Nearly a quarter of the Buckeyes' 2017 class has departed, including highly regarded quarterback Tate Martell
On Feb. 1, 2017, then-Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer announced to the assembled media that just-signed, 21-man recruiting class "could go down as one of the great classes... We're pretty fired up about this class." Meyer's enthusiasm about the class was certainly understandable, as the group ranked second in the country overall, only behind Alabama, by 247Sports.
While Meyer and his staff were able to sign seven Ohioans to this class, it was noteworthy that Ohio State was also able to secure four of the top players from the state of Texas. Combined with players from Florida, Nevada, Maryland, Georgia, New York, California, and Indiana, Ohio State had secured a truly national class that was among the nation's best.
As of this summer, Ohio State has been able to keep the class largely intact. A few players have declared early for the NFL, which we will look at in part three of this series. Several of these players will have eligibility for 2020 and beyond, which we will examine in part two. Part one of this series is going to focus upon those players who 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 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.
With five players no longer on the roster from a recruiting class of 21 players, that comes out to a 24 percent loss. Below we will examine the reasons why these players are no longer with Ohio State, beginning from when the player verbally committed to the program.
1. Isaiah Pryor, S
Pryor was the sixth player to verbally commit to Ohio State, doing so in July 2015. A well-regarded safety from Georgia, Pryor enrolled early in 2017, lettering as a true freshman. Pryor started eight games in 2018 at safety. With a new defensive staff in 2019, Pryor was seeing less and less time on the field, and decided to transfer that September. Pryor announced a transfer to Notre Dame as a graduate student, and will be able to play for the Fighting Irish in 2020.
2. Brendon White, S
The seventh player to verbally commit to Ohio State (October 2015), White was labeled as an athlete on National Signing Day in February 2017. White had his ups and downs with the Buckeyes, emerging as a fan favorite after being thrust into action against Nebraska in 2018. White was the defensive MVP of the 2019 Rose Bowl against Washington, and seemed likely to be a starter with the new defensive coaching staff that came in with new Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. White only played sparingly in 2019, and announced a transfer to Rutgers, where he will be reunited with former Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and is expected to start.
3. Tate Martell, QB
The No. 1 high school player in the country according to Gatorade, MaxPreps, and USA Today, Martell was closely scrutinized in his time with the Buckeyes. Redshirted as a true freshman in 2017, Martell was used sporadically in '18, and was seemingly going to compete for the starting quarterback position in '19 after Dwayne Haskins' early departure for the NFL. But the arrival of transfer quarterback Justin Fields, led to Martell transferring to Miami in January 2019. Martell played sparingly in five games for Miami last season and will battle for the backup job behind D'Eriq King, who transferred from Houston, this fall.
4. Amir Riep, S
Riep was a contributor for Ohio State the past three seasons, including a crucial interception against Michigan in 2019. Seemingly positioned to battle for a starting job in the Buckeyes' overhauled secondary, Riep and Jahsen Wint were charged with kidnapping and rape in March and summarily dismissed from Ohio State. Riep's trial has not yet begun as of this writing.
5. Trevon Grimes, WR
The first player to depart from the recruiting class, Grimes played sparingly as a true freshman in 2017. That October, Grimes left Ohio State for his home state of Florida to deal with a family issue. A few months later, Grimes announced he was transferring to Florida. The reasons for Grimes' departure have been surrounded by murky rumors, but after sitting out a season, Grimes recorded 33 catches for 491 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games for the Gators in 2019. He's expected to take on a bigger role in the offense this season as one of the most experienced wide receivers on the roster.
To recap, out of 21 signees in the 2017 recruiting class, five (24 percent) departed Ohio State before exhausting their eligibility. A little less 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 2017 recruiting class that have been contributors for Ohio State. These players will have opportunities to not only help the Buckeyes this season, but also potentially serve as key contributors beyond 2020, if they decide to stay in Columbus.