Ohio State head coach Ryan Day stepped up to the podium on National Signing Day without much doubt as to what his class would look like.
He began the day with 15 players who had signed their letters of intent in the 2019 class, including five-star defensive end Zach Harrison, five-star center Harry Miller and five-star wide receiver Garrett Wilson, bringing the roster total to 83. He added two more linemen: four-star offensive guard Enokk Vimahi and three-star offensive guard Dawand Jones, making the roster at a full 85 players.
After the Vimahi signing, Ohio State was ranked as having the No. 13 class in the country and the No. 3 class in the Big Ten.
But to Day, after taking over the head coaching job from Urban Meyer, establishing relationships with the current recruiting class and planning ahead for the future, this 2019 class represented much more than that ranking entailed.
“When you look at what we’ve done as a culture since August, with the coaching change, we’ve only had two guys leave the program,” Day said. “When you keep the retention like, it shows about the culture in the coaching change, but also it isn’t about signing 27 guys because you’re retaining guys. Guys want to stay in the program. That’s the strength of our team right now.”
Even with the retention, Ohio State did lose depth at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Tate Martell transferred to the University of Miami, and is attempting to gain eligibility with the Hurricanes for the 2019 season.
Day said he was disappointed to see Martell leave and wishes him nothing but the best moving forward.
“First off, it’s hard to recruit a highly recruited guy, then recruit guys behind them,” Day said. “If they leave, after their third year in the program, it gets really hard. That’s the constant struggle of right now with college football and the quarterback situation. It’s very sensitive.”
With former Georgia freshman Justin Fields coming in to replace Martell, it leaves Ohio State with only three scholarship quarterbacks: Fields, freshman Matthew Baldwin and junior Chris Chugunov.
Day said he still wants a room with four quarterbacks, the roster would is full.
“You have to adjust with what you have,” Day said. “You take it year by year, do the best you can to put the best product on the field, go from there.”
Regarding Fields’ eligibility, Day said he is hoping to hear a ruling in the next few weeks, but is “holding his breath” and is unsure at what the ruling would be. According to the head coach, the ruling would determine how many reps Baldwin would get at quarterback in the spring.
No matter if it’s Fields or Baldwin behind center at the start of the 2019 season, Day said the youth at quarterback is “a big challenge.”
The head coach said he is approaching the 2019 season similarly to what he believes Clemson did last season when it started Trevor Lawrence, a true freshman at quarterback.
This is something recruits want: to play immediately when they start college. However, it is not something that usually happens at Ohio State, something that Day is aware of and does not hide from recruits.
“Guys want to play right now,” Day said. “The best way to combat that is to be honest in the recruiting process. To tell someone they’re going to come in and play right away is not right. I think you have to be honest with them, tell them it’s a competition. There’s no expectation problems when they get here.”
But with one signing day under his belt, his first as the head coach, the future is here for Ryan Day, shown through the recruiting class he has helped shape in his first month on the job.
Story updated at 6:43 p.m. after Dawand Jones commits to Ohio State.