Garrett Wilson put his trust in Ryan Day.
Before Dwayne Haskins had a record-breaking, Heisman Trophy finalist-worthy season that led to him going in the first round, before Parris Campbell became a second-round pick, before Terry McLaurin shot up draft boards and before K.J. Hill positioned himself to become Ohio State’s all-time leader in catches, Wilson committed to play for the Buckeyes. It didn’t matter that the J.T. Barrett-led offense didn’t set the world on fire in 2017. Day had told him what he envisioned the passing game could turn into, and Wilson bought in.
He announced his decision on April 29, 2018.
“He told me that they plan to pass the ball a lot, so seeing it this year, it was just awesome to watch and fun to watch and I can't wait to be a part of it,” Wilson said in February.
The results soon followed Day’s promises.
Haskins proceeded to reset the program record book by completing 373-of-533 passes for 4,831 yards with 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Campbell set the Ohio State single-season record with 90 catches for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hill caught a career-high 70 passes for 885 yards, and Johnnie Dixon snagged 42 passes for 669 yards and eight touchdowns. McLaurin scored 12 touchdowns. Austin Mack had 26 catches before his season was cut short due to injury, and Binjimen Victor had 21 catches, including arguably the season’s most important touchdown against Penn State. Chris Olave, out of seemingly nowhere, scored two touchdowns vs. Michigan.
Only one team – Washington State – averaged more passing yards per game than the Buckeyes, who tossed an average of 358.7 yards each game, breaking the previous school record.
As the season progressed, though, the Buckeyes seemingly couldn’t pick up much momentum on the recruiting trail. The Zach Smith fiasco preceded the season and questions about Urban Meyer’s health persisted, leading to a drought in 2020 commitments.
Only one 2020 prospect committed to Ohio State during the 2018 regular season. Naturally, the pledge came from a wide receiver amid the Day-led aerial onslaught of college football.
Four-star wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba announced his commitment to play for the Buckeyes on Nov. 4, becoming the first player to commit in 120 days. The next commitment didn’t come until Dec. 25, when four-star receiver Gee Scott Jr. made his Christmas decision to join Day.
The progress picked up this spring and continued this summer, culminating in four-star receiver Mookie Cooper’s decision to commit to Ohio State on Monday. Suddenly, the Buckeyes have a future of five-star and four-star quarterbacks and wide receivers lined up eager to become next in line to play in Day's offense.
Between the 2020 and 2021 classes, they have commitments from one five-star wide receiver, two four-star quarterbacks and five four-star wide receivers. None of the seven quarterbacks or wide receivers across either the 2020 or 2021 class is ranked lower than 110th nationally in their respective classes.
- Four-star quarterback Jack Miller: No. 71 overall, No. 2 pocket-passing quarterback
- Five-star wide receiver Julian Fleming: No. 5 overall, No. 1 receiver
- Four-star wide receiver Mookie Cooper: No. 64 overall, No. 11 receiver
- Four-star wide receiver Gee Scott Jr.: No. 66 overall, No. 13 receiver
- Four-star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba: No. 89 overall, No. 18 receiver
- Four-star quarterback Kyle McCord: No. 51 overall, No. 5 pro-style quarterback
- Four-star wide receiver Jayden Ballard: No. 110 overall, No. 20 receiver
Let's put the commitments into perspective.
Ohio State has four top-100 wide receivers committed in its 2020 class. The rest of the Big Ten combined has five top-100 players at any position committed. No other team in the country has four-top 100 receivers committed. Ohio State is the only team in the country with a top-100 quarterback committed in both the 2020 and 2021 classes.
With Wilson and Jameson Williams already on the team, the Buckeyes could conceivably have six underclassman wide receivers on their 2020 roster who were once ranked in the top 100 of their respective classes. And that's not counting Jaelen Gill and Kamryn Babb, both of whom were top-100 recruits who will be redshirt sophomores that season.
The 2018 offense also put the Buckeyes in the position to land Georgia transfer Justin Fields, formerly the No. 2 overall recruit in the class of 2018. He had his choice of schools and opted to spend the next couple years in Columbus, where he believes he'll have the best chance of developing into the NFL quarterback.
“It was great to see what (Haskins) did last year and I’m just hoping to do the same thing,” Fields said in February.
Ohio State's recruiting performance is reminiscent of another program that had recent success after replacing a long-time successful head coach.
Lincoln Riley took over for Bob Stoops as Oklahoma's head coach prior to the 2017 season, and he proceeded to coach two Heisman Trophy winners – Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray – in his first two years. The Sooners soon began to sell their prolific passing offenses to recruits who wanted to become the next Mayfield, Murray, Marquise Brown or CeeDee Lamb.
Oklahoma landed three top-75 wide receivers, including two five-star wideouts, in its 2019 class, and it reeled in Spencer Rattler, the top-rated quarterback in the country. Riley already has a commitment from five-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff in the class of 2021.
In the past year, Day has begun to take take the same tactic as Riley, and it worked with Wilson before he had ever even coached a game. Now that his promise of prolific passing production came true, backed up by on-field results, the Buckeyes' offense almost sells itself.
McCord and Miller want to become the next quarterbacks to head to New York City as Heisman Trophy candidates. Cooper, Fleming, Smith-Njigba, Scott and Ballard want to turn into the next record-setting Ohio State wide receivers.
Haskins, McLaurin, Campbell, Hill, Mack, Victor and Olave showed the future what can be accomplished in Day's offense last season, and the top players in the country have already bought in.