I think it is safe to say this is the year of the tight end in the state of Ohio. Of the eight tight ends we have evaluated, three of them are in the ESPN 150 -- Brandon Moore (Trotwood, Ohio/Madison), Kyle Rudolph (Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder) and Jake Stoneburner (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman). They all have great height and long arms with upside to become a force in the trenches, not just in the passing game.
Of the top 15 prospects we have seen in Ohio, 10 of them are on the offensive side of the football if you count DeVoe Torrence (Massillon, Ohio/Washington), who may actually have more upside on defense, and four of those 10 are tight ends, including Nic DiLillo (Madison, Ohio/Central). As expected Ohio State has a stranglehold on the top prospects in the state right now, including five of the top six offensive players.
However, prospects such as OT Zebrie Sanders (Clayton, Ohio/North) are still wide open. Sanders as of now has just visited Florida with an expected visit to Georgia in November. As far as a tug of war between Michigan and Ohio State? Well, there isn't much of one as Sanders does not even list Michigan or Ohio State in his top choices -- those distinctions belong to UCLA, Florida and Georgia. We can see why Ohio State has backed off, as Sanders looks great on the hoof and passes the eye test but is very raw and has some developing to do.
One of the more productive offensive guys in Ohio this year has got to be WR Cordale Scott (Glenville, Ohio). While we have debated back and forth just where he should be graded, we do feel we have him ranked appropriately. He is a very versatile prospect in all three phases of the game and is likely being recruited to play wide receiver, but his size and upside on defense could see him on that side of the ball as well at the next level. He is not a burner, which is why we don't have him ranked in the 80s. Scott has yet to name his top favorites or set any official visits, but Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan State are among the teams paying the most attention.
Brandon Moore , Tight end
Madison (Trotwood, Ohio)
Verbal committment: Michigan
While Ohio State did not pursue Moore, he is clearly not holding any ill feelings toward the Buckeyes, who in their own right have put together a great early class to this point.
"I don't resent OSU for not offering. I love Michigan and just look forward to the great rivalry -- nothing personal," said Moore this week.
However, in our opinion, Moore is the best athlete with the most upside to become the complete package at tight end out of all the tight ends in this state. We also feel he could contribute right away on passing downs, and so do the Michigan coaches.
"The Michigan coaches said I got a chance to play early, particularly in the receiving game with my speed, possibly be the second tight end with Kozer," Moore added.
You just don't see tight end prospects with his natural height and speed with the upside to be an imposing blocker down the road. He already weighs about 245 and could easily add 15 pounds and still be a serious receiving threat.
As Michigan struggled in the early going on the field, Moore never wavered on his commitment to the Wolverines.
"I am fired up about this class, talked to Sam (RB Sam McGuffie) and Darryl Stonum, and they are great guys and great offensive players who feel the same way about the class. Nobody ever felt like de-committing when Michigan was struggling early, most of the guys I talked to have a lot of pride in Michigan and being a Wolverine."
Under the Radar Player
Trey Fairchild, Wide receiver
Coffman (Dublin, Ohio)
Verbal commitment: Syracuse
This dude is just a plain, old-fashioned football player much in the same way Anthony Gonzalez was for Ohio State the past few seasons. Now you may say, "Syracuse? Hmm." However, his choice of Syracuse doesn't mean he isn't a good player; in fact, it probably means others have missed on him, much in the same way UConn's Brad Kanuch was bypassed from the 2006 class.
Fairchild can really run and his open field run after catch skills have him lining up as a tweener running back/wide receiver, which makes him dangerous on screens, end arounds and also in the deep passing game. His speed does not jump out at you when you first see him -- he is more of an acquired taste. Fairchild has an overachiever element to him that you respect because you know he works very hard at the game, and there is an attention to detail in everything he does. We think the fact that he is not as smooth or fluid as some others in the class is what has kept him laying low on a national scale. Regardless, you must have one of these guys on your roster.
On the Trail (BCS)
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Ohio State, 11 commits
To this point, we have been very impressed by the Buckeyes' efforts in the early going. In fact, we feel this class will likely surpass the quality 2006 group that was brought in. With 11 commitments so far and six of them in the ESPN 150, this class is off to a great start with just over 4 months to go until signing day. Needs are being met with quality players across the board, especially at offensive tackle with Michael Brewster (Orlando, Fla./Edgewater), J.B. Shugarts (Spring, Texas/Klein) and Mike Adams (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman). Also, the Buckeyes are thin at outside linebacker, and this is why DeVoe Torrence (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) needs to stay on defense alongside ILB Andrew Sweat (Washington, Pa/Trinity) and OLB Nathan Williams (Washington-Couthouse, Ohio/Miami Trace). We still think they need a top flight quarterback, though.
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Cincinnati, 19 commits
This is one of the more under-the-radar classes in the country, and as the Bearcats continue to succeed on the gridiron, it could only get better. With 19 commits if you count postgrad Ike Iloegbu (Cincinnati, Ohio/Harmony), if he and ATH Bruce Horner (Birmingham, Mich./Groves) remain at safety, then Cincy will be meeting its secondary needs along with CB Dominique Battle (Delray Beach, Fla./Amercian Heritage-Boca-Delray). QB Domonick Britt (Trotwood, Ohio/Madison) is the right fit for Brian Kelly's version of the spread offense and was a marquee pickup for them for a publicity standpoint, now he just needs to pan out. We would like for Cincy to sign a couple of defensive tackles, as this is a lean spot on their roster.
Christopher Lawlor's Game of the Week
No. 3 St. Xavier-Cincinnati (8-0) at St. Ignatius-Cleveland (7-1), Saturday, at 1:30 p.m. ET
It's a clash between two of Ohio's Jesuit high schools. Both teams' quarterbacks -- St. Xavier's John Hurley (knee) and St. Ignatius' junior Andrew Holland (shoulder) -- were injured in wins last weekend. Their statuses are unknown for the game at Byers Field in Parma. St. Xavier backup QB, sophomore Luke Massa, went 5-for-5 for 122 yards and a TD in nearly three quarters of a 45-0 shellacking of St. Edward (Lakewood). St. Ignatius, Ohio's No. 7-ranked large school (Division I), has been shut out twice in its last two against the Bombers. -- Lawlor
Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.