields with 4.4 and DB with a 4.41.
The Buckeyes were in desperate need of speed on the offense to help Pryor in his second year, and Tressel has delivered. This class isn't final yet, but it is currently ranked No. 2 by Rivals and No. 4 by ESPN.
After a real look back at the recruiting of Ohio State, it is little surprise that Ohio State struggled so after the last of the 2002 class left. The depth and success of talent on the team was not good. They had some excellent players, but far too many busts for this team to get over the top.
In short, this supports the idea that Ohio State has been overrated, living off the reputation of that 2002 class that dominated bowl season for four years.
There were enough of these Buckeyes left in 2006 for amazing season but not able to finish it off with a flat showing against Florida.
When the 2005 class took over, it just did not have the depth and development to be able to compete with the top teams. This isn't a knock against the elite players on these Ohio State teams; they will be drafted and have excellent NFL careers.
Too many injuries and setbacks among defensive line prospects, lack of O-line prospects, and lack of speed on the outside seriously hurt the Buckeyes.
It seems very clear that down periods in recruiting and weak Big 10 play have led to Ohio State struggles since their beating at the hands of Florida.
Ohio State fans will admit that OSU really wasn't ready for LSU in 2006, but we were happy for the shot since the rest of college football seemed happy to choke away their shot at the title.
Now the 2005 class has moved on and Tressel is starting anew with his first Top Five class since 2002. The 2008 class was a god-send for the Buckeyes desperate for a deep class of athletes.
Add the speed of the 2009 class, and Ohio State may be a legitimate contender with the top teams in college football again.
The 2008 and 2009 classes could set up Ohio State up for another big bowl game run, a mobile, strong armed QB with serious speed surrounding him and a bookended O Line.
On defense, the new Buckeyes at linebacker can just fly, and the secondary has always been a strong point of Tressel teams.
This turn in recruiting could bring Ohio State back to the first tier of college football. That said, it is a certainty they will not let the Buckeyes back in easily, and coming oh-so-close isn't going to cut it.
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