With no recruiting drama to worry about, Ryan Day was able to use his National Signing Day press conference to take a longer view of the recruiting calendar and the one player who did officially join Ohio State’s 2020 recruiting class.
Here are five takeaways from what the coach of the Buckeyes had to say:
1. He understood Cameron Martinez needing to reevaluate his options.
Twenty-four of Ohio State’s 25 recruits for 2020 signed when able to in December.
The lone holdout was Martinez, a four-star athlete from Muskegon, Mich., who had second thoughts after secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley left to become head coach at Boston College.
After getting to meet Hafley’s replacement, Kerry Coombs, Martinez announced last week he would sign with Ohio State.
“Very excited to have Cam,” Day said. “Thought he and his family handled things really well with Jeff leaving and then Kerry jumping in. He really handled it like a pro. The family was unbelievable, and we’re really excited to have him.”
2. Martinez will get a chance on each side of the ball — and special teams.
There was a school of thought Martinez would jump right into the mix in the defensive backfield with the loss of three starters from last season’s Big Ten championship team, but that is not necessarily the case.
“We’ll give him an opportunity to play on either side of the ball when he first gets in, which is unique, but this is somebody who played quarterback in high school,” Day said. “He was very, very productive and doesn’t have a lot of experience playing any other position, so we’re going to allow him to do both when he gets here, do some returning and kind of figure out where that goes.
“We’re excited about that because we think he’s really competitive. I think he’s one of the most under-recruited kids in the entire country. Really excited for he and his family to be joining us.”
Day said Martinez could play running back some day, but he will start at slot receiver, which is called the “H” in the Ohio State offense and requires some ability to run between the tackles.
He is also a candidate to play nickel or cornerback, and Coombs said he would fight to get him on that side of the ball but be happy to see him scoring touchdowns for the Buckeyes.
3. He understood Martinez needing more time to decide what to do after Hafley left rather than sign in December with the rest of the class.
He didn’t like it, but he felt that was necessary to grant the request.
“I told him if he needs to go look at other places, that he can do that,” Day said. “I said I’m not going to like that too much, but at the same time I respect your family enough that you can go ahead and check some places out.
“Now he never really ended up doing that, but I think he really understood that and respected the fact that we didn’t hold him to the fire, anything like that. We said, ‘Listen, you want to go check out some schools, feel free. Once we get the secondary coach and coordinator in place, I know you’re going to love it. And he did. It all worked out.”
4. That flexibility is part of Day’s overall ethos when it comes to recruiting.
“There used to be a time where at 7:01 (a.m.) you were checking the fax machine to see if things were coming through. We weren’t doing it with Cam because the relationship has been built,” Day said.
“And I think in today’s day and age, whether you sign or not, if the kid’s not happy or doesn’t really pick the school for the right reasons, he’s going to end up in the transfer portal and leave anyways. It’s not just about getting the kid to sign on the dotted line. It’s not that way anymore. Now it’s having trust and having the relationship with the family and common respect for each other that things are going to go in a certain way.
“And I think that’s the way it is with Cam and I think that’s the way it is with all the recruits in that they know they’re going to be treated the same way when they’re here as when they were recruited.”
5. Day is OK with the recruiting calendar the way it is — at least for now.
The 2020 class is the third with the option to sign letters of intent in December, something the majority of Ohio State recruits have decided to do rather than drag out their recruitment to the traditional signing day in early February.
Recovering from the Big Ten championship game, preparing for the first signing day and the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson — all in December — proved to be a big challenge for Day and his staff this year.
“I think with playing a championship game and you have one week to go out on the road as a head coach and one of those, two of those are going to be some of those award nights and you have to go see 14 mid-year guys from coast to coast when you recruit nationally like we do, it’s almost impossible,” Day said. “I think that’s very hard. What it’s done it’s taken a lot of pressure off of January. What January has become is what old spring recruiting used to be.
“I think we’re still trying to adjust the calendar. I think we have to be careful about making any more adjustments until this gets settled and we figure out what this model looks like.”
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