Zach Smith's Departure and What It Could Mean for Ohio State's Regional Recruiting Assignments

By Andrew Ellis on July 24, 2018 at 2:15 pm
Urban Meyer and the Ohio State staff may need to mix things up a bit on the recruiting trail.

Urban Meyer may elect to mix things up a bit on the trail.

The news of Zach Smith's firing brings all sorts of questions to the table. The first and most obvious revolves around the staff itself and who will take over Smith's role as Ohio State's wide receivers coach. For now, the expectation is that Brian Hartline – who is heading into his second season as a quality control coach – will shoulder much of the load. 

From a recruiting perspective, Smith's expertise and overall success may prove difficult to replicate. The former wide receivers coach had gained the reputation as one of Ohio State's best recruiters. Anyone who's coaching under Urban Meyer is expected to produce on the trail, but Smith had developed into one of the best in America.

For the Class of 2017, he was listed as the country's No. 4 recruiter by 247 Sports, and while many have questioned the development at the position, Smith's ability to connect with some of the nation's top prospects has been instrumental in the Buckeyes' overall recruiting efforts. 

Smith's "area" and reach had evolved a bit over the years, but many of his biggest wins came in South Florida, St. Louis, and the Virginia areas. He has of course ventured to other regions and assisted with a number of wideouts such as 2018 signee and Chris Olave (San Marcos, California) and Fort Wayne's Austin Mack. 

For the most part, however, his bread and butter remained on the East Coast, the Sunshine State, and lately within the state of Missouri.

Smith was instrumental in the recruitment of Virginia natives Matthew Burrell (Woodbridge), Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk), K'Vaughan Pope (Dinwiddie), and Teradja Mitchell (Virginia Beach). In Florida, he helped Ohio State land the likes of Binjimen Victor (Coconut Creek), Trevon Grimes (Fort Lauderdale), and Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens). 

The St. Louis area has become a bit of a go-to region ever since Ezekiel Elliott's time in Columbus. Smith was a big part of bringing 2018 signees Kamryn Babb and Cam Brown to town, but there's still a lot of work to be done in the STL and elsewhere.

What should we expect from these recruiting hotbeds now that Zach Smith's tenure as Ohio State's wide receivers coach has come and gone?

Perhaps the most urgent question was already answered when five-star wideout Garrett Wilson made things abundantly clear on the status of his Buckeye pledge. The Austin, Texas star will be coming home to Columbus for his college career, and while Texas wasn't a regular stop for Zach Smith on the trail, he had built up a relationship with the nation's No. 2 wideout.

The Buckeyes are set to lose plenty of receivers following the upcoming season, and the staff is still looking to bring in at least two more to accompany Wilson. The St. Louis duo of Marcus Washington and Jameson Williams have been at the top of the board for some time now, and Washington will be announcing his college decision in just a few short weeks. The Buckeyes appear to be the team to beat for both wideouts, but Alabama may make things interesting for Williams.

Assuming Brian Hartline takes over – whether it be in the interim or whatever capacity – then it's certainly reasonable to assume he could become the point man for both of the four-star wideouts. Urban Meyer has obvious ties to the state of Florida, but perhaps Hartline could be someone that could help in that area as well. He spent six seasons with the Dolphins before heading to Cleveland.

As far as Virginia goes, I think we can all agree that Larry Johnson has done a superb job along the Atlantic Coast, and there's no reason to think that won't continue. Oftentimes a recruiter takes the lead or "primary" role and then may be assisted by a position coach or even Meyer himself when necessary. I personally don't think this region will be anything to worry about from the recruiting side.

The bottom line is that Ohio State may need to shuffle things up a bit, and losing a recruiter with Smith's prowess can be a tough blow, but it's important to remember that Urban Meyer is still running the show. Zach Smith or any other position coach or area recruiter could build a stellar relationship with a player, but I'd venture to guess the vast majority of the time there's way more to it than a position coach and/or primary recruiter. 

It wouldn't be a surprise if there were a few tweaks to Ohio State's recruiting assignments, but when you have one of the best staffs in the country the loss of a position coach is usually something you can overcome. We've seen this before with the likes of Tom Herman, Stan Drayton, and Chris Ash.

It's probably fair to expect much of the same this time around.

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