January 11, 2012

Looking at 2013: Offense

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While the next few weeks will mostly be spent wrapping up the 2012 recruiting class, it's definitely not too early to start talking about the 2013 crop. Urban Meyer and his staff have started peppering the nation with offers to elite junior prospects. Though there are still nearly 13 months until National Signing Day for the class, the picture is starting to become clearer about which targets will be the major keys to a strong haul in 2013. Below, we start this two part series with a position-by-position look at some of the key targets on the offensive side of the football.

Quarterbacks (Need: 1-2)

The quarterback position will be of the utmost importance to Ohio State in the 2013 class. The Buckeyes have a star in the making in Braxton Miller but not much along the lines of proven commodities behind him. Ideally, Ohio State could land two excellent signal callers in the class, however the toughest thing to do in a recruiting class is to land two big-time quarterbacks so getting at least one will be critical.

Early on, a pair of in-state prospects are getting the most attention in Kettering Archbishop Alter product Malik Zaire and Kent Roosevelt's Tra'von Chapman.

Zaire holds an offer from Ohio State and lists the Buckeyes along with Wisconsin among his top two. A lefty, Zaire is a tremendous athlete with a big arm. Zaire throws a pretty ball and can really spin it and fit it into tight spaces. The early question about Zaire is the type of offense he has played in, Alter is primarily a triple-option team (with some shotgun mixed in) so Zaire doesn't get much of an opportunity to air it out. When he does, however, Zaire has shown the ability to make all of the throws and will only need to work on shortening his delivery.

For Chapman, the outstanding talent burst onto the scene this year by putting up nearly 3,000 yards passing and over 500 yards rushing in Roosevelt's spread offense. Chapman has a quick release and can really spot the deep ball well. Chapman is also well built with a strong lower body and can handle carrying the football between the tackles. The Buckeyes have not yet offered Chapman but the interest has increased tremendously in recent weeks.

While some other national candidates will certainly emerge on the Ohio State radar, landing one of these two would be good news for Ohio State fans, landing both would be almost a dream scenario.

Running Backs (Need: 1)

By landing two good backs in the 2012 class, Meyer and company are in a great position to be picky in the 2013 class. The depth chart is in good hands for the foreseeable future which means the Buckeyes have the luxury of only going after the cream of the crop nationally.

Ohio State has been very aggressive with its offers to running backs early on in the process. The Buckeyes have offers out to six national level prospects at the position, five from the Southeastern part of the United States. At the moment, the most realistic of the group seems to be Richmond (Va.) Hermitage product Derrick Green. Green has camped at Ohio State the last two years and is the former teammate of current linebacker Curtis Grant. Green has consistently listed the Buckeyes among his top schools and they should be in the thick of this race until the very end.

While the other five offered backs (Ty Isaac, Ryan Green, Greg Bryant, Keyante Green, and Adam Lane) should all be considered long shots, you can never count out Meyer in recruiting, especially in Florida.

Landing any of the above six prospects would be a home run.

Wide Receivers (Need: 2-3)

With Meyer's spread offense coming to town, depth at the receiver position becomes even more important as Meyer is willing to rotate up to 6-7 receivers in and out of the game if he has enough playmakers at the position. Without knowing what the final verdict is going to be in the 2012 class, the number for this position in 2013 is very fluid at the moment but there is no question that Meyer is looking to add more speed to the position.

Early, six receivers around the nation are claiming Ohio State verbal offers. In Ohio, the key target is Cleveland Heights speedster Shelton Gibson. Gibson is the No. 6 ranked player in Ohio in the BuckeyeGrove.com class of 2013 rankings and is one of the most electric receivers to come out of the state in recent years.

Meyer has made a big impression on Gibson, who was all set to commit to Auburn about six weeks ago, and now Ohio State will be in a battle with the Tigers for Gibson's services.

The Buckeyes have already offered three prospects out of the state of Florida in Travis Johnson, Richard Benjamin, and Jordan Cunningham. While all three will be tough pulls, the Buckeyes appear to be in the best shape with Johnson who lists Ohio State among his early favorites.

At 6-foot-4, 204-pounds, Johnson is an interesting prospect because of his size and physical nature. As he fills out, he could turn into a WR/TE hybrid which is the type of player that Meyer has always liked to use in his offense to create mismatches.

Another big target to keep an eye on is Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley star Robert Foster. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound prospect already holds offers from some of the nation's top programs, including the Buckeyes. Foster didn't seem to be too enamored with Ohio State before the Meyer hire but things have moved in a more positive direction recently to the point where he could be a legitimate target.

Tight Ends (Need: 1-2)

One position where Ohio State fans are going to have to make an adjustment in how they view things is the tight end position. Meyer's spread offense will see a lot of passes thrown to tight ends and because of that; there will likely be a greater number of tight ends on the roster moving forward. The Buckeyes will lose two tight ends after next season but should still have three on the roster when the 2013 class hits campus. Still, if they can land two big-timers at the position, they will likely take both.

So far, only one offer has went out at the position and it came on Tuesday afternoon to Camp Hill (Pa.) Cedar Cliff product Adam Breneman. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound prospect will be right at or near the top of the list of best tight ends in the nation for the 2013 class. Ohio State will have some stiff competition to land Breneman who is quickly picking up offers from just about every major college power east of the Mississippi River.

The other big target at the position right now is Naples (Fla.) Barron Collier product Mike Heuerman. Heuerman is the younger brother of current Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman but is a different type of player than his brother. Heuerman is the type of tight end that can split out wide and stretch the field and is a great fit for what Meyer typically wants to do on offense with the tight ends. If offered, Ohio State would move right near the top of Heuerman's list.

In Ohio, the top tight end prospect right now is Pickerington North product Jake Butt. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder is another highly regarded prospect that fits in well with Meyer's system. If the Buckeyes offer an in-state guy at the position, this would appear to be the guy at the top of the list. Butt is also an excellent defensive end prospect.

Offensive Tackles (Need: 2-3)

This is another position where things are very fluid and will depend on how the 2012 crop finishes out. It is no secret that there is a shortage of pure tackles on the Ohio State roster right now and that won't be fixed in just the 2012 class but will take back-to-back strong hauls to shore up. Early on, Ohio State has handed out three verbal offers at the position, two of which are to prospects from the state of Illinois in Logan Tuley-Tillman and Ethan Pocic.

Pocic was just offered on Tuesday evening and the Buckeyes joined an offer list that includes just about every single school in the Midwest. With the offer coming less than 24 hours ago, it's too early to tell where Ohio State stands with Pocic but Meyer and company will certainly put on the full court press.

With Tuley-Tillman, the early word is that the athletic tackle is a Michigan lean. With offers from all over the country, Tuley-Tillman will not be an easy pull but just like with Pocic, that won't prevent Meyer and his staff from doing everything they can to get his attention.

The third tackle that has been offered is Celina (Tex.) product Jake Raulerson. Raulerson has an interesting connection to Columbus as his Mom travels to Ohio's capital regularly on business. Pulling prospects out of Texas is about as tough as it gets but the Buckeyes will have a puncher's chance in this race.

Evaluations are still going on in the state of Ohio at the offensive tackle position but Centerville product Evan Lisle is a name that every Midwest recruiting fan should have in mind. Lisle is big, physical, smart, and athletic and still has plenty of room to go before reaching his ceiling.

Offensive Guards and Centers (Need: 1-2)

Though not as dire of a need as tackles, it is important to bring in quality linemen in every single recruiting cycle. With plenty of guards on the roster already, this will definitely be an area where Ohio State can be very selective in the 2013 class. So far, the Buckeyes have not yet offered an interior offensive lineman in the class and there has not been a ton of buzz around many prospects at the position.

In Ohio, Cincinnati Moeller's Alex Gall has drawn plenty of attention from college programs, including Ohio State. Gall plays tackle for Moeller but is not really a tall, long-armed athlete and is likely headed for guard at the next level.

Staying in Ohio, Springboro's Sean Welsh is another player that has impressed early on and will draw some nice offers before all is said and done.

Yet another Southwest Ohio prospect to keep an eye on is Cincinnati Colerain's Dylan Wiesman. Wiesman is in the Alex Gall mold in that he plays tackle for his high school team but will almost surely move inside at the next level.

Overall, this is one area where a lot of prospects will start to emerge over the spring and summer.

Athletes (Need:1-2)

Meyer's offense has always thrived on having versatile players at the skill positions, guys who can lineup in multiple spots, whether it's the slot, split out wide, playing running back, or taking shotgun snaps out of the wildcat. In the 2013 class, the guy who best fits that mold is electric Middletown (Ohio) athlete Jalin Marshall.

There is no question that Marshall is right near the top of any Ohio State fan's wish list for the 2013 class and Marshall is getting the full court press from the Ohio State coaching staff. While the position is still in question, Marshall is a player that simply makes things happen and puts the ball in the end zone and the Buckeyes will do everything in their power to secure a commitment from Ohio's No. 2 overall prospect.


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