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June 14, 2005
When you think of traditional Midwest football most people think of big offensive linemen mashing out yard after yard and moving the chains with bone-crunching blocks.
If you're looking for the linemen to crack some skulls and open up those holes, then look no further than the state of Ohio. The 2006 offensive line class in Ohio could go down as one for the ages. But that's just one of many areas of strength in the Rivals.com preseason Ohio top 50.
While there isn't a five-star offensive lineman like last year's group that included Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward star Alex Boone, this year's crop in Ohio includes Rivals100 100 selections Justin Boren, Aaron Brown and Connor Smith. They are ranked second, third and fourth respectively behind the state's top player overall, running back Chris Wells.
But it doesn't stop there.
Offensive tackle Lee Tilley is ranked as the state's No. 10 player, and seven other offensive linemen were ranked in the top 50. The number would be 11 if you included Springboro, Ohio, tight end Jake Ballard, who is ranked as the No. 11 player in the state. Many college coaches could project Ballard as an offensive tackle prospect along with potential at tight end and defensive tackle.
"I've been covering recruiting for a long time, and this offensive line class is one of the deepest I've ever seen," Rivals.com Midwest analyst Bill Kurelic said.
"Everybody is excited about Justin Boren, Aaron Brown and Connor Smith, but what make this line class really special are guys like Ryan Palmer, Bryant Browning, Bill Nagy, Joe Thomas and Clark Crum. They're all very good players and show you the excellent depth in the Buckeye State this year."
It's also a good year for quarterbacks, which is no major surprise, in Ohio as six players made the top 50. The competition for the top spot in the state was a tough one as the difference between all five isn't great.
Canton (Ohio) GlenOak signal-caller Michael Hartline takes home the top honors in the state and is ranked at No. 19 overall. He finished ahead of Bellaire, Ohio, dual-threat quarterback/athlete Nate Davis, who came in at No. 28. Davis is a two-sport star that might have the best athletic ability in the bunch but he still is considering playing both sports in college and isn't totally focused on football.
Arvell Nelson of Cleveland Glenville, Rudy Kirbus of Cleveland St. Ignatius, Miles Schlichter of Washington Court Houston (Ohio) Miami Trace and Brennen Glass of Springfield South also cracked the state rankings.
"I think there is a good shot at each one of these guys being talented enough to play on the Big 10 level," Kurelic said. "Some of them might not end up in the Big 10 and might slip down to the MAC, but we definitely think they're talented enough to play at a high level."
Quite a few familiar schools also litter the top 50 list. Glenville, led by coach Ted Ginn Sr., placed seven players on the list. Cincinnati Colerain and Cleveland St. Ignatius each had three players on the list.