Thursday, April 02, 2020

Rewind: Robert Smith headlined Ohio State's 1990 recruiting haul

By STEVE HELWAGEN 19 hours ago

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, beginning with this look at the 1990 class. We hope you enjoy these lookbacks at some great recruiting stories over the years.

The year was 1990 and Ohio State football coach John Cooper was fighting to keep his head above water.

Cooper, summoned from Arizona State in December 1987 to succeed Earle Bruce as the OSU head coach, had led his first two teams to records of 4-6-1 in 1988 and 8-4 in 1989. Cooper was under siege as Michigan had been pushing Ohio State around both on the field and in the recruiting wars.
The embattled OSU coach needed to start winning some recruiting battles. And that is exactly what happened in February 1990, when star running back Robert Smith of Euclid, Ohio, selected Ohio State over USC and many other top schools.
Smith, listed at 6-2 and 190 pounds, was regarded as a transformational star. He rushed for 2,322 yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior season at Euclid and over 5,300 yards in his high school career. He was also the Class AAA state champion in the 100-meter dash in track. He was a two-time Ohio Mr. Football award winner and was regarded by some services as the nation’s top football prospect.
Suffice to say, the protracted battle for Smith’s services helped make Ohio State football recruiting a spectator sport – something that continues unabated 30 years later.
Ironically, it was the Ohio State medical program that helped sway Smith to the Buckeyes.
“That was the deciding factor,” said Smith, who signed with OSU on the national signing day of Feb. 14, 1990. “I was a little bit down and wondering if I ever wanted to play Division I football, seeing how much other stuff you have to deal with when you play football.
“(Former Buckeye) Dr. John Frank convinced me it’s worth it. He went through pre-med playing Division I football, then went to the pros and still went to medical school in the off-season.”
Cooper was beaming after one of his first big recruiting wins as the Ohio State coach.
“He is probably good enough to come in here and make a contribution next year,” Cooper said. “I know he can run. He’s got a passing gear. Just watching a highlight film of him, it’s easy to get excited.”
Smith went on to start two seasons (1990 and 1992) with the Buckeyes, taking the 1991 season off after a dispute with an OSU assistant (then-offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac) over academics.
Smith was one of 20 signees Cooper had in the 1990 recruiting class. That class was ranked anywhere from third to sixth nationally by the various recruiting services.
With Ohio State honing in on what could be the nation’s No. 1-ranked class in the 2021 cycle, we thought it might be interesting and informative to look back at past classes.
Over the next few weeks, we will look OSU’s past recruiting classes over the last 30 years. We will study the climate surrounding the program going into each signing day, examine the list of signees and identify the blue chip signees as well as the key players who got away and share the class rankings. We will also look at how the classes panned out with their four-year record as well as how many guys developed as starters, All-Big Ten and All-American picks and NFL draftees.
Here is a look at how the Ohio State 1990 recruiting class fared.


* 1989 Season: 8-4 overall, 6-2 Big Ten (tied for third), finished 24th in final Associated Press poll
* Meeting Michigan: Ohio State dropped to 0-2 against Michigan under John Cooper with a 28-18 loss at Ann Arbor.
* Bowl Game: Lost to No. 9 Auburn 31-14 in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa.



* Ranking: Ranked Ohio State’s class sixth nationally by Tom Lemming and SuperPrep’s Allen Wallace, ranked fifth by Max Emfinger, ranked third by United Press International.
* Number Of Signees: 20
* Top Signees: Lemming listed 144 prospects nationally on his All-American list for the 1990 class. Ohio State signed six of those players: QB Preston Harrison, QB Joe Pickens, RB Robert Smith, DL Matt Bonhaus, DB Butler By’not’e and DB Larry Kennedy.
* Other Signed: LB Mick Barsala, DE Pete Beckman, DL Matt Bonhaus, LB Randy Brown, MG Sean Carden, RB Jeff Cothran, OL Mike Dully, WR Joey Galloway, QB Johnny Mattress, DB Tim Patillo, TE Craig Robinson, FB Alex Rodriguez, WR Chris Sanders, WR Norman Williams
* Key Misses: DL Aaron Jackson (Michigan State), LB Corries Hardy (Miami, Fla.), LB Anthony Peterson (Notre Dame), RB Ricky Powers (Michigan)


John Cooper was just finding himself as a recruiter as he wrapped his second season as the Ohio State head coach. Steve Pederson, who would go on to become an athletic director at Pittsburgh and Nebraska, was OSU’s recruiting coordinator.
Quarterbacks coach Ron Hudson was recruiting the Cleveland area, in particular, very well. He had landed LB Steve Tovar, OL Rod Smith and RB Raymont Harris in the 1989 class and helped sign RB Robert Smith and QB Joe Pickens in 1990.
Pickens was among three quarterback signees as OSU also added Johnny Mattress from Cincinnati Princeton and Preston Harrison from Columbus South, although Harrison could also rep at other positions.
Amazingly, none of the three would ever start a game a game at quarterback for Ohio State. Harrison would ultimately move to linebacker. Pickens ultimately transferred to Duke and Mattress ended up at a junior college.
WR Joey Galloway, from Bellaire, Ohio, would ultimately become a college star at OSU and, like Robert Smith, enjoyed a long career in the NFL. Those two and their OSU teammate Kirk Herbstreit, a Cooper signee in 1988, have also carved out long careers as college football broadcasters.
This class helped put the Cooper program on solid ground and helped pave the way for better days in the years ahead. As seniors in 1993, many of these players helped win the program’s first Big Ten title in seven years.


* Cooper on the class: “I think this is a good, solid crop for us, particularly at the skill positions. On paper, it’s a good, solid class for us. The thing that I’m excited most about is the fact that we were able to keep all of our players at home again this year. We didn’t lose a single football player in this state that visited our campus and to who we offered a scholarship.
“There were some players who, for whatever reason, didn’t visit here. Obviously, if they don’t visit, you don’t have a chance to recruit them. We were able to sign our in-state players again this year and that’s one of the things we talked about when I was hired as head football coach at Ohio State.”
* Cooper on the quarterbacks: “The quarterbacks we recruited could play other positions. We tell every young man he can come in here and play the position he wants to play. We’ve got seven quarterbacks now and obviously all of them can’t play. We’ll play the best one, work with two more and either move the other guys to another position, redshirt them or play them on the scout team.”
* Cooper on adding Robert Smith, but missing on Ricky Powers: “There wasn’t really any pressure on us to sign Robert. We signed four running backs and we were going to sign those three other ones if Robert hadn’t come. We think we’ve got some good, quality running backs, not just Robert Smith.
“If a young man doesn’t want to visit your school, there’s not a whole lot you can do in recruiting. I think the comment was made that Ricky Powers didn’t want to go school where Robert Smith was going. Ricky is a great athlete and I’m disappointed that he didn’t at least come down and look us over. But we recruited him hard.”


Here is how the class fared over its four-year run at Ohio State:
* 1990: 7-4-1 overall, 5-2-1 Big Ten (fifth), unranked
* 1991: 8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten (tied for third), unranked
* 1992: 8-3-1 overall, 5-2-1 Big Ten (second), ranked 18th in AP poll
* 1993: 10-1-1 overall, 6-1-1 Big Ten (tied for first), ranked 11th in AP poll
* Four-Year Record: 33-12-3 overall (.719), one Big Ten championship, two top 25 finishes


* Starter Seasons: 13 total: RB Robert Smith (2, 1990, ’92), WR Chris Sanders (3, 1992, ’93, ’94), FB Jeff Cothran (2, 1992, ’93), WR Joey Galloway (2, 1993, ’94), DE Randall Brown (1, 1993), DT Matt Bonhaus (2, 1994, ’95), FS Tim Patillo (1, 1994) … Note: We are using the list of year-by-year starters from the Ohio State football media guide. These players started the majority of games at those positions in those seasons.
* All-Big Ten Picks: 1 total: WR Joey Galloway (1993)
* All-American Picks: None
* NFL Draft Picks: 6 total, 2 first-round picks.
1993 Draft: RB Robert Smith (first round, Minnesota Vikings)
1994 Draft: WR Jeff Cothran (third round, Cincinnati Bengals), RB Butler By’not’e (seventh round, Denver Broncos)
1995 Draft: WR Joey Galloway (first round, Seattle Seahawks), WR Chris Sanders (third round, Houston Oilers), LB Preston Harrison (third round, San Diego Chargers)

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