Recruiting is the lifeblood of a college football program, according to coach Ryan Day and his predecessor Urban Meyer.
It’s now summer during Day’s first recruiting cycle at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes could use a little more recruiting circulation on defense, where Ohio State landed a commitment from only its second prospect in the 2020 class on Sunday.
“This month is a big month for us,” Day said in a press conference June 5. “It’s really, ‘Where are we gonna be at the end of June?’ That’s when I think we’ll have a better handle on the whole class.”
Currently, the Buckeyes hold verbal pledges from three-star defensive lineman Ty Hamilton, the brother of current Ohio State redshirt senior defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, and four-star defensive back Lejond Cavazos.
One difficulty the Buckeyes faced early in the cycle was turnover in the staff room. Day hired four new assistants on defense, retaining only defensive line coach Larry Johnson from Meyer’s 2018 staff.
Coaches Jeff Hafley, Greg Mattison, Al Washington and Matt Barnes only maintain a five-month rapport — at least at Ohio State — with their recruiting targets, whereas assistants from other top universities may go back years with the same players.
That could contribute to why the Buckeyes have started so slow.
Meanwhile, the cycle has moved up nationally in recent years, with the option for high school players to take official visits in the summer and the early signing period in December. Mattison believes this plays into Ohio State’s hand, however.
“Mickey Marotti, our strength coach, is the best in the country,” Mattison said. “If you’re a recruit, and you get a chance to come in the summer, and you get a chance to see why so many players have done so well, and how so many players have improved themselves and gone on to the NFL, you watch it firsthand, and that’s a great advantage.”
Hamilton is an Ohio product and the most recent commitment for the Buckeyes. Day said Ohio takes precedence over other states in his recruiting plans.
“Any time we go through our recruiting board, anybody who’s from Ohio is in red, everybody else is in black,” he said. “It matters to us that somebody understands what the rivalry is, somebody [who] grew up a Buckeye fan.”
The two in-state defensive prospects who are boarded above the rest include four-star defensive lineman Darrion Henry and four-star outside linebacker Jaheim Thomas.
Day noted transparency is paramount in the transfer portal era to land key players on defense, including the notion that prospects need to fall in love with the school as much as the program and see a clear path to success in life after football.
“It’s not about winning the social media battle or the No. 2 rankings in the country,” Day said. “You might sign the No. 2 kid in the entire country, and he jumps into the transfer portal the next year.”
It will be interesting to see how Ohio State’s recruiting plan unfolds with top defensive prospects such as five-star cornerbacks Kelee Ringo and Elias Ricks, a current LSU commit. Other names to watch include four-star cornerback Clark Phillips, four-star safety Lathan Ransom, four-star linebacker Kourt Williams and four-star defensive lineman Kedrick Bingley-Jones.
Phillips, the No. 4 cornerback in the class per 247Sports, said on Twitter Tuesday that he will make his commitment announcement on Friday, when he is scheduled to be on an official visit to Ohio State.
Williams, Ransom and Bingley-Jones are all scheduled to join Phillips among 15 prospects making official visits with the Buckeyes between Thursday and Friday during a crucial recruiting weekend. Seven of the fifteen players are on the defensive side of the ball.
Mattison believes there’s a lot for recruits to like, watching current Buckeye defenders practice.
“When you watch our defensive players, I think you have to be excited,” Mattison said. “They [have] great character. They love the game. And if I’m a recruit, I’m seeing that. I’m liking it.”