Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Rewind: Mike Vrabel highlights 1993 Ohio State class


EDITOR’S NOTE – With college and professional sports on a hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we will spend time during the month of April looking back at past Ohio State football recruiting classes. We will look at classes over the last 30 years. We hope you enjoy these lookbacks at some great recruiting stories over the years.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That was certainly true with Ohio State’s 1993 football recruiting class as signed by head coach John Cooper.

There were a handful of blue chip prospects in the 1993 class, most notably with Ohio-bred defensive end Mike Vrabel. There were other names who turned into great college players, including Ohio defensive end Matt Finkes, Florida linebacker Greg Bellisari and Maryland cornerback Shawn Springs.
The national experts were split on this class. BlueChip Illustrated ranked the class eighth nationally. But such luminaries as Tom Lemming and SuperPrep’s Allen Wallace rated the class as low as seventh in the Big Ten!

Needless to say, Cooper was a bit defensive as he announced his 22-man class for 1993.

“I don’t know about these analysts,” Cooper said. “These guys are making a living, you know that. Sometimes, I question what a guy from California, for example, knows about recruiting in the state of Ohio. What does that guy know about Andy Dawson or Eric Moss? I don’t put a lot of stock into that.

“I think those guys are more interested in national recognition and to selling their recruiting publications than they are in anything else.”
Cooper shared his approach on how he and his staff handle recruiting.
“We don’t rank these players,” he said. “We don’t say this guy is number one and this guy is number two. We say we’re going to recruit so many offensive linemen, so many running backs, so many quarterbacks. We go after the ones we feel are the best.
“I’ll bet you there isn’t a recruiting service who has had a chance to see a single one of these guys play during the season. We watch the game videos and as many games as we can get out to, and still we make mistakes on them.”
Things were starting to look up on the field for Ohio State, which had just snapped a four-game losing streak by tying Michigan 13-13 to end the 1992 regular season. (Hey, a tie was better than another loss.)
Below we will look at how Ohio State assembled its 1993 recruiting class and how that class ended up working out on the field for the Buckeyes.


* 1992 Season: 8-3-1 overall, 5-2-1 Big Ten (second), ranked 18th in AP poll
* Meeting Michigan: Tied No. 6 Michigan 13-13, breaking a four-game losing streak to the Wolverines.
* Bowl Game: Lost to No. 8 Georgia 21-14 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.



* Ranking: Ranked eighth nationally by BlueChip Illustrated, but as low as 30th nationally by Tom Lemming and SuperPrep’s Allen Wallace.
* Number Of Signees: 22
* Top Signees: Players listed as All-Americans by Lemming or Wallace included DL John Day, OL Raymond Harris, QB Stanley Jackson, DE Mike Vrabel and QB Mark Zban.
* Other Signed: LB Greg Bellisari, OL Andy Dawson, OL Walt Delong, DE Matt Finkes, DB Anthony Gwinn, TE Bob Houser, QB Tommy Hoying, K Mike Malfatt, TE Eric Moss, DL Timiko Payton, LB James Ross, DB Shawn Springs, WR Dimitrious Stanley, FB Nick Sualua, OL Larry Waldon, TB Keith Wilkerson, DB Tommy Willis.
* Key Misses: FB Marc Edwards (Notre Dame), RB Charles “June” Henley (Kansas), RB Kim Herring (Penn State), WR Joe Jurevicius (Penn State), QB Scot Loeffler (Michigan).


This was a cover-the-board kind of recruiting class. The Buckeyes took three quarterbacks, two running backs, one wide receiver, two tight ends, four linemen on both sides of the ball, two linebackers, three defensive backs and a kick specialist.
With Bill Conley moved on to the fulltime assistant coaching staff, Cooper hired former Newark Catholic head coach J.D. Graham to serve as the recruiting coordinator.
OSU signed 12 players from Ohio. They also got two each from Florida and Michigan and one each from New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, California, Maryland and Georgia.
DE Mike Vrabel from Stow (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit was seen as the centerpiece of the class and he did not disappoint. He was a backup as a freshman in 1993, a three-year starter and a two-time All-American. Vrabel still holds the OSU career record with 36 sacks. He went on to a long NFL career, spent time as an Ohio State assistant coach and is now the head coach of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
His partner in crime on the defensive line was classmate Matt Finkes, a defensive end from Piqua, Ohio, who far outperformed his recruiting rankings. He was also a three-year starter.
CB Shawn Springs was a late signee as he decided after signing day to follow in the footsteps of his father, former OSU RB Ron Springs. Shawn Springs redshirted in 1993 and was then a three-year starter and became an All-American in 1996. He also went on to a long NFL career.
There were more contributors in this class. LB Greg Bellisari was a three-year starter, WR Dimitrious Stanley was a three-year regular at receiver and QB Stanley Jackson started nearly every game between the 1996 and ’97 seasons.
None of the four offensive line signees really ever panned out, but there was enough talent in the surrounding classes for the Buckeyes to win big.
This class set a four-year school record for wins with 41 and helped the Buckeyes win a pair of Big Ten titles and the Rose Bowl after the 1996 season. The No. 2 finish in the AP poll after the 1996 season was the school’s best since the 1973 team also won the Rose Bowl and ended up second in the polls.
Simply put, stars like Vrabel, Finkes, Bellisari and Springs – along with others in the surrounding classes -- helped bring Ohio State back to national prominence in college football.


Cooper on assistant Bill Conley signing prospects from Florida: “When you get down to Florida and you know that Florida, Florida State and Miami (Fla.) are all recruiting those skilled athletes. The first thing you do, you find out what kind of realistic chance you have to recruit a young man. Guys like Bellisari and Wilkerson came up here with an open mind, liked what they saw and committed us.”
Cooper on signing four offensive and defensive linemen: “We would have taken as many as five or six this year if we could have found offensive linemen. This was not a great year in the state of Ohio for offensive linemen.”
Cooper on adding Vrabel as a possible instant impact player: “Vrabel knows what we have coming back at defensive end and I think he thinks he’s going to play some next year. I’m certainly not going to say anything to discourage him. Let me say this: He is physical enough that he can help this football team. We’ll have to wait and see.”


Here is how the class fared over its four-year run at Ohio State:
* 1993: 10-1-1 overall, 6-1-1 Big Ten (tied for first), ranked 11th in AP poll
* 1994: 9-4 overall, 6-2 Big Ten (second), ranked 14th in AP poll
* 1995: 11-2 overall, 7-1 Big Ten (second), ranked sixth in AP poll
* 1996: 11-1 overall, 7-1 Big Ten (tied for first), ranked second in AP poll
* Four-Year Record: 41-8-1 overall (.830), two Big Ten championships, four top 25 finishes, two top 10 finishes


* Starter Seasons: 18 total. FB Nick Sualua (2, 1994, ’95), DE Mike Vrabel (3, 1994, ’95, ’96), DE Matt Finkes (3, 1994, ’95, ’96), LB Greg Bellisari (3, 1994, ’95, ’96), CB Shawn Springs (3, 1994, ’95, ’96), FS Anthony Gwinn (1, 1995), QB Stanley Jackson (2, 1996, ’97), WR Dimitrious Stanley (1, 1996).
* All-Big Ten Picks: 7 total: DE Mike Vrabel (3, 1994, ’95, ’96), DE Matt Finkes (2, 1994, ’96), CB Shawn Springs (2, 1995, ’96).
* All-American Picks: 3 total: DE Mike Vrabel (2, 1995, ’96), CB Shawn Springs (1, 1996).
* NFL Draft Picks: 4 total, 1 first round.
1997 Draft: CB Shawn Springs (first round, third overall, Seattle Seahawks), DE Mike Vrabel (third round, Pittsburgh Steelers), FB Nick Sualua (fourth round, Dallas Cowboys), DE Matt Finkes (sixth round, Carolina Panthers).

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