In his introductory press conference as Ohio State’s new head coach on Dec. 4, Ryan Day made it clear that one of his top priorities on the recruiting trail would be bringing the best high school football players from within Ohio to the state’s flagship university.
“To the high school coaches in Ohio: We have the best coaches and some of the best high school programs in all of America here in Ohio. And it will continue to be our first priority to recruit Ohio football players,” Day said. “Every young football player in the state of Ohio should dream about one day becoming a Buckeye. And it's our staff's responsibility to make sure we recruit them at the highest level.”
In his first seven months leading the Buckeyes’ recruiting efforts, Day has repeatedly backed up that statement.
From the commitment of 2019 St. Ignatius linebacker Tommy Eichenberg just two days after Day was named Urban Meyer’s successor to the commitment of 2020 Elder tight end Joe Royer on Tuesday, Ohio State has landed pledges from 11 in-state prospects since Dec. 6.
|Player||Position||School||Class||Ohio Ranking||Commitment Date|
|ZACH HARRISON||DE||OLENTANGY ORANGE||2019||No. 1||DEC. 19, 2018|
|TOMMY EICHENBERG||ILB||ST. IGNATIUS||2019||No. 8||DEC. 6, 2018|
|DARRION HENRY||DL||PRINCETON||2020||No. 2||JUNE 29, 2019|
|JOE ROYER||TE||ELDER||2020||No. 11||JULY 2, 2019|
|TY HAMILTON||DE||PICKERINGTON CENTRAL||2020||No. 27||JUNE 16, 2019|
|JAKOB JAMES||OL||ELDER||2020||No. 29||JAN. 21, 2019|
|TREY LEROUX||OT||NORWALK||2020||No. 40||MARCH 11, 2019|
|JAKE SEIBERT||K||LA SALLE||2020||No. 64||JUNE 4, 2019|
|JACK SAWYER||DE||PICKERINGTON NORTH||2021||No. 1||FEB. 3, 2019|
|BEN CHRISTMAN||OT||REVERE||2021||No. 2||JUNE 26, 2019|
|JAYDEN BALLARD||WR||MASSILLON WASHINGTON||2021||No. 5||JUNE 21, 2019|
Most importantly, Day has been successful in keeping Ohio’s top talents within state lines.
Day made his first huge splash as the Buckeyes’ head recruiter with the signing of five-star 2019 Olentangy Orange defensive end Zach Harrison, who was seriously considering leaving Central Ohio for Michigan or Penn State until a strong final push led by Day and defensive line coach Larry Johnson in the two weeks leading up to his signing day on Dec. 19.
In February, five-star 2021 Pickerington North defensive end Jack Sawyer – who is currently the No. 1 prospect in Ohio and the No. 2 overall prospect nationally in his class – announced his commitment to Day and the Buckeyes.
Within the past month alone, Ohio State has landed commitments from six in-state prospects include Princeton defensive lineman Darrion Henry, Ohio’s No. 2 prospect for the class of 2020; La Salle kicker Jake Seibert, the nation’s No. 2 kicker for the class of 2020; Revere offensive tackle Ben Christman, Ohio’s No. 2 prospect for the class of 2021; and Massillon Washington wide receiver Jayden Ballard, Ohio’s No. 5 prospect for the class of 2021.
Five-star Princeton offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio’s No. 1 prospect for the class of 2020, also remains committed to Day and the Buckeyes after seriously considering Georgia and LSU – as he told Eleven Warriors’ Taylor Lehman on Tuesday – following Meyer’s retirement. While Johnson might not technically count as a commitment to Day, as he originally committed to Ohio State in June 2018 when Meyer was still coach, Day has nonetheless played a crucial role in keeping Johnson in the fold.
Landing the top prospects from the state of Ohio is always an expectation at Ohio State, so there’s a risk of giving Day and his staff too much credit for simply doing what they’re supposed to do. Nonetheless, it is impressive what he and his staff have been able to accomplish in that regard before he’s even coached a game as the Buckeyes’ permanent head coach, and it’s a crucial step in building the foundation for the next several years of Ohio State football to come.
For all that Meyer and his staff accomplished during his seven years at Ohio State, some fans felt as though the Buckeyes did not place enough emphasis on bringing Ohio’s top prospects to Columbus during his tenure, particularly in his later years. One particular area of concern over the past couple years was the Buckeyes’ offensive line recruiting efforts – led by returning position coach Greg Studrawa – where they missed out on several in-state targets, including five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman, Ohio’s top prospect for the class of 2018, who chose to go to Clemson instead.
Since Day’s arrival, however, the Buckeyes have made a strong push to secure some of the state’s top offensive linemen, landing commitments from Elder’s Jakob James and Norwalk’s Trey Leroux to join Johnson in the 2020 class and Christman for 2021.
Ohio State has also shown a willingness to take commitments from some lower-ranked in-state prospects – such as James, Leroux and Pickerington Central defensive lineman Ty Hamilton – who Meyer might have been more inclined to withhold offers from until later in the cycle. That could be seen as a good or bad move, depending on your perspective; Meyer’s Buckeyes missed out on some in-state prospects that they wanted late and likely could have had if they had made offers sooner, but they did that in order to chase more highly ranked out-of-state prospects, some of who they landed.
What has been evident so far, though, is that Day’s promise to prioritize in-state recruiting was not just lip service.
“We have the best coaches and some of the best high school programs in all of America here in Ohio. And it will continue to be our first priority to recruit Ohio football players.”– Ryan Day during his introductory press conference
That’s not to say that Ohio State isn’t still recruiting nationally; other commitments under Day’s watch have included 2019 Hawaii offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi, 2020 Washington wide receiver Gee Scott Jr. and 2020 California cornerback Clark Phillips, just to name a few examples, and talent (along with character) will continue to be the most important factor in determining which prospects the Buckeyes pursue.
The Buckeyes’ class of 2020 is currently ranked fourth nationally – with the potential for several more commitments from out-of-state prospects in the next few weeks that could propel that ranking even higher – while Ohio State currently has the highest class average among schools with multiple commits for 2021.
As a native of New Hampshire without clear-cut Ohio ties, however, Day needed to make an early statement that the top high school players in the Buckeye State would have a prominent place in the Ohio State football program under his leadership. So far, Day’s efforts to close out the 2019 class and build the 2020 and 2021 classes have included a distinct in-state presence that many football players, coaches and fans around the state had hoped they would see.