COLUMBUS — Ohio State locked up 19 football recruits on Wednesday. Yet all anyone seemed to want to talk about was the one it didn’t get — at least not yet.
While thousands of kids across the country signed on the dotted line at major colleges, Terrelle Pryor, called by some the best quarterback prospect in the country, decided to wait. The Pennsylvania prep star said he will clear his head, perhaps visit Penn State and Oregon, and then make a choice between those schools, the Buckeyes and rival Michigan.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel met with reporters late in the afternoon and was prevented by NCAA rules from talking about prospective recruits. He could only hint at what Pryor’s addition might have meant to a recruiting class that various recruit services rate as one of the best in the country.
“We feel as if it’s exactly what we needed. We felt as if we could fit 20, maybe 21, in that that was going to be tight,” he said, as reporters chuckled at the obvious reference to Pryor. “We’re still recruiting as we speak and that’s about all we’re allowed to say about that. I guess we’re allowed to say we’re still recruiting at the quarterback position. I think that’s allowable. I can’t go much beyond that.”
Without Pryor, the Buckeyes will not have a quarterback in the 2008 recruiting class. It’s not as though it was a necessity, since starter Todd Boeckman returns for his senior season at quarterback and he will be backed by redshirt sophomore Antonio Henton and redshirt freshman Joe Bauserman.
Still, it’s always nice to groom a quarterback a year or two before you need him.
“I think we had planned on having a quarterback in this class,” Tressel said. “And so, yeah, in a perfect world — let’s get a quarterback in this class, and our plans would be further along.”
Coaches are permitted unlimited phone calls to those few recruits who are still out there, including Pryor, until Friday. Then they are limited to a call a week and are not allowed to go on the road at all, Tressel said.
So, the Buckeyes coaching staff — just like the staffs at Michigan, Oregon and Penn State — must wait to hear what the tall, fast and athletic Pryor will do next. He did not set a timeline for reaching a decision at a news conference in his hometown of Jeannette, Pa.
Tressel said that if Pryor did not end up signing with Ohio State, the Buckeyes would most likely bank the scholarship to give to a deserving walk-on in the fall or save it for next year’s recruiting class.
This year’s class of recruits is stocked with offensive linemen (three) and defensive linemen (five).
J.B. Shugarts, a 6-foot-8, 300-pound offensive lineman from Klein, Texas, challenged his classmates.
“Just the fact that we already know each other and we’re already coming together as a family, that’s what sets us over the top with all these other schools like USC and Florida,” he said, wearing an Ohio State jersey and dress pants. “So I think it’s going to be really special and you can get prepared for a lot of national championships.”
That prompted Tressel to caution, “Easy, J.B.”
Shugarts and fellow offensive behemoth Michael Brewster (6-5, 300, from Orlando, Fla.) enrolled at Ohio State in January and will be available for spring workouts. Four other incoming freshmen will start taking classes in March.
Shugarts, Brewster and Dublin Coffman’s Mike Adams (6-8, 310) were all considered among the top blockers available. But without Pryor, who several publications listed as the No. 1 recruit overall in the nation, or a tailback, Ohio State’s class dropped somewhat in stature.
“We talk about the recruiting rankings for about 48 hours, and then we start talking about spring practice,” Tressel said. “But I think this group is going to be ranked pretty high.”
That, of course, will be decided once the games begin.
Elsewhere around Ohio, Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly announced 24 signees. The Bearcats return 16 starters from a team that went 10-3 and won its bowl game last year.
“We believe that we addressed both the offensive and defensive skill position needs of our program immediately and in the future,” Kelly said. “There are some kids in those position groups that can impact our program now and in the future.”
The Bearcats mined the local talent pool, taking six players from the Cincinnati area.
Ohio’s other major programs — Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami, Ohio, Toledo and (Football Championship Subdivision) Youngstown State — also restocked their shelves on the first day for the signing of national letters of intent. Some put some miles on the odometer.
Toledo, for example, got 23 signatures — from eight other states, including four players from Florida.
“We went far and wide to get the best football players available,” Rockets coach Tom Amstutz said. “We competed against the highest level of schools we could and came away with some victories.”
Again, February victories are a long way from what happens in the fall.
OHIO STATE RECRUITS
• Mike Adams, ol, 6-7, 305, Dublin (Ohio) Coffman HS
• Michael Brewster, ol, 6-6, 300, Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater HS
• Ben Buchanan, k/p, 6-0, 185, Westerville (Ohio) Central HS
• Nic DiLillo, te, 6-5, 245, Madison (Ohio) HS
• Zach Domicone, s/lb, 6-2, 210, Beavercreek (Ohio) HS
• Garrett Goebel, dt, 6-4, 270, Lombard (Ill.) Montini Catholic HS
• Travis Howard, wr/cb, 6-1, 170, Miami Dr. Michael M. Krop HS
• Orhian Johnson, db, 6-2, 178, Gulfport (Fla.) Boca Ciega HS
• Jermil Martin, fb/olb, 5-11, 215, Cleveland Glenville HS
• Willie Mobley, de, 6-2, 263, Eden Prairie (Minn.) HS
• DeVier Posey, wr, 6-3, 190, Cincinnati La Salle HS
• Shawntel Rowell, dt/og, 6-2, 330, Cleveland Glenville HS
• Etienne Sabino, lb, 6-3, 230, Miami Dr. Michael M. Krop HS
• J.B. Shugarts, ol, 6-7, 285, Klein (Texas) HS
• Jake Stoneburner, te/wr, 6-5, 220, Dublin (Ohio) Coffman HS
• Andrew Sweat, mlb, 6-2, 233, Washington (Pa.) Trinity HS
• Lamaar Thomas, rb/wr, 5-10, 178, Ft. Washington (Md.) Friendly HS
• Keith Wells, de, 6-5, 235, Gainesville (Ga.) HS
• Nathan Williams, de/lb, 6-4, 245, Washington Court House (Ohio) Miami Trace HS