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Ohio State Football: Looking Back at the 2016 Recruiting Class (Part One)

Ohio State Football: Looking Back at the 2016 Recruiting Class (Part One) - Antonio Williams

Ohio State Football: Looking Back at the 2016 Recruiting Class (Part One) - Antonio Williams

On Feb. 3, 2016, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer announced a class of 25 players. This group marked Meyer's fifth recruiting class and was ranked fourth in the nation by 247Sports. The group consisted of nine players from the state of Ohio, but the vast majority of the class came from elsewhere.

Fast-forward to 2019, and much has changed since that '16 recruiting announcement. Meyer is no longer Ohio State's head coach. Of the 25 players signed, many are no longer on the roster, for various reasons.

My personal history when it comes to analyzing Ohio State recruiting classes goes back to 2005, when the new Buckeyes included the likes of James Laurinaitis, Brian Hartline and Malcolm Jenkins. That class was relatively small with 18 players signed and was not highly regarded by the recruiting analysts, but the coaching staff only lost three from that class due 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.

For this exercise, I will review how Ohio State's 2016 class ranked using the above criteria. Of the 25 signed players, 14 have either started or contributed to the Buckeyes, which translates to a 64 percent success rate. Some of the players signed in 2016 will have eligibility remaining after this upcoming season.

Part one of this series will look at the few players who eventually left the Ohio State program. I will address each player, why they left and where they are currently in order of when that particular player verbally committed to the Buckeyes.

1. Tyler Gerald, OL

The first player to verbally commit to the class, Gerald never played a down for Ohio State. After redshirting his freshman season, Gerald quit the team a day before Ohio State was going to begin spring practice. Supposedly, Gerald has quit playing football altogether.

2. Kierre Hawkins, TE

The second player to verbally commit to the class, Hawkins was one of three tight ends signed. He redshirted his freshman season then transferred to FCS member Youngstown State in December 2017. Now a junior, Hawkins played in just two games last season for the Penguins.

3. Jack Wohlabaugh, OL

After redshirting his freshman season and not seeing any action in 2017, Wohlabaugh transferred to Duke and played in all 13 games, making nine starts last season. The Blue Devils' returning starter at center, Wohlbaugh enters this fall as a candidate for the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the country's best center at the end of the season.

4. Malik Barrow, DL

Redshirted in 2016, Barrow suffered a torn ACL early in the '17 season against UNLV. After initially announcing he was retiring from football in 2018, Barrow changed in his mind in late March and said he intends to transfer to another school.  Barrow announced a decision to resume his career at UCF at the end of July 2019.

5. Kareem Felder, DB (now Tre Avery)

Of all the players signed by Ohio State in 2016, Felder may have had the most interesting journey. Less than three months after committing to the Buckeyes, it was announced that Felder would not be attending Ohio State and he reportedly was headed to Toledo. Instead, Felder changed his mind once again and landed at Rutgers. That wasn't the only change made either, as Felder changed his name to Tre Avery. After sitting out last season, Avery is expected to be part of the rotation at cornerback fro Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash, who was the Buckeyes' co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach when Avery (then known as Felder) initially committed to Ohio State.

6. Wayne Davis, DB

Another member of the class who redshirted as a freshman, Davis played sparing in 2017, appearing in just two games. He transferred to FCS member James Madison where he emerged as a starter for the Dukes. As a hybrid safety/linebacker, Davis was credited with 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, six pass breakups, and two interceptions last season.

7. Antonio Williams, RB

Originally committed to Wisconsin, Williams flipped to Ohio State in October 2015. An early enrollee in the 2016 class, Williams played sparingly his first two seasons in Columbus. Williams transferred to North Carolina in 2018 to be closer to family (from New London, N.C.) and he was granted immediate eligibility. In 10 games for the Tar Heels last season, Williams finished with 504 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 91 carries (5.5 ypc).

8. Keandre Jones, LB

A late commitment to the 2016 recruiting class, Jones played received playing time right away as a backup linebacker. In three seasons with the Buckeyes, Jones earned two letters, was credited for 29 tackles, and a blocked a punt that played a big part in the win over Nebraska last season. Jones entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal in January and decided to join Maryland, which is close to his home (Good Counsel, Md.). The school is still waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding whether Jones will be granted immediate eligibility so he can play this fall.

9. Rodjay Burns, DB

Burns was among the last to verbally commit to Ohio State, played in seven games in 2016, and was able to make an immediate impact as a true freshman with an interception return for a touchdown in the season opener versus Bowling Green. He transferred to Louisville in 2017 to be closer to home, and earned a starting job at linebacker last season, collecting 38 tackles and an interception in 10 games.

To recap, out of 25 signees in the 2016 recruiting class, nine (36 percent) departed Ohio State before exhausting their eligibility. A little higher than a third, but in line with the overall theory that I subscribe to regarding recruiting classes.

Part two of this series will focus on the members of the 2016 recruiting class that have been contributors for Ohio State. These players will have opportunities to not only contribute on field for the Buckeyes this season, but serve as key contributors beyond 2019, if they decide to stay in Columbus.

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is writing and podcasting for Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.