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.
Day, Ohio State set recruiting foundation in state
Ben Christman’s recruitment to Ohio State began with Urban Meyer.
As quickly as it started, it was done. Meyer stepped down from his post two weeks after his first talk with Christman, and suddenly Christman was talking with a new coaching staff looking to gain his commitment.
Ryan Day quickly made an impression on Christman, and he picked up a commitment from Christman, the state’s No. 2 overall prospect and the country’s ninth-ranked offensive tackle for the recruiting class of 2021. Ohio State has already landed five prospects for 2021, and four of them are Ohioans, all among the state’s top-five recruits in their class and three who are ranked in the top-75 nationally.
It matters who the head coach is at Ohio State. That still has an impact.
But ... it’s still Ohio State. It’s still scarlet and grey. The colors don’t change; neither do the traditions, and if you were an Ohio kid growing up dreaming of playing at the Shoe, this is the place you were dying to get to – whether the head coach’s name is Jim, Urban or Ryan. That had an impact on each of the four Ohio juniors who committed.
“If somebody is from the state of Ohio, then they’re gonna have a leg up on anybody else in the country in recruiting because this is their home state and they grew up being a Buckeye, so that matters,” Day said Tuesday.
Day is well aware of the importance of locking down Ohio, especially when it’s as loaded as it is for the 2021 class.
“It’s huge because in recruiting, our foundation is in Ohio, for sure, and the Midwest,” Day said. “Then we supplement it with national guys, but when you have so many talented guys in the state of Ohio that are right down the street, it’s big.”
Last weekend's game against Michigan State drew a massive group of in-state recruits to Ohio State, including Sawyer, Christman, Ballard and Styles. Chalk it up as another recruiting chip for Day and company.
“It’s great to have all those guys come visit us on Saturday night and get a feel for what the gameday atmosphere was like, which was awesome,” Day said. “So it’s working at a high level right now, and there are so many guys in Ohio right now who just wanna stay home and be a part of this. It’s going well.”
During Tuesday’s press conference, Day was asked how his in-state recruiting philosophy lined up with Meyer’s and Jim Tressel’s.
While Tressel was known for grabbing Ohio recruits by the dozen or more per class, Meyer dropped that number substantially during his tenure. His first class in 2012 was a mix of Tressel’s and Luke Fickell’s, and it featured 16 in-state recruits. That dropped to six in 2017, five the next two years and rose slightly to seven in Meyer and Day’s combined 2020 class.
“I just think you have to look at who you think fits your roster at that time,” Day said. “Who’s good enough to play? Ideally, you’d have as many Ohio guys as you can have, but sometimes it just kind of fluctuates based on the talent you have in that recruiting class, and you do the best you can to go recruit the best at each position that fit here. That’s another part of it – who are the guys that fit?”
Other in-state players who Day and his staff are eyeing include 2020 Iowa State running back commit Miyan Williams and 2021 running back Corey Kiner and safety Jaylen Johnson, in addition to Styles, defensive end Najee Story and safety A.J. Kirk – though I've heard interest in the latter two has waned quite a bit.
Ohio recruits reciprocate the feeling
Sawyer and Carrico, both of whom were big Buckeyes fans growing up – Sawyer from Pickerington, Carrico from Ironton – certainly fit the program and were both eager to join, as Sawyer committed as a sophomore and Carrico early as a junior.
“I feel like that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Carrico told Eleven Warriors. “You’re supposed to have a lot of Ohio guys on an Ohio football team.”
A push from relatives or friends can influence an in-state prospect as much as the pull and allure of it being the hometown program. Carrico, for instance, has a first cousin, Justin Collins, who is a professional golfer and won a Big Ten championship as a member of Ohio State’s golf team.
“He showed me his ring, and it’s a giant ring, dude. For golf. It was cool,” Carrico said. “Imagine what the rings are for football. Especially when you’ve got three right here...”
Carrico proceeded to tap each of his fingers, symbolizing multiple Big Ten championships and national championships.
When you grow up an Ohio State fan, you know the history, the winning traditions and the position you’re put in to win multiple championships. You want to be a part of that if you’ve developed into a someone with the potential to become a standout college player.
And when there’s an entire group that meets that criteria, it’s a more-the-merrier mentality.
“I feel like when it came down to me making my decision, I wanted to be somewhere with players like myself,” Carrico said. “At Ohio State, when I committed, they already had Jack, Ben and Jayden. Those are all Ohio guys, and I felt like there was a connection there. That meant a lot to me.
“There’s probably hundreds and hundreds who have played at Ohio State who are from Ohio, but I don’t know if there’s been that many kids from Ohio who committed to Ohio State in the last 10 years this early. That’s the thing. It’s a big deal to have that many Ohio kids committed to Ohio State that are highly rated. That’s definitely a big deal.”
Buckeye vets mentoring young players
So you made your sales pitch to a highly rated high school player. You got him onto campus, and he’s got dreams of going gangbusters and exploding into a star right away.
And then he doesn’t see a lick of playing time. Happens all the time. Not that any false promises were made necessarily, but the talent level, size of the veterans and the speed of the game is too much at the start.
Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was asked Tuesday specifically about the growth of true freshman defensive end Zach Harrison, and he ended up addressing the above type of scenario.
“What happens a lot of times with freshmen is they come in and they can go either way – if they’re not playing a lot or not playing as much as they were recruited to play,” Mattison said. “Some of these young men in today’s recruiting, you’re recruiting them like they’re first-round picks before they’ve ever played. The most talented ones are being recruited very, very heavily.
“Well, all of a sudden you get here and you see Jonathon Cooper and you see Tyreke Smith, and you see some of the guys that are standing there that haven’t played a whole bunch yet, and you can go one of two ways.”
Mattison also said the veteran players have done “a great job mentoring young kids. I think that’s something that’s really coming forward now as we go.”