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June 22, 2005COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Don't tell any Ohio prospects that this is a down time for recruiting, especially if they look tired. They will probably just shake their heads and refuse to listen.
Thirty-seven rising seniors from high schools across Ohio left Cleveland 12 days ago on a 3,000-plus mile road trip that took them to 10 Division-I schools through the heart of Big Ten country.
When they returned home Tuesday, nearly all the athletes' recruiting perspectives had changed.
Some relatively unknown recruits emerged as legitimate prospects with a handful of scholarship offers. Others landed their first offer and started to earn some genuine interest from programs. Prospects that began the trip as big names on the national scene added to their long list of offers and rearranged their list of favorites.
"I'm getting a lot more attention from schools because of this trip," said Brendan Mitchell, a tight end from Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, who is now on the radar of a handful of Big Ten schools. "I really wanted to market myself this summer, and this helped kick that off. I'm getting a chance to show what I can do and getting exposure."
The prospects made their first trip to Ball State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Notre Dame, Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State. They got a chance to meet coaching staffs and tour campuses, and they returned with some strong opinions.
Iowa seemed to be the big winner out of the group. The bulk of the prospects were particularly impressed with the Hawkeyes' football facilities and how they were treated by Coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff. A handful landed offers from the Big Ten program and plan on returning to make official visit to Iowa City, Iowa.
That list includes Glenville (Cleveland) High's gigantic offensive lineman Bryant Browning (6-4, 339), who is quickly turning into a highly coveted prospect. He is still strongly hoping for an offer from Ohio State, but in the meantime, the Hawkeyes are one of several Big Ten programs making him feel wanted and surging to the top of his wish list.
"My top four are now Iowa, Northwestern, Indiana and Wisconsin (the last two schools recently made offers)," Browning said. "I'm really going to be looking at the coaches because they have a big influence on your career."
Much like Browning, Glenville cornerback Royce Adams (5-11, 170) entered the trip with an offer from Iowa but still talking about how he mainly wanted an offer from Ohio State. As the Buckeyes continue to evaluate Adams, it appears the Hawkeyes are graining ground.
"Ohio State is still at the top of my list, but Iowa is in my top two now," said Adams, who also picked up offers from Cincinnati, Purdue and a handful of MAC programs. "I want to be a business major so I will look at the business programs at each school a lot and the atmosphere at the campuses is also important.
Iowa also made a favorable impression on possibly the most important prospect on the bus, Glenville receiver/cornerback Raymond Small (5-10, 170). Ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the state, Small is up to 21 offers now. Ohio State remains his leader, followed closely by Southern Cal. Wisconsin also made the cut, but Florida and LSU have been replaced by Iowa and North Carolina.
"I really want to come back to Iowa for an official visit," Small said. "The main thing that I am interested in when it comes to schools is position coaches. If I like the position coach then most likely I will like the school too."
Small said the percentage of schools recruiting him to play receiver or defensive back is nearly an equal split.
Strongsville High cornerback Brandon Stephens (5-10, 180) landed his first offer from Iowa during the trip and now calls the Hawkeyes his leader. He likely will land more offers soon with interest from Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State.
One of Glenville's other heavily recruited prospects is defensive lineman Robert Rose (6-4, 255). Like Small, North Carolina has found its way near the top of his list.
"Obviously Ohio State is out front right now, but I also like USC, North Carolina and Illinois," Rose said. "I'm really looking at academics right now, because if football doesn't work out, I need something to fall back on."
Glenville cornerback Ray Fisher (5-10, 170) landed offers from Illinois and Indiana and the Fighting Illini are now among the programs he is mainly considering along with Ball State, LSU, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Trotwood-Madison cornerback Jovani Chappel hasn't landed the offers he really wants yet, but he is growing confident that he will. Penn State, Purdue and a host of MAC schools have offered.
"I feel good about Iowa, Notre Dame and Wisconsin now," Chappell said. "I would really like to get offers from West Virginia, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa too."
Glenville quarterback Arvell Nelson (6-4, 175) got offers from Wisconsin, Iowa and Ball State on the trip. A handful of other Big Ten schools are showing interest now too.
Mitchell (6-3, 210) landed his first offer from Bowling Green and is being contacted by Iowa and Indiana.
Other rising prospects who are now on the verge of offers, include Bedford High cornerback Benjamin Kelly (5-9, 175), who hopes to join his brother Brandon Kelly at Wisconsin, and Benedictine High's Jahmal Brown (5-9, 180), who is getting interest from a handful of schools.
Glenville High receiver Daven Jones (6-0, 185) may be another name to monitor. The Wisconsin commit said he isn't reconsidering his decision but does plan on visiting some other schools in the coming months.