“Golden Age” of Ohio State Football Has Coaches Busier Than Ever, Balancing Winning in December and Hitting Recruiting Trail

By Zack Carpenter on December 5, 2019 at 9:20 am
Ryan Day

On the latest edition of the Eleven Dubcast, co-host Andy Vance made a passing reference that this is the "Golden Age" of Ohio State football, and it's hard to argue that point.

Everything seems to be pointing up right now.

The Buckeyes are 12-0, could lose the Big Ten Championship Game (they won't) and still compete for a national championship, there have been no real scandals (Chase Young's situation hardly qualifies), the only real adversity the team has faced this season only helped ensure the best player in college football would stay healthy and not have to play two meaningless extra halves of football, and our favorite buzzword here ... recruiting ... is going better than even some of the most optimistic of fans thought it would when Ryan Day took over from one of the best recruiters in the sport's history. 

So, of course many of you pessimists are expecting it all to come crashing down. That's the Midwesterner in you. You guys should be Kansas City Chiefs fans. You'd fit right in with the rest of us. 

Maybe Justin Fields' knee brace isn't strong enough this weekend. Maybe he suffers a season-ending injury in the first quarter, the Buckeyes lose by two touchdowns, Georgia upsets LSU, Utah clobbers Oregon (or Oklahoma clobbers Baylor), the committee takes the loss of Fields into account, and the four-team playoff ends up being 1) Clemson 2) Georgia 3) LSU 4) Utah/Oklahoma

"We recruit these kids so early on, the relationships are there. Then we'll do everything we can next week to get out there and hustle around and see these guys."– Ryan Day

It's a doomsday scenario, and it's realistic enough to kind-of make perfect sense. After all, this season has seemed too good to be true, right? Almost nothing has truly gone wrong, so maybe the bottom will fall out. 

Then again ... maybe it won't.

Maybe this really, truly is the start of something even more special than what Urban Meyer put together during his tenure here, and this month will be looked back on as the one that springs the Buckeyes forward into the Clemson-Alabama territory of perennial national championship contender every single season. Ohio State is one of just a handful of programs in the College Football Playoff conversation every year, but it hasn't reached that Clemson-Alabama pinnacle quite yet.

That could change this month, and it could be the extra push the Buckeyes need to move past both schools for top dog in the sport.

In order to do that, Ohio State's coaches will have to find the perfect equilibrium between preparing for/winning huge games in December and hitting the recruiting trail. 

It's not something Day is unfamiliar with. In 2017, his first on Meyer's staff, Day was on the front lines as the Buckeyes prepared for their eventual Cotton Bowl win over USC while simultaneously doing the work to land late commitments from guys like Tyreke Smith, Tyreke Johnson and Nicholas Petit-Frere. 

Ditto the following year, with the Buckeye staff working to get a late commitment from Zach Harrison while gearing up for the Rose Bowl victory over Washington. 

While Day was not the lead recruiter for any of those four in particular, he was still in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, seeing up front how the sausage is made and being present for the early December signings of Garrett Wilson and Harry Miller, two instances in which he was the lead recruiter.

So, he has done it before, saying on Tuesday that he's "seen what the blueprint is for that," in reference to handling what will be an intense month.

Day knows the blueprint, but this will be a different animal entirely. This isn't the Cotton Bowl. Assuming the doomsday scenario mentioned above won't be happening, he'll be preparing for the biggest stage of the sport as a first-year head coach, all while managing a time crunch in getting out to see as many recruits as possible and getting ready for the early signing period from Dec. 18-20. 

"Certainly is a challenge because we have so many mid-year guys coming in and only one week on the road, really only four days," Day said Tuesday. "It's going to be a bear to try to get out there and see everybody, get all that done.

"Mark (Pantoni) is working hard on it, trying to get all the plans to go to make sure we maximize all the time. Other events going on during that week. It will be a race."

Of course, this is what Day and company signed up for, and it's not exactly a problem. Winning, after all, is probably the No. 1 or 2 factor in making sure the Buckeyes stay in the upper echelon of recruiting classes. It's their biggest selling point.

"I think it's huge," Day said of the impact winning has on the recruiting trail. "This week everybody is on the road. We're not. Talking to recruits this week and last night, 'I apologize, we're not going to see you this week.' Almost everyone to a person says, 'No, that is a good problem to have, coach. We're glad you're playing in that championship game. We get it.'

"That's why you put so much work into recruiting leading up to this point. We recruit these kids so early on, the relationships are there. Then we'll do everything we can next week to get out there and hustle around and see these guys. But, yeah, I mean, certainly being in this spot is huge credibility in recruiting."

That hustle is never going to stop. That's how gold gets made.

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