The Hurry Up: Jeff Hafley, Brian Hartline Are Just Getting Started As Top Recruiters in the Country

By Taylor Lehman on July 17, 2019 at 6:30 pm
Jeff Hafley
Jeff Hafley

The Hurry Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

Brian Hartline, Jeff Hafley Already Setting a Standard

Jeff Hafley added yet another feather in the cap of Ohio State’s revamped recruiting staff and strategy for the 2020 class with the commitment of four-star safety Lathan Ransom on Tuesday.

Ransom became the second defensive back from the West to commit to Ohio State, and Hafley was the primary reason for both commitments, thanks to his ties to the West Coast. The same goes for Brian Hartline at the wide receiver position, bringing in four top-100 prospects into the same position.

What makes these achievements even more impressive is that both assistants coaches are in their first seasons at the Big Ten level and at Ohio State recruiting for the Buckeyes. Their efforts have lifted them up to No. 2 (Hartline) and No. 3 (Hafley) in terms of assistant coaches on the recruiting trail.

When talking to prospects about what makes those two particular coaches appealing coaches to play for, they always mention their knowledge at their respective positions and their coaching styles. Hafley is a constant student of the game and coaches with a very level head, and Hartline is very active and energetic with his players.

But what stands out the most about both coaches is their experience in the NFL and the odds that they can be their vehicles to the League.

Both coaches have been in the League recently too – Hafley having coaches cornerbacks in San Francisco as recently as 2018 and Hartline having retired from the Browns after 2015 – meaning they have some of the best understanding of what is expected from the top players at the defensive back and the wide receiver positions.

All of those reasons combined with the type of program Ryan Day is working to create in Columbus in the post-Urban Meyer era are enough to bring in nearly any recruit that hasn’t already developed deep connections with other programs – or, in Elias Ricks’ case, prospects that have. If a highly rated player isn’t looking at Ohio State in those positions, there’s probably a reason why.

Hafley and Hartline have now created a standard – even though Hafley isn't finished with Court Williams – that will carry on into the 2021 class, which could shape up to be as impressive, if not more, as the 2020 class is proving to be.

Hartline has already earned the commitment of Ohio No. 5 overall prospect Jayden Ballard, who will see his national rating rise as his junior year passes. But he also has great relationships with No. 5 wideout Beaux Collins and No. 7 wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. – both have put Ohio State in their top-two. Emeka Egbuka, Lorenzo Styles, Gavin Blackwell and Dekel Crowdus are also very interested, and the Buckeyes are still involved in No. 2 wideout Agiye Hall’s recruitment.

Hafley is making hard pushes for No. 2 cornerback Tony Grimes and No. 4 cornerback Jakalain Johnson, as well as safety Jaylen Johnson, who is said to be an underrated recruit at his position to this point. Ohio State has also extended offers to four California defensive backs already.

Both coaches have already made their marks on a young class, but those marks will show on future recruiting classes as well, and on the field, that’s another story waiting to be told.

Jaheim Thomas to Commit Saturday

Cincinnati linebacker Jaheim Thomas, the teammate of Darrion Henry and Paris Johnson Jr. and a third of the Cincinnati trio, announced via Twitter that he will commit Saturday.

Even though there is a scholarship to be given and the Buckeyes could add an edge rusher to the class – Thomas is believed to be able to convert to the defensive end position – there is nearly no chance he will choose Ohio State or that Ohio State has had a change of heart and made him a take.

The only chance Thomas would choose the Buckeyes is if there was a change in how the staff viewed him as a prospect and if he was more willing to move to defensive end. He is the only one of the three Cincinnati teammates not committed to Ohio State. But there is no chance that happens. He will likely choose Cincinnati.

This is a good opportunity to revisit the trio’s path, though, and how quickly the ties unraveled between them as a package. Thomas will be remembered by Ohio State as representing the one hitch that could have lost Darrion Henry and Paris Johnson to another program if the Buckeyes didn’t offer.

As the trio made visits and all received offers from programs like Alabama, LSU and Georgia, the value of Thomas as a prospect was askew yet was the determinant that would decide their future.

Eventually, somewhere along the line, the three split and decided to make their recruitments their own, and after the June 21 event, Henry and Johnson appeared to be locked on Ohio State, while Thomas, who had already excluded the Buckeyes from his final schools, was clearly headed in a direction opposite of the Power Five offers he held.

With that said, though, Thomas will be a great add for Cincinnati, if he does decide to go there, and can certainly be an early-impact type of recruit for the Bearcats. His length at linebacker could be an asset, but his greatest potential lies at defensive end, where his 6-foot-5 and lean frame could pay dividends for the right role on the defensive line.

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