January 6, 2012

Buckeye targets shine in UA game

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The first week of January is always a great time for high school football with numerous national all-star games taking place. The Under Armour All-American Game was the featured game on Thursday night and with a handful of Ohio State recruiting targets taking the field, the eyes of Ohio State fans across the nation were fixed on the television screens.

As the lone Ohio State commit in the game, Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence certainly did not disappoint. The five-star prospect turned in a dominant effort in which he recorded three sacks, four tackles-for-loss, and a forced fumble. Spence showed an array of pass-rush moves and the speed and burst off the edge that has made him among the most highly recruited prospects in the nation.

Spence was also strong at the point of attack, corralling opposing quarterback Jameis Winston on a fourth and goal at the one yard line and pulling him back for a big stop. Overall, Spence looked as advertised and has the speed, technique, and motor to get some early playing time at Ohio State next fall.

Speaking of Winston, the tall, athletic quarterback is definitely a long shot for Ohio State but he showed why he is among the nation's top prospects on Thursday night with an MVP performance that included 8-for-9 for passing for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Winston does a good job of keeping his eyes down the field and throws an accurate ball. The only knock on Winston could be his delivery which needs to be shortened up, but all of the tools to be a big-time player at the next level are certainly there.

One of the big stories coming out of the Under Armour week for Ohio State fans was the emergence of Van (Tex.) linebacker Dalton Santos as a legitimate Ohio State target. By all accounts, Santos had a solid week of practice and that carried over to the game on Thursday night where he recorded six tackles and made some impressive plays, including one where he blew up a screen pass in the first quarter.

Santos is built like, and plays like, a classic Big Ten middle linebacker and the Tennessee commit is thought to be taking a second look at his recruitment after the Vols lost some key assistant coaches recently. The Buckeyes swooped in with an offer this week and are likely to host Santos on an official visit in late January.

Another prospect that is fairly new to the Ohio State radar, Windsor (Colo.) offensive lineman Joey O'Connor. O'Connor saw plenty of action at right guard in the game on Thursday night and made a few nice plays in the game. The first impressive play came in the first half when Connor dropped back into pass protection, shoved his man in the chest, and put him on his back. O'Connor would later make a tackle in punt coverage as well.

The Buckeyes have yet to extend an offer O'Connor's way but the big lineman is scheduled to make an official visit on January 13th and it would seem odd that Ohio State would bring in a prospect this late in the game without extending an offer at some point.

Rounding out the Ohio State targets in the UA game was Scottsdale (Ariz.) wide receiver Davonte Neal. Neal finished the game with two kickoff returns for 49 yards and two catches, including a touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter. With the Buckeyes still looking for another offensive playmaker in this class, Neal would seem to fit the ball with his speed, quickness, and kick returning ability. The speedy receiver is expected to make an official visit to Ohio State on January 13th.

With the Under Armour Game now in the books, the spotlight will turn to the US Army All-American Bowl which will be played on Saturday afternoon at 1 PM eastern time. Stay tuned to BuckeyeGrove.com for more coverage of the national high school all-star games.


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