Coast to Coast: Western Portion of the Country Becoming an Integral Region for Buckeye Recruiting Under Ryan Day

By Andrew Ellis on July 21, 2019 at 8:30 am
Ryan Day's focus on the Western U.S. is paying off for the Buckeyes.

The questions and concerns over Buckeye recruiting in the post-Urban Meyer world were put to rest a long while ago. Ohio State's 2020 class is sitting at No. 3 in America behind only Clemson and Alabama and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Depending on what happens with the Tigers and Tide over the next few weeks, Ryan Day and the Buckeyes may actually be able to reach the top spot as there are three more big decisions coming between now and the first week of August. 

Back when Day took over, many folks wondered how Ohio State's recruiting approach may be tweaked over the coming years. The Buckeyes have 21 commitments in the fold and a third of those hail from the state of Ohio. There's likely always going to be that core group of in-state guys sprinkled in with the national prospects.

Day was fairly clear on that message when speaking this past week in Chicago.

“The basis of our recruiting has to be in Ohio and that three-to four hour radius. It has to be, it has to be the foundation.”

During his time in Columbus, Urban Meyer signed eight prospects from the western portion of the country. That includes the likes of Colorado's Joey O'Connor (who transferred to Colorado State after his freshman year), California's Marcus Baugh in 2013, Tate Martell in 2017 and Chris Olave in 2018.

No one is going to criticize Meyer's efforts on the trail, but he certainly spread things out a bit with Florida, Texas, and even Michigan being some of the regular go-to states. His work out West landed some noteworthy players but didn't really compare to what Day is doing thus far. 

The Buckeyes added 2019 Hawaii lineman Enokk Vimahi back in February, and he was a guy who wasn't even really on the radar until Day took over. Ohio State's 2020 class already has four commitments from the western part of the country including Arizona's Jack Miller and Lathan Ransom, Washington's Gee Scott Jr., and California's Clark Phillips III. 

Much of Ryan Day's coaching resume features programs along the East Coast, but he made a stop in San Francisco with the NFL's 49ers in 2016 and the hiring of Jeff Hafley is also paying some major dividends on the recruiting front. 

As far as what we should expect moving forward, that's just going to depend on the makeup of the class, Day said. An especially strong year in Ohio is of course going to lead to more of an in-state push. Pennsylvania, Florida, and Texas will continue to be heavily recruited, but Day made it clear that things will change from year to year based on the national talent pool.

At Big Ten Media Days, he was asked about the 2020 class's emphasis on the state of California:

“It’s not an emphasis,” Day said. “It wasn’t like I said, ‘Hey guys, let’s recruit California or out that way.’ That wasn’t the case. I think it’s just the way this cycle has worked. I don’t have a lot of ties out there. Things happen in cycles. I’d be surprised if it was the same way next year. I think we’ll maybe be in Texas or the Southeast next year. It’s just the way it worked this year.”

Ohio State likely has about five or six spots remaining for its 2020 recruiting class. Two of Day's top remaining targets hail from the state of California and a certain five-star tailback is down in Tucson, Arizona. An argument can be made that the three of them are the staff's top overall targets for the rest of the cycle. 

Bellflower, California's St. John Bosco program is one of the state's best. The Buckeyes landed Wyatt Davis when Meyer was at the helm and the former five-star is going to be a major contributor this coming season. Now, it's linebacker/safety target Kourt Williams that Ohio State is looking to land over programs like Texas A&M and Penn State. 

While no definitive date has been set, the 6-foot-1, 216-pounder is planning on making his intentions known sometime this month. The Buckeyes continue to be the heavy favorites in this one and it would be another nice little feather in Jeff Hafley's cap.

Even with Clark Phillips and Lejond Cavazos in the fold, the Buckeye secondary could use another cornerback. Five-star Elias Ricks might have been leaning toward Ohio State when Meyer was still running the show, but he instead committed to LSU this past December. Ricks made the move from another California powerhouse (Mater Dei) to national football factory IMG Academy, where he'll now suit up with Cavazos. This continues to be worth watching.

Tucson tailback Bijan Robinson is set to announce his decision in less than two weeks on Aug. 2. Southern Cal and Texas remain in the hunt, but it's certainly looking like Tony Alford is going to get his guy. Robinson could team up with Florida's Jaylan Knighton after he makes his own decision on July 30. 

If Ryan Day and his staff are able to land Williams and Robinson, then the Buckeyes would be on track to sign six players from the region for 2020. When you include Vimahi from earlier this year, that's seven signees all since Day took over. We'll see how things turn out with Ricks, but either way it's been one heck of an impressive start.

Day talked about Ohio State's brand extending from coast to coast. That clearly isn't changing even with a first-year head coach now at the helm.

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