The 2012 Ohio State football recruiting class is technically the first of head coach Urban Meyer's players that were signed and brought to Columbus. I write the phrase "technically" because there are many extenuating factors that need to be remembered and contemplated when looking back at the 25 players who signed on the dotted line in February 2012 and became Buckeyes.
First and foremost, I have been reviewing Ohio State recruiting classes over the years. I have looked back at the recruiting classes going back to 2005, which included players such as James Laurinaitis, Brian Hartline and Malcolm Jenkins. The 2005 class was relatively small with 18 players signed, and was not highly rated by the recruiting analysts, but the Buckeyes only lost three from that class to transfer or academic issues, resulting in 15 who either started or contributed to Ohio State during their careers. This 83 percent success rate ranks that group highly in the unofficial "Rule of Thirds" concept that is applied to recruiting classes.
“The Rule of Thirds” is pretty simple — within any class, there will be approximately a third who will develop into starters as the coaching staff hoped and recruited, a third will be contributors in some fashion, and a third will not work out, leaving due to transfer, injuries or possibly disciplinary reasons.
Let's get back to the extenuating factors that impacted Ohio State's recruiting efforts that led up to February 2012 — this will not be a happy stroll down memory lane for Ohio State fans, just to forewarn you. In the winter and spring of 2011, Jim Tressel was under siege by the national media for his role in "TatGate," ultimately resulting in Tressel's resignation on May 30, 2011.
Left to pick up the pieces for the upcoming 2011 Ohio State football season was Luke Fickell. Fickell was promoted to the head coaching position after Tressel's resignation, and did his best to keep recruited players in the fold, as the 2011 season eventually resulted into a 6-7 record. Meyer was hired on Nov. 28, thus clarifying the somewhat lackluster Ohio State recruiting efforts until signing day in February 2012.
Now let's get back to the "Rule of Thirds." Considering all of the events that the program experienced throughout the fall of 2011, there should be little wonder why the 2012 recruiting class lacked any cohesiveness.
The first part of this article will look at those players who eventually left the Ohio State program. As was referenced earlier, some of these players left due to injury, playing time or disciplinary reasons. I will address each player, based upon when the player verbally committed to the Buckeyes.
1. Frank Epitropoulos, WR/P
Epitropoulos verbally committed in April 2011, before Tressel's resignation. The son and nephew of former Buckeye players, Epitropoulos played sparingly, redshirting in 2012. Epitropoulos left the team in 2014 to concentrate on academics, as he plans to eventually attend medical school, but he recently announced that he will be walking on at Michigan State.
2. Blake Thomas, TE
Thomas committed in May 2011, also prior to Tressel's resignation. Thomas redshirted in 2012, played spring football in 2013, and was forced to give up playing due to medical concerns.
3. Najee Murray, DB
A verbal commitment to Fickell, Murray actually played for the Buckeyes in 2012, primarily on special teams before getting injured. After a violation of team rules, Murray transferred to Kent State in 2013, and actually played against his former teammates last season.
4. Luke Roberts, LB
Another verbal commitment to Fickell, Roberts played in 2012 but decided to leave Ohio State for Harvard in summer 2013. Roberts was immediately eligible to play for Harvard and played last season.
5. Ricquan Southward, WR
A verbal commitment to Fickell the day before Ohio State announced the hiring of Meyer, Southward redshirted in 2012. Near the end of the 2012 season, Southward announced his decision to transfer, landing at Arizona Western College, a junior college.
6. Se'Von Pittman, DE
Meyer flipped Pittman, a one-time Michigan State commit, in December 2011. Pittman redshirted in 2012 before requesting his release in March 2013. He’s entering his second year as a starter for Akron.
7. Noah Spence, DE
Quite possibly the most talented player in the 2012 class, and one of the most disappointing endings to an Ohio State career in recent years. Spence played extensively in 2012 and ‘13, and was projected to be an early first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. But in December 2013, news broke that Spence tested positively for the drug Ecstasy, effectively ending his Ohio State career. Spence transferred to Eastern Kentucky, where he plans on playing his final season before a probable declaration for the 2016 draft.
8. Joey O'Connor, OL
Originally a Penn State commit, O'Connor switched to Ohio State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. O'Connor redshirted at Ohio State in 2012, but decided to transfer back home to Colorado and play for Colorado State. Unfortunately, knee issues forced him to give up football this summer.
9. David Perkins, LB
Another Meyer flip, Perkins switched from Notre Dame to Ohio State, but played sparingly in 2012, primarily on special teams. Perkins' Buckeye highlight took place in spring practice in 2013, when he leveled Brutus Buckeye. Perkins eventually transferred to Illinois State.
10. Jamal Marcus, DE
A 2012 signing day addition, Marcus played primarily on special teams in 2012 and saw extensive action in the 2014 Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. That was the last time Marcus suited up for the Buckeyes, as he transferred to Akron prior to the start of the 2014 season.
11. Kyle Dodson, OL
Dodson had originally committed to Wisconsin, but signed with Ohio State. Due to medical issues, Dodson was forced to give up football.
So out of 25 players in the 2012 class, 11 players, or 44 percent, are no longer Buckeyes. No matter how you look at it, all I can write and think is ouch, as that is substantially higher than previous recruiting class departures. In part two, I will look at the remaining players from the 2012 recruiting class, as there are some notable contributors and starters who have stuck with Ohio State.
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.