Buckeyes welcome 15 recruits

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Almost exactly a month after Ohio State’s meltdown at the hands of Florida in the national championship game, coach Jim Tressel welcomed 15 recruits who were not swayed by the lopsided loss.

“I’m not sure how many guys we had committed prior to Jan. 8,” he said, referring to the day the top-ranked Buckeyes were pounded 41-14 by the Gators. “I can’t picture anyone we lost because of that. (We) probably faced more serious questions from ourselves than we did from them.”

Ohio State locked up 15 players on Wednesday, the first day for the signing of national letters of intent.

The headline players were Ohio Associated Press Mr. Football Brandon Saine, a running back from Piqua, and Cincinnati Colerain defensive back Eugene Clifford.

“He is so fast,” running backs coach Dick Tressel, Jim Tressel’s older brother, said of Saine, a state sprint champion. “He can be an athlete who can play anywhere.”

Clifford is a lockdown cornerback that could see playing time right away.

“We feel he has all the attributes to be a great corner here,” cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman said.

Although ranking recruiting classes is a crapshoot, several national scouting services were in agreement that the Buckeyes had only a mediocre year.

Rivals.com had the Buckeyes taking only one (Saine) of the top 50 players in the country – and he was listed at No. 50. The Web site listed Ohio State as 16th best in the country, with Michigan at No. 10.

Recruiting guru Tom Lemming’s top 100 recruits included just two Ohio State signees, Saine at No. 29 and Clifford at No. 32.

SuperPrep had the Buckeyes listed 14th in the nation. Florida was No. 1, followed by Texas, Tennessee, LSU and USC, with Michigan three spots ahead of Ohio State.

Asked if fans should give much credence to such recruiting experts, Tressel facetiously said, “Those guys are brilliant! I don’t know how much stock they should put in our choices. You’ve got to find out how good the guys are. You do your best to evaluate.”

Ohio State could have signed 19 or 20 players, but missed out on some big names and then elected to go with a smaller class to bank the extra scholarships for next year, when the Buckeyes are expected to lose only a handful of players to graduation.

“There were obviously 10 guys or more that we offered that we didn’t end up with (this year),” Tressel said. “But I will say this, we did want to end up with less than the number of scholarships we could fill because we didn’t want to recruit eight, nine or 10 next year.”

Tressel said he and his coaches have only had one viewing of the video from the national championship game.

“We have not sat down and made an autopsy or anything like that,” he said.

Elsewhere around Ohio campuses, new Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly received 22 signatures.

“We looked at kids that we felt strong about character-wise,” he said. “We would not take athletes that we didn’t feel met the criteria of character and academics.”

Kent State grabbed 25 players and Akron (24), Miami (23), Ohio (22), Youngstown State (22) and Bowling Green (20) also restocked their shelves.

Toledo coach Tom Amstutz got 20 players to sign on the dotted line, with half coming from out of state.

“It takes a lot of traveling to recruit a class like this,” Amstutz said. “We traveled to Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, Tennessee. We also went to every nook and cranny of Ohio to find the best players possible.”