NEWS

Ohio State, Michigan at top of recruit's list

Todd Porter

An 18-year-old kid who has never taken a college football snap could extend Jim Tressel’s winning streak over Michigan. Or Terrelle Pryor could stop the Buckeye bleeding for the Wolverines.

Pryor, the nation’s most highly recruited high school quarterback, has Ohio State and Michigan at the top of his list. The school that lands Pryor will be viewed differently.

For Ohio State, it would do wonders toward putting a second straight national title loss behind them. Yes, he is that good, according to scouts.

New Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez could hit pay dirt without even coaching a game should he land Pryor.

“Honestly, he’s a bigger get for Michigan because of sheer need,” Scout.com National Editor Jamie Newberg said. “Rich Rodriguez’s system ultimately revolves around a quarterback like Terrelle Pryor. And they don’t have anything there.

“We’ve seen Ohio State succeed with Todd Boeckman and Troy Smith. I really believe it is more important for Michigan than it is for Ohio State. I don’t want to undervalue how important it is for Ohio State, because we’re talking about the best player in the country.”

Newberg believes Pryor will end up a Buckeye.

“He’s been to three places: Ohio State, Penn State a bunch because he lives there, and Pitt,” Newberg said. “Who knows what he’s going to do on signing day (Feb. 6), but I believe, based on what I know, it’s going to be Ohio State.”

Pryor has said he will visit Michigan the first week in February, a few days before signing day. He may visit Florida.

Hoop dreams

Even can’t-miss prospects miss. Most of the top high school quarterbacks the last six years have yet to make a difference in college. But, scouts and coaches agree, Pryor is a difference maker.

At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, he runs a sub 4.5-second 40-yard sprint. He led Jeannette (Pa.) High School to a state title and a 16-0 season. Along the way, Pryor threw for 1,790 yards and ran for 1,901. He’d also like to play basketball in college, and that is where Duane Long gives the edge to OSU.

“I believe Terrelle Pryor’s being more pragmatic about this than people think,” said Long, the recruiting editor for bucknuts.com and Ohio High magazine. “Look at Michigan. He just lost all his receivers there -- all of them. He lost the best running back, and the key left tackle is gone. When you want to build something, he has a better situation at Ohio State.

“Now, look beyond his God-given ability, and the kid is a winner. I don’t think he can handle losing. If you look at the basketball angle, Michigan’s basketball program is in the dumps. Thad Matta is as impressive a recruiter as Jim Tressel. If basketball impacts his decision, that’s hands down, Ohio State.”

Tressel has recruited Pennsylvania well in recent years. He typically will pluck one or two of that state’s top players every year. Quarterbacks Coach Joe Daniels recruits the state for OSU.

What about Boeckman?

But Pryor would have to compete for playing time in Columbus. The Buckeyes return starting quarterback Todd Boeckman, who did, after all, help lead Ohio State to a national title appearance.

Michigan is in need of a quarterback, specifically one who can run Rodriguez’s spread offense. Ryan Mallett has transferred. In his blog for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week, Pryor wrote that Michigan coaches told him he would have a good chance to start as a true freshman.

“They need a playmaker,” Long said. “The offense Coach Rodriguez wants to run -- on a scale of 1 to 10, (Pryor) is a 10 as far as running that offense. ... But I also think there is a talent problem at Michigan right now. This kid is such an upgrade at Michigan, he’s the most important recruit there in recent memory.”

The Buckeyes have 18 verbal commitments. It’s a class that already is ranked in the top 10 nationally with eight top-100 recruits and 10 players with either four- or five-star rankings.

“If they add Pryor, it’s the icing on the icing on the cake,” Long said.

Strength is up front

The foundation of OSU’s class is the offensive line. The Buckeyes have verbal commitments from Michael Brewster, J.B. Shugarts and Mike Adams, all five-star recruits ranked among the country’s top 10 linemen. OSU is waiting to hear from Josh Jenkins, a guard from West Virginia, who has every bit as much a reputation as the other three.

Jake Stoneburner is a four-star receiver who could grow into a tight end.

Etienne Sabino is a five-star linebacker from Miami.

“Sabino is a steal,” Newberg said. “That he escaped the Sunshine State is an absolute steal for Ohio State. ... Their class is phenomenal if they don’t get a single commitment from here. Ohio State and USC are putting together two of the best offensive line classes, arguable, that I’ve seen. ... This is really a stout class. They could stop now and have a stellar group.”

Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail todd.porter@cantonrep.com