Revisiting National Signing Day 2008: Men of Different Molds

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OSU’s Terrelle Pryor, former OSU coach Jim Tressel, Florida’s Gray Horn and OSU’s Braxton Miller. All tied together how?

Often times what we expect to happen doesn’t. That was the case in February 2008 when Ohio State and head coach Jim Tressel were in hot pursuit of prized recruit Terrelle Pryor, Waynesfield-Goshen’s Gray Horn was headed south and Wayne freshman Braxton Miller was just creating buzz.


February 4, 2008. National Signing Day.

Seated solo at the Frickers in Huber Heights, I had just completed the 68 mile drive back from tiny Waynesfield-Goshen High School where inside a building that housed all 12 grades, senior Gray Horn had signed a letter-of-intent to attend the University of Florida for track. Yes, the Florida with the Gators and Erin Andrews. Horn would compete in the decathlon.

That same day stud quarterback Terrelle Pryor – the nation’s prized high school football recruit from Jeanette, Pennsylvania – was supposed to announce where he was going to college too. Ohio State, the consensus felt, had the edge over Michigan, Penn State and Oregon. Eating wings and waiting for the Greater Western Ohio Conference signing day event to start blocks away at the Wayne High School Athletic Boosters Building, I eagerly watched ESPNU and found out that Pryor had announced he was going to be – a pain. Instead of announcing where he was going, he opened ESPNU’s recruiting special by announcing he was postponing his announcement.

That day was one of the busiest in Bucknuts.com history and even though we felt we’d taken enough measures to make sure the site didn’t crash – it did. And Pryor’s done it again…

It should come as no surprise. This is a kid who finally announced on March 20 – over a month after singing day – that he was going to “The University of Ohio State.”

Truth is Pryor never really got the Buckeyes. But it’s evident he’s received plenty.

For the suspended starting quarterback to arrive at what turned out to be the final time his now former coach Jim Tressel would address the team in a 2010 Nissan 350z with temp tags and tinted windows states one of three things: 1.) Pryor is as dense as the shoulder pads he’s been hustling, 2.) He’s so arrogant and void of emotion that he believes he’s untouchable or 3.) He’s a mole planted here by Michigan. None are good.

Pryor may or may not play quarterback again for Ohio State, but one thing is for certain – Tressel will never coach the Buckeyes again. And that’s a shame.

In polling Ohio High School head football coaches for a piece I’m working on for Bucknuts and JJHuddle, I have yet to find one coach critical of Tressel. Odds are I won’t. The high school coaches in this state love him and on July 8 at the Easton Hilton, the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association will induct him into its Hall of Fame.

“(I have) No reservations whatsoever about one of my sons or players playing for Coach Tressel,” said Centerville football coach Ron Ullery, who in addition to alumni A.J. Hawk and Mike Nugent did indeed have a son – Brent – play for Tressel. “I’d recommend anyone play for him without hesitation. They’d only be a better person as a result of their interaction with him.”

The final chapter is a sad conclusion for the Buckeyes and their former coach.

Tressel’s storied 10 year career, which produced nine wins over Michigan, eight BCS bowl bids, seven Big Ten titles, three national championship games, the 2002 national title and a Heisman Trophy winner will always have a black eye (much like fellow Buckeye legend Woody Hayes).

The program will be a punching bag and punch line nationally. Message boards, radio shows and national TV will explode with laughter, accusations of cheating and all kinds of garbage directed at making fun of Ohio State and the “crazy” people in Columbus.

Even arm pits like Auburn and Oregon will be making fun of OSU – mostly because the Buckeyes took the attention away from them.

Lest we forget that just months ago – after it had played in the BCS national championship game – Oregon was investigated for paying two street agents $28,000 for “recruiting services.”

Auburn, which won the national title, was led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton whose father – a preacher – pimped his son to the highest bidder.

The NCAA should share just as much blame as Pryor, Tressel and Ohio State. Their system is broke. The last six months proves it. It’s like a diaper that needs changed.

Question now is what happens from here on out. Where does Ohio State go? Up or down? And to who?

Luke Fickell, a Columbus native, has been named interim head coach for this year. I don’t think he’s the long term answer. I think Urban Meyer is.

Meyer and Ohio State will make-out behind the scenes and announce their engagement after the Michigan game. Fickell will remain on staff and remain next in line.

Want more intrigue? Here goes.

National Signing Day 2008 sticks out to me for a couple reasons.

The GWOC event I attended after lunch was hosted by Wayne, which is the school that’s produced the player most believe is the heir apparent to Pryor at QB – Braxton Miller. The high school senior led the Warriors to the Division I state championship game in December, graduated from high school later that month and enrolled at Ohio State in January. His timeline and dedication are already far more advanced than Pryor’s. Miller went through Spring Ball, shined in the Spring Game and saw his odds of starting the season opener skyrocket with Tressel’s departure. Most believed Tressel would start longtime back-up and senior Joe Bauserman because that’s just what Tressel did – reward seniors. Fickell, however, is fighting for his job and should play the QB that gives him the best chance to win, which if the fall goes like the spring will be Miller.

Should Miller start as a true freshman quarterback, he’ll join Pryor and Art Schlichter as the only ones to do so for Ohio State. We know how both of their careers have panned out. Miller, almost everyone agrees, is from a different mold.

As was Horn.

Earlier this month the Waynesfield-Goshen grad became just the second athlete in Southeastern Conference history to win three-straight conference titles in the decathlon. Next year as a senior he has the opportunity to stand alone in SEC lore with four golds in the event.

Basically, despite what we’ve been brainwashed to believe about the Midwest’s athletic ineptitude, the SEC’s best all-around athlete is from a cornfield community in rural Ohio.

Just further evidence – like Tressel’s exit and Pryor’s actions – that Hell has indeed frozen over.

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