In a year that has been full of twists and turns, everything went as planned for Ohio State on the first day of the early signing period for football recruits.
All 21 players who were verbally committed to coach Ryan Day’s program signed by the middle of the morning, locking in a class that figures to finish in the top five in the nation for the fifth time in the last six years.
The class includes six of the top 50 recruits in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and three players rated No. 1 in the country at their position — Steilacoom, Wash., receiver Emeka Egbuka; Bellaire, Texas, offensive guard Donovan Jackson and Hopewell, Va., running back TreyVeon Henderson.
Here are five takeaways from what Day and recruiting coordinator Mark Pantoni had to say about the class:
1. Day is excited to welcome the new guys on to campus — including some he hasn’t even met in person.
The coronavirus pandemic pretty much brought an end to in-person recruiting in the middle of March. That sent player procurement into the virtual world, a place Ohio State apparently thrived as half of the class committed after the change in protocols.
Throughout a video conference with reporters Wednesday, Day credited the work of players such as Henderson in helping put and hold the class together.
“I can’t wait to get around these guys,” Day said. “It’s been like forever since we’ve seen them, and some of these guys we haven’t met in person, which is unbelievable to me. But how cool is it to see a guy like this as the top running back in the country, a 4.0 student, making connections with so many these other recruits with the dream to come in here and be part of a culture that is about winning championships and bettering themselves and being the best version of themselves.”
2. Pantoni credited the strength of the Ohio State brand for helping the Buckeyes push through.
“Throughout these virtual times, (receivers coach Brian) Hartline always said that you could see a commercial for like a luxury car or sports car, and that’s kind of what the Zoom visit was,” Pantoni said. “You’d see this great car, but you never really know until you sit in that seat and drive it. And a lot of these kids didn’t get to test drive the vehicle. They just saw the commercial for it, but it just shows the power of the brand of Ohio State as well. This place, there’s not a lot to sell because it’s great and everything that it means. The kids know that. They see that, so that helps as well.”
3. Day called the Ohio natives “special.”
Ohio State signed only six players from Ohio, but that includes the four top-rated prospects in the state — Pickerington North defensive end Jack Sawyer, Streetsboro defensive tackle Mike Hall, Massillon Washington receiver Jayden Ballard and Ironton linebacker Reid Carrico.
Day said one of the first things he did after being named successor to Urban Meyer in December 2018 was meet with Sawyer, who committed to Ohio State the following February and became one of the team’s best recruiters as the class came together.
“All of these guys from Ohio are gonna be really good players here. You just know it,” Day said. “Sometimes you’re not sure, (but this year) you just know because we’ve really had to dig into who these people are even more because of he unique year this has been.”
The other Ohioans to sign with the Buckeyes in this cycle were Richfield Revere offensive lineman Ben Christman (ranked No. 6 in the state) and Cincinnati La Salle defensive back Jaylen Johnson (13).
4. Quarterback Kyle McCord will compete for the 2021 starting job if Justin Fields leaves early, as expected.
A five-star prospect from Philadelphia, McCord is the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country. He plans to enroll in January, and Day said he will have a shot to beat out 2020 signees C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller to succeed Fields, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player and Quarterback of the Year.
Although Stroud and Miller have a year of college under their belt, the abbreviated spring and fall seasons robbed them of some valuable opportunities to develop.
5. Day is not concerned where the class ranks nationally.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Alabama was on track to take home another recruiting national title, and that was fine with the coach of the Buckeyes.
“I’m not really interested in that at all because it’s just someone’s opinion,” Day said. “I get it. I respect it all, but in the end, you got to find the right guys for Ohio State, the right fit.
“And I would say it’s not 100%, but the guys that we bring in, they’re the right fit for us. This is the No. 1 recruiting class for us. I’m sure some people look at that a little bit more. In the end, I just want to make sure we have the right guys for us and that we’re winning once they get here in four years. To me that’s the true test of a recruiting class is where is it at in four years or three years from when they sign.”
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