Five Buckeye grid recruits enroll early

As with running back Maurice Clarett and current quarterback Braxton Miller the more notable before them, five 2013 Ohio State football recruits already have signed their National Letters of Intent as early enrollees and started college classes, making them eligible for spring practice in March.

Four of the five are rated as four-star recruits by Rivals.com, including quarterback J.T. Barrett (6-1, 209) from Wichita Falls, Texas.

Barrett, who is expected to redshirt this fall as Miller still has two years left as the starter, is joined by four defensive players – a pair of four-star defensive backs in Eli Apple and Cam Burrows along with four-star defensive end/linebacker Tyquan Lewis and three-star defensive end Tracy Sprinkle.

All five, with the exception of Barrett who’s still rehabbing a season-ending high school knee injury from last fall, are expected to turn some heads this spring, especially Burrows and Apple – who according to some in the know – have Buckeye secondary coach Kerry Coombs very upbeat.

* In the final Rivals.com 2013 team recruiting rankings before national signing day on Feb. 6, Ohio State has moved up to No. 4, behind just top-rated Florida, followed Notre Dame and two-time defending national champion Alabama.

The Buckeyes so far have snagged 22 commitments, with one five-star recruit, 13 four-stars and seven three-stars – pretty similar to the numbers registered by the Gators, Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide.

Rounding out the top 10 team recruiting rankings are LSU, 5th; Michigan, 6th; USC, 7th; Texas A&M, 8th; Georgia, 9th; and UCLA, 10th.

Others of interest are Florida State, 12th; Nebraska, 13th; Oklahoma, 16th; Texas, 19th; WVU, 23rd; Oklahoma State, 25th; Arizona, 27th; Penn State, 35th; Wisconsin, 48th; Marshall, 74th; and Ohio, 115th.

* Something else of interest – at least to me – was the number of assistant coaches with Ohio State backgrounds new Purdue head football coach Darrell Hazell, a former OSU assistant himself under Jim Tressel, hired to his staff in West Lafayette.

Three came with Hazell from Kent State to Purdue. Jon Heacock, who took over at Youngstown State when Tressel left for Columbus, is the younger brother of former OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock, while Marcus Freeman was a Buckeye linebacker and Doug Davis, a former strength and conditioning coach at OSU. All were at Ohio State with Hazell.

The most intriguing Hazell hire was former Ohio State offensive coordinator and line coach Jim Bollman, at Boston College last season after taking a lot of flak at OSU for his unimaginative play-calling as well as some rather poor line play.

But Hazell knows Bollman from his Ohio State days, and as one Purdue fan said on-line, ”This is yet another coach with a strong Ohio State influence, which does not bother me in the least. The Buckeyes have been the premier program in the Big Ten over the last decade, so they are clearly doing something right.”

* In the final sports staff Grid Picks standings that finished with the BCS national-championship game, Jay Bennett came out on top, 13-9 in the bowl games for an overall 269-82 record. I followed at 265-86, also 13-9 in the bowls, with sports editor Dave Poe next, 15-7 for a 264-87 mark, Jim Butta 11-11 for 263-88, Kerry Patrick 15-7 for 251-100 and Eddie Thomas 11-11 for 225-126.