The Hurry Up: Jeff Hafley Builds Reputation, Making Buckeyes Even Hotter Destination for Defensive Backs

By Zack Carpenter on October 4, 2019 at 5:45 pm
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.

Hafley continues picking up steam

Jeff Hafley ... the face that launched 1,000 columns.

Ohio State’s defense was awful last season and is now gaining national attention as arguably the best in the nation. Some of that can obviously be attributed to having guys like Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade already in place when Hafley arrived.

“The players that they recruited here are very good. They did an unbelievable job,” Hafley said during Tuesday’s press conference at Ohio State.

Hafley has done an unbelievable job himself, and he’s been getting even more much-deserved recognition for it this week. 

Maybe too good of a job. It’s gotten many to justifiably wonder whether Hafley is long for this job, or if the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach is going to be bound for a head coaching gig or another NFL gig.

Hafley was asked if Ryan Day had discussed staying on staff for a two-year commitment like Urban Meyer requested from his assistants. Hafley says he and Day have never talked about him staying for two years. 

“Honestly, I’m just thinking about today,” Hafley said. “There’s so much that goes into every day. I haven’t even had time to shave. Look at me, right? There’s so much that needs to go into every single day, every single minute, every meeting. I walk around here and someone grabs me here; someone grabs me there.”

Hafley doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. 

“Just to think about tomorrow would be hard for me. I’m very happy here,” Hafley said. “Truthfully, this is the most fun I’ve had coaching in a long time. I feel reenergized. I love this staff, I love working for Coach Day, I love these players. I love coming to work every day. I haven’t been able to say that in a long time, but I mean that. This is fun, so I’m really excited to be here right now.”

But if he keeps this up, and if he wants to make a move, he could be headed for a bigger coaching role, and with him, he would take a recruiting resume and prowess that’s been nothing short of impressive thus far in his time in Columbus.

On Thursday, Hafley was ranked the No. 5 recruiter in the nation for the 2020 class by ESPN's Tom VanHarren — Brian Hartline was ranked No. 1 — after bringing in Clark Phillips III, Lathan Ransom and getting a big recommitment from Lejond Cavazos. The potential for Ryan Watts III to join that list would further justify his ranking on that list.

Hafley's recruiting reputation only projects to improve as he keeps looking to add recruits who will thrive in his man-press coverage system and has eyes on guys like Tony Grimes, Jakailin Johnson and others as the Buckeyes look for their first defensive back commitment from the 2021 class.

Hafley has helped the development of Okudah and Wade. They seem to only be getting better.

Okudah agrees.

“I think right now, I’m taking steps in the right direction, but at the end of the day, I feel like we’re all — the whole secondary — taking steps in the right direction,” Okudah said Wednesday. “(Damon) Arnette’s playing really great, Jordan (Fuller’s) playing more confident than ever, and Shaun too. 

“I would say Coach Hafley’s really helped the group take steps with our confidence and our football skillset. I feel like it’s a great transition.”

Hafley is a great resource for guys like Okudah, Wade and incoming recruits and targets to ask questions. Right up there with the program’s reputation of putting defensive backs in the pros, Hafley’s own reputation is one of the best pitches the Buckeyes have.

Okudah is on track to be a top-15 pick in the 2020 NFL draft, and Wade could be an early to mid-round pick if he declares. Hafley has prepared them for the next level with the information he has handed down from his experience in the league.

“I ask him how the players were and the differences between college and the NFL,” Okudah said. “I ask him conceptually what’s different and ask him what different receivers will do compared to college receivers. I asked him what Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis were like. I ask him a lot of things just ‘cause I wanna soak up as much information as I can.”

Where will Stellato fit?

I said in yesterday's Hurry Up that I want to start answering some of your guys' questions that you leave in the comments section. I'm hoping to make it a weekly thing, perhaps daily, so if you've got questions, leave them down there, and I'll do my worst at answering them. 

We got another great question from Brutus360, who asked where Troy Stellato will play on the field in college, wideout or H-back?

I see Stellato as an H-back/slot receiver type. He's got incredible speed with a 4.42 40-yard dash at The Opening in February, but with a vertical at only 27 inches recorded at the same event, he doesn't project to be a guy who will play on the outside and go up and snag 'em for you like Garrett Wilson (36.1-inch vertical). 

His vertical is much lower than 2020 guys who project at wideout like Julian Fleming (40 inches), Jaxon Smith-Njigba (37) and Gee Scott Jr. (38.9). Stellato still has time to improve that vertical at his age, but right now it's probably one of the factors adding to the lower rating he's had.

Watching this Hudl film from late September, Stellato played all but one snap from the slot receiver position.

He showcased terrific hands, some breakaway speed, and around the 3-minute mark, he shows his blocking skills. To me, any time someone is putting down blocks like the ones Stellato is in that highlight package and finishing out the play — albeit, it's a small sample size — it shows an unselfish player willing to work. It also shows he's at least already comfortable/familiar with being able to run block when he gets to college.

Cowan reminder

Just wanted to again touch on the Jacolbe Cowan announcement set to take place at approximately 10 p.m. after his team's game tonight. 

It's looking really good for the Buckeyes to land the four-star defensive lineman, as all 11 predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball currently have him projected to commit to Ohio State.

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