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February 14, 2010

Passing the torch

With signing day now long gone, the book is closed on Ohio's class of 2010 and the focus has turned to the class of 2011.

Ohio's 2010 crop was one of the best classes in recent history. From top to bottom, outstanding prospects dotted the landscape and earned plenty of distinctions along the way. Perhaps no better indicator was Ohio's imprint in the national all-star games, with six players selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and another for the Under Armour All-American Game.

One prospect earned the high school Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker and another became only the second two-time winner of Ohio's prestigious Mr. Football Award.

Now that the page has turned, how will Ohio's class of 2011 stack up? There are some big shoes to fill, but early indications are showing the new crop has a bright future.

Ohio Varsity takes a position-by-position look at the two classes and offers a verdict as to which class holds the upper hand.

Quarterback

Analysis: It was a strange year for the quarterbacks in the 2010 class. Moeller's Andrew Hendrix was an early commit to Notre Dame and spent most of the season as the clear-cut top quarterback in the state. But St. Ignatius' Mark Myers put together a huge senior year and leapfrogged Hendrix for that honor. Then there were plenty of late-bloomers (recruiting wise), with Verlon Reed getting an Ohio State offer and Luke Massa and Derek Roback joining Hendrix in South Bend right before signing day. With the exception of Reed, it was an impressive haul of big, traditional drop back quarterbacks.

The 2010 class has a decidedly different feel at the top, with its elite talent in the form of athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks. At the head of the class is highly-touted Braxton Miller, who could be the top dual-threat in the country. Right behind him is Glenville's Cardale Jones, an athletic specimen who could have an even higher upside. But there are also some pocket passers who have put up huge numbers, namely Dublin Coffman's Cole Stoudt and Ashland's Marcus Fuller.

Verdict: Call it even. 2010 had a better sampling of drop-back passers, but 2011 holds the athletic advantage. Both are above-average classes.


Running Back

Analysis: The running backs of the class of 2010 was a solid group from top to bottom. The top was highlighted by Rivals100 members Braylon Heard and Spencer Ware along with two-time Mr. Football Erick Howard. But even less heralded backs received BCS offers. There looks to be a big drop off in 2011. There is some talent, but no back near the level of Heard or Ware and the class doesn't appear to be as deep. Colerain's backfield tandem of Tyler Williams and Trayion Durham looks to be as good as it gets.

Verdict: No contest; 2010 is the stronger class. Unless some sleepers emerge, it appears 2011 will be a down year for RBs.


Wide Receiver/Tight End

Analysis: 2010 was the year of the big receiver, with several tall wideouts listed at or near the top of the class. Shaw's 6-foot-7 Tyrone Williams and Elder's 6-foot-4 Tim O'Conner are but two of many. The tight end position was strong, headlined by a pair of four-star Alexs: Lakota West's Alex Smith and Elder's Alex Welch.

2011's top wideouts aren't quite as big, but have some electric playmakers. Leading the class is diminutive Shane Wynn. Fellow Cleveland-area prospect Shaquille Washington also brings plenty of speed from a small package. A.J. Jordan and Austin Traylor are also top-flight prospects and add size to the class. Tight ends Ray Hamilton and Nick Vannett are on par with Smith and Welch.

Verdict: Another tie. Like the quarterbacks, there is lots of wideout talent in both classes, just in slightly different forms. The top two tight ends in each respective class are nearly identical.


Offensive Line

Analysis: Easily the most talented, deepest position group of the 2010 class was the offensive line. Three tackles (Matt James, Andrew Norwell and Andrew Donnal) were Army All-Americans and a handful of others were BCS recruits. The interior offensive line prospects were also stacked, led by the seventh-best center in the country Christian Pace.

It would be tough for any group of linemen to match up to last year's haul. The 2011 class has some impressive tackle prospects such as Aundrey Walker and Michael Bennett who could become Rivals250 members. Several others have the talent to emerge as BCS level prospects.

Verdict: Without question the 2010 class of offensive linemen trumps 2011. This new class has no chance of producing three All-Americans and doesn't appear to have quite the same depth. Also, no top-flight interior offensive linemen have emerged.



Defensive Line

Analysis: There were some very nice defensive line prospects in the 2010 class, but it wasn't Ohio's bread and butter. Ohio State commits Daryl Baldwin and J.T. Moore led the class at defensive end and Michigan commitTerry Talbott was the premier defensive tackle prospect.

Meanwhile, defensive end is the most stacked position in the class of 2011 with at least five players already identified as blue-chip level recruits. Ohio State has already snatched up two of the best, Canton McKinley's Steve Miller and Toledo Whitmer's Kenny Hayes. In addition, Brad Carrico, Jesse Hayes, and Brian Mihalik all boast impressive offer lists already. Holland Springfield defensive tackle Kevin Williams could emerge as one of the premier defensive tackles in the country.

Verdict: A strong advantage for the 2011 class. There should be at least 4-5 four-star or above prospects among the group whereas there were none in 2010.


Linebacker

Analysis: The 2010 crop of linebackers could be described as deep, with nearly 15 prospects earning three-star status. The cherry on top was of course Lakota West's Jordan Hicks, the nation's top outside linebacker. The 2011 group probably won't offer the same depth, but there are some gems at the top. Trey DePriest could see five-star status and be on par with Hicks. Jarrett Grace and Steven Daniels are members of the Rivals250 watch list.

Verdict: The 2010 class gets the ever-so-slight nod due to incredible depth, but the 2011 group could eventually trump it. DePriest, Grace and Daniels form an impressive triumverate at the top, but some others will need to emerge in the three-star range.

Defensive Back

Analysis: A pair of Army All-Americans from Glenville (Latwan Anderson and Christian Bryant) were the main headliners in 2010. Following them was a stable of solid three-star level prospects such as Courtney Avery and Terrence Talbott.

Only five defensive backs in the 2011 class currently hold offers, but several of them are elite-level prospects. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary cornerback Doran Grant should be one of the top cornerbacks in the country. Eastmoor safety Ron Tanner holds a big offer list and could be a four-star prospect. Fellow safety Eilar Hardy also is being courted by top 25 programs.

Verdict: I'll give 2011 the advantage here because I think they will be stronger at the top than the 2010 group. This of course, is assuming some players emerge as mid-level prospects.


Overall analysis: It's still very early in the recruiting process for the 2011 class, so esentially we're doing a book review on a story that hasn't yet had its final chapters written. But we are seeing the plot unfold and it's very intriguing. 2011 has the makings of another very strong class in Ohio.

I don't think 2011 will be viewed as a stronger class that 2010, but it's very much on par. Running back and offensive line are areas of weakness at this early juncture, but that could improve. Making up for it is an incredible crop of defensive linemen, some terrific dual-threat quarterbacks, and some elite defensive talents like DePriest and Grant.


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