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January 17, 2006

Never count Tressel out

If there is one thing that Big 10 fans have learned by now it's that you can't count Jim Tressel out when the chips are down. He's proven it on the field time after time in big-game situations and he's proving it once again down the stretch in the recruiting wars.

Just when it seemed like everybody was ready to give the Big 10 recruiting crown to Michigan, here come the Bucks with a strong flurry that could end up pushing them all the way into the national top 10 before signing day arrives on February 1.

In the past two weeks, Ohio State has added commitments from offensive lineman Bryant Browning, tight end Andy Miller, defensive end Walter Dublin, linebacker Mark Johnson and defensive end Robert Rose.

Browning, Dublin and Miller are three-star prospects and have the ability to be solid multi-year college starters in Columbus, but it's the additions of Johnson and Rose that have to get Ohio State fans extremely excited.

Nobody had a better U.S. Army All-America Bowl than Rose, a fast-riser from Cleveland's Glenville High School. Rose, a strong and stout 6-foot-4 and 255-pounder, couldn't be blocked in the game and his development late in the season during the Ohio state playoffs and then in the all-star game has been amazing.

He went from a sure fire top 250 national prospect to quite possibly the No. 2 player in Ohio and a five-star candidate.

"Robert has a pro-style body now," Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. said. "All he has to do is learn his craft. He's play with more technique and really learning how to become a better player. It's like he's started to finally trust everything that he's been taught.

"The light-bulb has turned on and there won't be much that stops him in college. He's going to be a terror for Big 10 offensive linemen. He's something special."

Since he's from California, Johnson's name might not be as familiar with Buckeye fans, but he should be a natural fit in Columbus. OSU doesn't miss too many players at linebacker, and Johnson is one of the best out West.

For his senior season, Johnson accounted for 120 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. All of that production was done in nine games. Johnson chose Ohio State over offers from LSU, Cal, Oregon, ASU, Washington, Fresno State and a host of others.

"The Buckeyes lose all their linebackers to graduation," Johnson said. "So there is a good opportunity for me there."

Johnson's right and the Bucks might not be done quite yet at the position.

There is little doubt that OSU is in a great position to also land in-state stud Thaddeus Gibson after an official visit this weekend. The battle to land the four-star player from Euclid, Ohio, is down to OSU, Tennessee and Michigan, but most sources agree it's a two-team race between the Bucks and Vols.

Then there is City College of San Francisco four-star linebacker Larry Grant, who had originally planned on signing with Florida at mid-term but a math class kept him from heading to Gainesville.

He's now in the final process of evaluating his options and it appears to be down to Texas A&M and Ohio State for him.

"I graduated from junior college," Grant said. "Ohio State is going over my transcripts to make sure I have all the classes to go there. It's either Ohio State or Texas A&M."

Grant might make an official visit to Ohio State January 20.

"I'm trying to get a visit set up with coach (Luke) Fickell," Grant said. "Most likely I'll talk to him Monday or Tuesday and he'll let me know if I'm
(able to enroll) there. If I am I'll make a visit to Ohio State, then I'll decide right after that."

If he does, then it might give the Bucks the edge they need to push into the national top 10 and once again prove that you can never doubt Tressel's ability to both coach and recruit with the best of them.


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