Recruiting Analysis: Ohio Inks MAC's Top Class Print E-mail
Written by Brian Golden   
Wednesday, February 20 2008
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ImageAnother football recruiting class has been inked by MAC schools and MAC Report Online's recruiting analyst, Brian Golden, breaks them all down from top to bottom. Golden looks at who inked the top class, which players could start immediately and identifies some sleepers to watch.


1. Ohio
8. Miami
2. Toledo
9. Akron
3. Temple
10. Bowling Green
4. Western Michigan
11. Eastern Michigan
5. Kent State
12. Ball State
6. Central Michigan
13. Northern Illinois
7. Buffalo

Team Summaries

 OhioBobcats_color_small.jpg1) Ohio Bobcats



At a Glance:

Grade:  A
Sure Fire Prospect:  Boo Jackson, QB
Sleeper:  Neal Huynh, DE
Needed More:  nada


Breaking It Down:
No one is talking much about this Ohio class, but I'm impressed. Frank Solich has brought in 20 players, 4 JUCO talents, something promising in every position group, and more players receiving elevated stars from Rivals and Scout than any other team in the league.

Let's start at DB, where Bobcat-to-be Hilton Dawson might be the best defensive player inked by any team in the league. Dawson has pretty good size, which he used for 75 tackles at a good JUCO (El Camino CC, California). One recruiting site ranked him the 12th best safety in the country, and Rivals called him the 48th best junior college player in the entire nation. Dawson was an all-stater in high school on a team that finished its season ranked 18th nationally by USA today.

Coming along with Dawson for the ride from the CPT is QB Boo Jackson, who garnered four stars from Scout. Jackson was an honorable mention All-America in the JUCO ranks, and will certainly make the MAC's all-name team, if nothing else. But Jackson brings with him the promise of a new day for Ohio's passing attack, which has been the biggest thing crippling its offense for the last two years of the Solich reign. I'll be surprised if Jackson isn't starting very soon.

There is also three-star talent at DE (Tremayne Scott) and S (Gerald Moore & Patrick Tafua). There's a potential contributor at every position. This is the MAC's best class of 2008.

Grade: A

Toledo Rockets

At a Glance:

Grade:  A-
Sure Fire Prospect:  Sam Gaymon, WR
Sleeper:  Jonathan Lamb, DL
Needed More:  offensive linemen



Breaking It Down:
There are no standout big-time talents in Toledo's 2008 class, just a bunch of solid athletes. Don't fret, Rocket fans - Toledo Tom got exactly what he needed after a 2007 campaign that saw the Rockets short on consistency and long on injuries.


Amstutz went north to Eastern Michigan territory (kind of) to nab WR Sam Gaymon. Scouts from both Rivals and Scout liked Gaymon enough to make him a three-star prospect, and the Redford product also earned accolades from each service as a top 20 player in the state of Michigan. Toledo also got a nice WR pickup from Buckeye country, sealing a commitment from Kenny Stafford, the nephew of NFL great Chris Carter.

In addition to 4 wide outs, the Rockets picked up a staggering 7 commitments from defensive backs, meaning half the class is in town to improve the pass game on one side of the ball or the other. The mammoth haul on the edge addresses a big need after the 2007 Rockets put up very little fight in the defensive secondary. The class is still a little heavy on d-backs for my liking, but I applaud the desire to address a need.

Amstutz also worked hard at putting more bodies on the defensive line, recruiting 5 defensive front men, and a class sleeper might be Johnathan Lamb, a 6-foot-4 DL from Southfield, MI. Hmm. Tall, athletic, basketball player from Southfield, MI...sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the resume Eastern Michigan stopper Jason Jones brought to the MAC West.

Grade: A-

3) Temple Owls

At a Glance:

Grade:  B+
Sure Fire Prospect:  Muhammad Wilkerson, LB
Sleeper:  Anthony Rapley, CB
Needed More:  wide receivers



Breaking It Down:
Come on, stranger - there's enough room for you on the Al Golden Bandwagon. Golden has the Owls making big strides both on the field and in the recruiting derby. The thing I like most about Golden is his long-term vision. He's led the Temple program to rethink its scheduling, tackling out of conference games with mostly northeastern powers like UConn, Rutgers and Penn State in an attempt to build a presence in Temple's geographical home. Then he goes out and gets quality players from that very region. The guy's got a plan. The only question is: can Temple keep him long enough to see it through?

Despite losing just a couple players from last year's squad, Golden signed 26 new athletes to become Owls in 2008. There's no panic on the Temple staff either, as only one of the new players comes to Philly as a non-freshman. Lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is a hold over from Golden's 2007 class who ultimately went to Hargrave Military Academy for a year to get his affairs in order before coming to Temple. Right now, Golden sees Wilkerson as a pass rusher, and a player of his caliber could really help the Temple defense create turnovers and attack QBs.

If you want an athletic sleeper in the class, Anthony Rapley could do the trick. The incoming freshman from Atlanta plans to be a two-sport player at Temple, with hoops on his resume as well as a college-ready, 6-foot-3, 210 lb. frame. The dude had offers to play roundball at home state schools Georgia and Georgia Tech, and Golden snagged him. Impressive - I have an inkling Rapley might be headed for a future in the secondary, but who knows. From the sounds of it, he's a great guy to have on your squad, period.

Grade: B+

4) Western Michigan Broncos

At a Glance:

Grade:  B+
Sure Fire Prospect:  Doug Wiggins, CB
Sleeper:  Mitch Zajac, LB
Needed More:  offense


Breaking It Down:
Bill Cubit and staff had a clear point of emphasis this season: defense. By my count, 15 of the 25 Bronco signees come to Kalamazoo ready to play on the defensive side of the ball. Western defined its 2007 season with crucial breakdowns; the meltdown moment of the year came against rival CMU, when the Bronc D let the Chips march straight down the field for a late game stunner at Waldo.

WMU got what they were after this signing period, with a lot of defensive athletes from all over the map. There are new Broncos from 11 states, and only four members of the new class are from Michigan, a good sign in my book for a program that struggles to compete for bodies against the big daddies in its backyard. Another thing I like about this class is how many of its members come from winning high school traditions. According to the school, 13 of the 25 incoming players won conference or state titles in high school. Winning is a habit, and for the Broncos to get back on par with the Chips in the MAC West, Cubit needs to bring in a lot of these players for whom that habit is already formed.

WMU has a bona fide pipeline at N. Miami Beach HS in Miami, and CB Doug Wiggins and RB Aaron Winchester will join current Broncos Louis Delmas, EJ Biggers, Schneider Julien, Anthony Parker and Andy Dorcely as NMBHS alums at Western. That's an absolutely remarkable collection of talent to bring from Miami to Kalamazoo, and Wiggins certainly adds to the bunch. But how long will he last? Wiggins left Miami after less than half of his redshirt season; Internet message boards were abuzz with rumors that he'd had a spat with coaches and was spotted around campus wearing enemy Florida State gear after leaving the team. Whatever the issue, Cubit is hoping that Wiggins feels more at home in Kalamazoo than he did in Miami.

Overall: B+

Kent State Golden Flashes


At a Glance:

Grade:  B
Sure Fire Prospect:  Josh Pleasant, CB
Sleeper:  Jharron Armstrong, CB
Needed More:  linemen


Breaking It Down:
Not to sound like a broken record, but there's reason for hope in Dix Stadium. Despite yet another disappointing campaign, the Golden Flashes enter another year with good young talent, experienced leadership, and the best uniforms in the league. Additionally, the 2008 recruiting class features more high-profile grabs than any other squad in the conference.

After getting early sniffs from Ole Miss, Tennessee and Virginia Tech, CB Josh Pleasant dropped off the radar of those BCS programs and committed to Doug Martin and Kent State. Rivals listed Pleasant as the 20th best prep school talent in the land, and he sounds like a man with a plan - the future business major spent a year at Hargrave to boost his stock despite being just fine academically. Pleasant should step in and contend for a starting spot immediately, both in the secondary and returning kicks.

The league's recurring theme this year was defense - perhaps embarrassed by the league's subpar showing on the defensive side of the ball in 2007, almost every coach stockpiled defenders, and Doug Martin was no exception. By my count, 6 or 7 of KSU's 22 signees are defensive backs, a breakdown that feels a lot like Temple's. Jharron Armstrong is a DB that might have slipped under some bigger programs' radars because he's a bit light; but after being the MVP of Washington D.C.'s high school football championship, he looks like he could bring some big game chops to Dix.

How can you not like a track star with the last name Hurdle? Future KSU QB Matthew Hurdle comes to northeast Ohio from Richmond, Virginia where he was a three-sport competitor as a runner, pitcher and QB. Martin claims Hurdle has tremendous arm strength; if his downfield accuracy is better than returning Kent QB Julian Edelman, Hurdle might be getting his name changed to Starter by year's end.

Grade: B

6) Central
Michigan Chippewas


At a Glance:

Grade:  B
Sure Fire Prospect:  Ryan Radcliff, QB
Sleeper:  Paris Cotton, RB
Needed More:  tacklers


Breaking It Down:
On the heels of back-to-back MAC crowns, Central Michigan snagged 10 of its 22 players from the Sunshine State during a season when its coach almost left to man the West Virginia Mountaineers. Recruiting for players in Florida is like mining in California during the gold rush - you'd have to be trying NOT to find great talent.

Unlike everyone else in the league, the Chips didn't go nuts on defensive backs; CMU added three talented RBs to its stable, however, with Jahleel Addae, Paris Cotton and Bryan Schroeder. I really stand strong behind Central's attitude of stockpiling offensive playmakers. I think the success CMU had this year in grabbing Frosh of the Year Antonio Brown and using him in a few different spots on the field has encouraged classes like this RB corps, and it can only help them make big plays down the road.

Speaking of playmakers, will Ryan Radcliff be the next Dan LeFevour? To the chagrin of MAC opponents, Danny L isn't leaving Mt. Pleasant anytime soon, but what's worse, Butch Jones might have found a look-alike to fill his Nikes in a couple years. Radcliff looks a bit like the reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and apparently the kid can play too. After bombing for 4,600 yards and 57 scores in his junior campaign, Radcliff topped it in a senior season that featured 4,700 yards and 64 TDs. Radcliff ranks second among all-time Ohio high school passers in yards and touchdowns. Five years from now, will we be marveling at how another Ben Roethlisberger slipped past the Big Ten?

All in all, the Chips obviously didn't need to do a ton to get better as the two-time defending MAC champs. I would have liked to see a few more linebackers in the class, as CMU suffered some breakdowns on D last year, and Armond Staten of Detroit is the only LB in the mix. It's a solid effort from Butch Jones; not a great one, but one good enough to continue Central's success in to the future.

Grade: B

Buffalo Bulls


At a Glance:

Grade:  B
Sure Fire Prospect:  Darius Willis, QB
Sleeper:  Gozhan Ozkan, OL
Needed More:  WRs


Breaking It Down:
Fourteen of the Bulls' twenty prospects look to contribute on defense, one step in the long process to bring a wealth of talented depth back to Buffalo. The Bulls are pretty stocked at the offensive skill positions for the next couple years, so the move makes sense. We will never know just how closely Turner Gill flirted with the Nebraska job opening, but I think we'll know soon that this recruiting class is one of the MAC's underrated groups.                 

Gill went to Texas to get a few prospects, including C Graham Whinery a lineman with football genes and a mean streak. Whinery's father played at Auburn, his grandfather played at Notre Dame, and his Lone Star bloodlines and size make me think he could play sooner, rather than later. Another Texan who comes to Buffalo with a college body is QB/LB Darius Willis who logged a sky-high 130 tackles his senior season and was a second-teamer on Texas' 5A All-State team. That's elite company, and he's going to contribute at Buffalo, the only question is where.

There are 8 linebackers in this group, and you have to think Gill and staff have plans to move some of those guys; there's no way a staff this smart would load up with 8 LBs in the same class if they were all staying put. The ultimate sleeper in the entire MAC might be monster Gokhan Ozkan, a 6-foot-7, 300 lb. beast from Staten Island, NY, who earned All-League honors as a lineman on both sides of the ball. He's got footwork to practice, but if he gets there...look out.

Grade: B

8) Miami RedHawks


At a Glance:

Grade:  B-
Sure Fire Prospect:  Zac Dysert, QB
Sleeper:  Luke Kelly, LB
Needed More:  defense


Breaking It Down:
This is a pretty ho-hum class from the defending MAC East champion Redhawks. Miami took a step in the right direction by going after 11 offensive players, following a year that saw them play at times embarrassing offense but get bailed out again and again by a ball-hawking defense.

One of the brightest stars on offense look to be QB Zac Dysert, who will try to succeed in the Roethlisbergian shadow that will follow Oxford quarterbacks for a long, long time. Time will tell, of course, if any of the bevy of speedy playmakers brought in by the Redhawks will become big-time playmakers. A little explosiveness could go a long way on this offense, and WR Julian Harrell, TE Trevor Behmke and K Jim Broadway should all add some consistency to positions that suffered at times last year.

Over on the defensive side, there are only 6 athletes. Coach Shane Montgomery said on signing day that this "selectivity" was due to last year's emphasis on offense. It's a bad move, and even if Montgomery is telling the truth, this dramatic overcompensation is a bad way to recruit. Good programs follow the Solich model of bringing in 1 or 2 players at every position, every year. Of the 6 D-men, Luke Kelly is a wide, strong linebacker that fits right in the mold of the LBs that made Miami successful in '07.

Grade: B-

9) Akron Zips


At a Glance:

Grade:  B-
Sure Fire Prospect:  Ryan Bain, DL
Sleeper:  Hasan Hazime, DE
Needed More:  size


Breaking It Down:
The Zips are getting three athletes that didn't click at big-time programs, and it will be very interesting to see which, if any, make an impact on the field this fall.

The players in question are Ryan Bain, a Jr. DL from Iowa, Jeremy Bruce, a Jr. WR from West Virginia and Andrew Johnson, a Sr. RB from Miami. Bain could be the biggest haul. With two years to play in the Rubber City, the junior-to-be comes to Akron after starting four contests in Iowa's 2006 campaign. Bain was named to the Lemming and US Army All-America teams as a high school linebacker, and he'll come to J.D. Brookhart's squad already 2-0 vs. the MAC. Bain brings toughness, too: he was a fifth ranked wrestler in the nation in his high school days.

Like every other MAC squad under the sun, pass defense was a priority, as the Zips landed six d-backs, including east coast sleeper Josh Richmond from Passaic, NJ and hometown product Will Fleming, son of Akron d-coordinator Jim Fleming. If he gains a little weight, you'd have to think the 6-foot-4 Fleming would be as well poised as any recruit to make an impact in Dad's 3-3-5 configuration.

There might not be another recruit in the entire league who could be as great or as unimpressive as Hasan Hazime, Akron's freshman defensive end. Akron's got him at 6-6, 245, Rivals has him at 6-5, 235, but nobody really has any idea what the kid will be in college. He could be as great a find as Jabari Arthur, who attended the same Canadian prep school, but the competition is so different in the Great White North, you can't make a lot of his stats or high school accomplishments. I do know this - he was the MVP of a Canadian summer league as a member of a team called the Toronto Thunder. Scared yet?

Grade: B-

10) Bowling Green Falcons


At a Glance:

Grade:  B-
Sure Fire Prospect:  Andrew Beam, QB
Sleeper:  Keith Morgan, ATH
Needed More:  bodies


Breaking It Down:
The Falcons have a small class so concern number one is making sure a high number of the group qualifies and stays in school. The class as a whole is thick on defensive backs, as 6 of the 18 players come to BGSU intending on playing in the secondary. Marquise Quiles was a nice get from Sugar Hill, Georgia, where he racked up 7 picks and a stellar 10 blocked kicks in his last two seasons in high school. There seems to be a trend of bringing in major ball hawks in this year's class, and Robert Lorenzi comes in with a chance to make an immediate impact. Lorenzi spend two years at Laney College in California, where he snagged 14 picks in his two seasons.

Moving past the secondary, BGSU seemed to do what hardly anyone else in the league did this recruiting period: emphasize the offensive line. It's fascinating to look merely at the stat sheets of a team's recruits and see a distinct difference in style. Whereas Ball State recruited a slew of smaller, faster guys, the Falcons clearly took a distinctively disparate approach. The weights of BGSU's 5 OL recruits are 300, 275, 340, 300 and 315. Casey McHugh is the JUCO pickup of the bunch, and despite being the lightest, enters at 6-foot-6, 275 lbs., which a chance to contribute immediately.

So, that's 6 DB, 5 OL and a mere 7 "other". Who are they? QB Andrew Beam is the highest-ranked of the outfit, getting a three-star designation from Scout and racking up a 23-4 record as a starter at Escalon High in California. Beam earned second-team all state honors in high school and, hopefully, comes to BGSU even more seasoned after two years at a California JUCO. Of the rest, Keith Morgan could be exciting - he enters with the ATH tag coming off a senior season that saw him score 17 times and grab 5 picks.

Grade: B-

11) Eastern Michigan Eagles


At a Glance:

Grade:  B-
Sure Fire Prospect:  Eric Morrison, DB
Sleeper:  Kalven Seilis, DE
Needed More:  offensive playmakers


Breaking It Down:
EMU brought in 25 players on signing day, and I'm all about the struggling programs stockpiling bodies in the hopes of fostering competition, depth and versatility. The Eagles deserve applause for spending more time focusing on play in the trenches than any other team in the league. EMU got five OL and five DL, and there's not a single one in the bunch below 6-foot-2. The emphasis was on athleticism, and EMU gave itself plenty of chances to find it.

One particularly interesting prospect is Kalven Seilis, who comes to Ypsilanti from Ontario with a 6-foot-5, 230 lb. frame and an impressive dose of athleticism. You never know how good the north of the border guys are going to be, but this could end up being a great get for Coach Jeff Genyk. Every single one of the DE prospects is tall, lean and fairly fast - all signs that this program is focusing on improving its pass rush in the next few years in a league that passes more and more.

The highest rated prospect in the class is DB Eric Morrison, a Fork Union, Virginia prep that earned three-star billing from both Rivals and Scout. Morrison was a first-team all-stater in West Virginia high school, then got better as a prep athlete in Fork Union. Shut down corners aren't the premium against spread offenses like they are facing pro-style attacks, but anyone EMU can stick in the secondary that might shore up its defenses against the big play will be a welcome addition.

Grade: B-

12) Ball State Cardinals


At a Glance:

Grade:  C
Sure Fire Prospect:  Briggs Orsbon, WR
Sleeper:  Blaine Schafer, OL
Needed More:  size


Breaking It Down:
The first thing you notice perusing the Ball State 2008 class is a preponderance of wide receivers. Three of the four are almost mirror images of one another: Andre Dawson (6-foot, 172 lb.), Jeremy Hill (6-foot-2, 175 lbs.) and Briggs Orsbon (6-foot, 178 lbs.) are all almost carbon copies of one another, cut from the Dante Love mold of athletic dudes that can scoot. Orsbon is the highest-rated of the bunch, a three-sport stud from Convoy, Ohio that drew praise from Rivals and Scout.

There's certainly speed in this class, especially around the edges. There's playmaking potential with backs James Cravens and Rashaad White and 5-foot-8 on a good day wide out Toriel Gibson. My big question about this group is: where's the beef? BSU didn't do much to upgrade its hogmollies, getting just 7 linemen, and 4 of them are 255 lb. and below, depending on who's manning the scale. On paper, OL Blaine Schafer looks most ready to compete at a major college level, with about 290 lbs. on his 6-foot-6 frame, but even Schafer's list of high school accomplishments doesn't sound amazing.

Let me say this: I haven't seen these guys play in person, and I have as much confidence in Brady Hoke's staff to coach ‘em up as I do any staff in the league. But the linemen are undersized, the backs are undersized, the receivers are undersized, and for comic value, there's a 148 lb. kicker. I hope the skill is there, because if it isn't, this class is going to be a big bust.

Grade: C

13) Northern Illinois Huskies


At a Glance:

Grade:  D+
Sure Fire Prospect:  none
Sleeper:  Adam Coleman, DT
Needed More:  everything


Breaking It Down:
Recruiting is the last thing on the minds of DeKalb, Illinois right now in light of America's most recent gun-violence tragedy. But with a less than stellar recruiting class, the NIU program is in real trouble, and feels to me like it might be teetering on the brink of a dramatic drop in performance from the hey day of the now-gone Novak era.

The Huskies and new coach Jerry Kill only brought in 13 athletes in 2008. OK, fine. Apparently, there weren't a lot of free floating scholarships. Fine. But if you've only got 13 slots, you absolutely must take some chances to try to bring in some upper-tier talent. That's what these small classes are for - you have less spots than usual, so you can gamble on some bigger name talent than you might normally get. NIU got none of it, putting up a 13-person list that features very little for Huskie fans to be thrilled about looking toward the future.

LB Darnell Bolding and WR Chase Mejia will both enter as sophomores and are already enrolled at NIU - both could compete for starting jobs in 2008. A possible sleeper might be DT Adam Coleman, who is already 6-foot-3, 256 lbs., and could really plug holes in the middle with a bit more athleticism.

Grade: D+

Brian Golden is in his second season with MAC Report Online as one of our primary football writers. Golden has also written for and is a freelance sports writer based in Chicago. He is a regular contributor to several sports media outlets and is the author of a forthcoming book chronicling the 2007 MAC football season.

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