Ohio Bobcats add 22 players, depth with 2013 recruiting class

With little fanfare backing it, Ohio Bobcats head football coach Frank Solich and recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Brian Haines took their seats at the forefront of a semi-crowded media room in Peden Stadium on Wednesday. The 5:30 p.m. press conference was called to discuss the future of the team by announcing the 2013 Ohio University football signing class, which is known as national signing day across the collegiate sports landscape.

Despite how competitive and essential media outlets, scouting websites and schools have made national signing day out to be, no number of stars or flashy highlight videos can accurately predict the impact that commits will have to specific team. This is especially true for non-BCS squads that nab four-star signees once in a blue moon and instead attract players who may not see playing time until their second season. Ohio hauled in 22 players in the 2013 class, including four junior college and prep school athletes, which accounted for fourth most in the MAC.

Here is a look at where the 22 recruits come from around (and outside of) the country and a look at their frame, position and schools they have attended:

But Solich and Haines don’t heavily rely on ratings compared to their face-to-face approach, positions that need to be addressed in regards to depth and detailed analyses of players who fit into the system that Ohio has ran for the past two seasons. Solich shed light on this theory by name-dropping a quarterback who recently participated in last week’s Super Bowl.

“Are there the Colin Kaepernicks out there? There definitely are,” Solich said, expanding on his statement about Kaepernick not even being one of the most heavily recruited quarterbacks in his home state of Wisconsin.

The Bobcats may have found themselves lower on the MAC totem pole of recruiting success this season, but their fifth-place ranking on Rivals.com (101 overall) and eighth-place finish on the 247Sports (109 overall) recruiting board within the MAC carries little weight. The Bobcats were ranked highest overall on Scout.com, ranking eighth in the MAC and 99 in the nation. Ohio sought after depleted positions following last season’s graduating class and added depth to injury-prone spots on the roster, and came away with another well-thought-out signing class despite having a top recruit de-commit a week prior.

Quarterback James Walsh from Dublin Coffman High School – the only quarterback recruit in Ohio University’s 2013 draft class – confirmed last Saturday that he would instead be heading to Boston College to play in the ACC. Walsh decided at the last second to choose BC in part to be closer to his father’s work in Boston. (His family plans to relocate according to ESPN.com.)

The loss is not to big for Ohio, Tyler Tettleton still has one more season under his belt and redshirt freshman Derrius Vick showed positive signs for the future in the playing time he saw in 2012. Ohio also believes in 2012 recruits JD Sprague and Greg Windham were on many radars one year ago.

“One guy doesn’t make a class, one guy doesn’t break a class,” Haines said in response to a question concerning Walsh de-committing.

The Dublin Coffman quarterback is currently ranked 39 in ESPN’s Top 100 Dual-threat Quarterbacks list, so it is a tough loss in that respect. However, Haines made it clear that the players they sought out to sign are listed as Bobcats on the roster as of right now.

Five defensive linemen were picked up, along with three wide receivers, offensive linemen and defensive ends. Two of those 14 players were from Fork Union Military Academy and two were JUCO players. The Fork Union association is through a connection with defensive coordinator Gerry Gdowski and defensive backs coach Fred Reed, who like players from that school due to their “fast, physical and aggressive” nature.

Their knowledge of Fork Union’s defensive backs led them to scoop up two cornerbacks from Fork Union, Jarid Brown and Dyquan Stewart. The tandem will be freshmen, Watson Tautuiaki and Cameron McLeod, on the other hand, will be going into their sophomore and junior seasons respectively. Their junior college experience helps, Ohio lost four key defensive linemen to graduation and these guys will come in ready to play.

Defensive line was also Ohio’s most depleted position last season, the enduring image of course being when Carl Jones and Neal Huynh were carted off the field together against Ball State. Coach Solich knew that the team needed to be built around the areas in which they required more depth.

“We’ve had more depth than we’ve ever had before in the program going into last season, but that was severely tested last year,” Solich said.

Haines has signed 41 players in his two years as recruiting coordinator and took care of the defensive line by picking up Tony Porter, a player most people refer to as mini-Sapp (After Warren Sapp) due to his quickness and power on the interior line.

Haines also signed defensive end Casey Sayles, an impact-type player as well in his own right. Sayles was named one of the top six recruiting prospects in Nebraska before the 2012 high school football season. Even though a lot of linemen had a chance to step up last season due to injuries, a young guy like Sayles could make a statement in the spring and grab a rotational spot.

Porter and Sayles, two out-of-state players, were a part of the 12 players who signed their letter of intent with Ohio outside of state lines. Defensive lineman Cleon Aloese is from a high school in America Samoa, he had just visited the school last week.

Nine players were from the stomping grounds of Ohio; however, and that is a trend that Solich and Haines both would like to see more of.

“Obviously Ohio is a state that we want to saturate in terms of recruiting and we want to get the best that we can out of the state of Ohio,” Solich said. “In saying that, when we first got here eight years ago, that was difficult to do.”

Things have changed over the course of Solich’s eight seasons with the Bobcats. Solich started off his first four years with a compiled record of 23-26, but followed the next four years with a mark of 36-18. The run of four straight bowl appearances allowed Ohio to enter the national spotlight, achieving a national ranking last season for just a short week. This trend has gotten more high schoolers – who are now opting to take unofficial visits to the campus – excited to be a part of the Bobcat program.

The national coverage, recent football success, changing of the offensive system to incorporate a higher rate of snaps and the beauty of Athens has become enough to attract star players within the state to come don the Green & White for the next four or so years. The education is of course also a very important selling point for recruiters, with all of that packaged together, Ohio has become a pretty attractive school.

Solich feels good about this class, and coming from a former successful Nebraska head coach, that means good things are in store for the future of the ‘Cats. Rankings carry little weight in the offseason; it’s the rankings that come out on Sunday that reflects the work being put in on the gridiron.

“I’m very happy with the class, top to bottom,” Haines said.

“Student athlete, the good size, speed, physical football players; that’s exactly what we were after and that’s what we got.”

Around the MAC:

  • Toledo ranked the highest among MAC schools on Rivals.com (70th overall), Ohio_Bobcats_imageScout.com (67) and 247Sports (73)
  • Toledo also nabbed two four-star recruits in wide receiver Rodney Adams and outside linebacker Delando Johnson according to 247Sports, and were ranked 81 and 79 out of 100 respectively according to ESPN.com
  • The Rockets also hauled in the largest recruiting class with 29 additions, continuing their recruiting dominance of the past four years
  • Every website has their rankings, but Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback is a true four-star commit and a first since they started keeping track of ratings in 2002
  • Defending MAC champions and Orange Bowl contestant Northern Illinois added 24 players from their recruiting class, adding to the mix of special-talent players.

Chris Longo contributed to this report.

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