To build one of college football’s greatest programs, you’ve got to be able to recruit from America’s best high school programs. And there have been few high schools that have played as big a role in Ohio State’s success since the turn of the century as Cleveland Glenville.
The Tarblooders didn’t just send a few players to be Buckeyes. Oh no, Ted Ginn, Sr. and his football program – from the Buckeyes’ 2002 recruiting class to their 2014 recruiting class – had 22 players make a pledge to put on the scarlet and gray.
It all started with arguably the most famous of all the Glenville signees – quarterback Troy Smith – and has continued through the current Ohio State roster, which boasts three Tarblooders (linebacker Chris Worley and defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith). It was a relationship that played a major role in success the Buckeyes saw on the field during the Jim Tressel era and helped nearly two dozen young men pursue the dream of playing football for the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium.
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As mentioned, if it weren’t for Troy Smith, the Tressel era would have undoubtedly been significantly different. Smith was talented quarterback at Glenville – he was an Elite 11 participant in the summer of 2001 – but he was not a player anyone expected to play for the Buckeyes. Ohio State had an early commitment from Massillon’s Justin Zwick, whose brother Jared played for Tressel at Youngstown State, and he was a prototype quarterback, 6-feet-4 and 215 pounds, that Ohio State had been waiting for.
Smith, days before signing day, appeared destined for a collegiate career at West Virginia. But it was the persistence of Ted Ginn, Sr. that changed all that. He had hounded Tressel for months, convincing him not only to take a long look at Smith, but that he could find room for him in his 2002 recruiting class – a class that ESPN once ranked as the second-best of any school between 2000-2010 – as an athlete, meaning there would be no rocking the boat for Zwick, the heir apparent at quarterback.
Smith redshirted in his true freshman season for the Buckeyes, but played in his second year – returning kicks – and eventually fought his way into the quarterback rotation, splitting reps with Zwick throughout the 2004 season before taking over the reins completely. Smith’s impact on the field was obvious, but perhaps his greatest contribution to the Ohio State program was opening the door for more Tarblooders to follow him to Columbus.
And in those first years, the talent was exceptional.
After Smith came Donte Whitner and Dareus Hiley, who was viewed by recruiting analysts as one of the most talented players ever to come out of Glenville and had earned the nickname “Superman,” in the 2003 class. Whitner starred for the Buckeyes, though Hiley hit academic roadblocks and left the program after just one season. The year after, Ted Ginn, Jr., a 5-star prospect as a cornerback and a national-level sprinter, and Curtis Terry, who played fullback, defensive end and linebacker for the Buckeyes, followed suit.
In an interview with Cleveland.com’s Doug Lesmerises in October of 2014, Whitner admitted that when Smith opened that door, he and his teammates felt their time may come as well.
“I remember when Troy first got that offer and committed, we all felt like that was the start to it,” Whitner said. “Get one in, get one in the door, then show what he can do. That’s how the pipeline started – through Troy, then myself and Ted Ginn Jr.”
After the success of Smith, Whitner and Ginn, it became easy to justify taking a chance on future Glenville products. During their 2006 season – a run that ended with a disappointing 41-14 loss in the national championship game to Urban Meyer and Florida – there were seven players on the Ohio State roster from Glenville. That means that almost 10 percent of the Buckeyes team that year was a Ted Ginn, Sr. product.
The pipeline showed no signs of slowing down, and it didn’t – until the 2015 recruiting class, the first in 13 years without a Glenville player. Now, after another zero in 2016 and no prospects to speak of for 2017, it’s approaching three straight years without a Tarblooders player. Of the three current Buckeyes, two (Worley and Lattimore) are playing a major role on defense, while the third, Erick Smith, continues to press forward and work on getting healthy after an ACL surgery that ended his 2015 season prematurely.
The Ohio State roster, by the start of the 2018 season, could be Glenville-less, and it’s not because Urban Meyer doesn’t respect Ted Ginn, Sr. to the same degree Jim Tressel did. He does.
“I was actually with Coach Ginn on Friday,” Meyer told the media at the end of September. “They had an assembly where all the players, the entire school were in blazers and ties and looked like a million bucks. And I’m just so proud of what Ted’s (done). I first met him 20 some years ago when he was a security guy at the Glenville High School. So he’s got one of the greatest hearts, he’s personally been involved with many of our players, he’s helped them through some hard times and kept (them) focused.”
There are a handful of Division 1 talents on Ginn’s current Glenville team, including Coby Bryant, the younger brother of one of Meyer’s favorite players during his Ohio State tenure, former safety Christian Bryant. but the odds of him finding his way to Ohio State aren’t good.
The end of the Glenville pipeline, as the Buckeyes have become more of a national presence on the recruiting trail, seems inevitable. But the Tarblooders’ contributions to the modern era of Ohio State football can’t and shouldn’t be understated.