Teleconference Bullets: Mark Pantoni Talks Ohio State's Recent Recruiting Success, Coronavirus Impact, 2021 Class Camaraderie

By Colin Hass-Hill on April 3, 2020 at 10:53 am
Mark Pantoni

Mark Pantoni's in a unique position right now.

As Ohio State's director of player personnel, he's tasked with keeping the team's recruiting operation rolling. Yet he has had to figure out how to do so with concerns about COVID-19 having shut down in-person visits until at least June 1. Given their five commitments since March 15, though, the Buckeyes have made the most of this time.

Pantoni hopped on a conference call with local reporters on Friday morning to discuss the latest regarding Ohio State's recruiting operation.

Here's a bullet-point rundown of Pantoni's comments.

  • He says the athletic department, including Gene Smith, has communicated information well with him and Ohio State's football program.
  • Pantoni on whether the recent commitments came because of what Ohio State had built relationship-wise or the coronavirus concerns shutting down in-person visits: "I think it was definitely a product of what we had building on." He says the coaching staff has done a great job building relationships. Also said some of the players decided to publicly commit since they couldn't take one more visit to campus.
  • On Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Joe Burrow getting expected to get picked high in the NFL draft this month: "That's why we do what we do."
  • Pantoni says Ohio State has increased FaceTime calls. Also says both the staff and recruits have "way more" free time to keep communication lines open.
  • "Obviously it's only the beginning of April, so we're not trying to win any recruiting wars in April." He says they're treating committed prospects as though they're uncommitted.
  • He says this recruiting class might be the best he has ever seen at coming together and recruiting other prospects in the class.
  • Pantoni says he thinks the December signing day has benefited the coaches in their ability to focus on the 2020 class in January. It allows coaches to put their focus on specific prospects earlier in cycles.
  • "If camps disappear, that's a significant loss." He also says coaches not being able to watch prospects practice would be unfortunate. "We're going to really have to trust our eyes on the film." He says the final decisions on 2021 prospects that would typically be made based on in-person evaluations might not be possible this cycle due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Pantoni says Ohio State had a two-person recruiting department in 2012 when he arrived. "Nationwide, the growth of recruiting departments is awesome to see."
  • On Monday mornings, Ohio State has a weekly meeting with the recruiting staffers.
  • "This free time has given our coaches a lot more time to start watching 2022s." He says the coaches aren't used to watching players so early. Kerry Coombs was joking the other day, telling Pantoni that "these guys aren't very good" since they're younger than the prospects he typically watches.
  • Pantoni says he thinks the number of verbal offers that "get thrown out like candy" should be shrunk. He mentions offering eighth graders for publicity and extending 300 offers in a cycle as issues in recruiting.
  • On how many times a prospect has to be on campus for Ohio State to take a commitment: "I think it's dependent on the situation." 
  • He says Ohio State has to be smart about who it brings to campus once it's able to host recruiting visits again.
  • Pantoni says it's too early to tell whether or not the recruiting calendar, including early signing day, needs to shift.
  • Right now, he says, they're not making full evaluations of quarterbacks since they can't see them in person and some haven't even played at the varsity level yet.
  • "The biggest thing in recruiting, as most of you know, is building relationships."
  • He says the team is hungry right now, mentioning it might be related to losing to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl: "That sparked us all."
  • Pantoni says they're in communication with the coaching staff every day of the week. 
  • On how Urban Meyer would be dealing with this: "Probably a little bit different than Ryan would be my guess." He says he'd be working just as hard with expectations just as high.
  • He says the staff mainly has to rely on game film to evaluate.
  • On if this hurts the 2021 or 2022 class more: "I would say it hurts 21 more because that's where our focus is right now in finishing out the checkmarks on guys." He says the inability to do live evaluations hurts.
  • On the decision to stay at Ohio State with Ryan Day: "It was an absolute no-brainer." 
  • On the most creative thing the recruiting staff is doing: "There's nothing too creative. Everything's trying to come up with stuff." He says everybody's got one hand tied behind their backs.
  • Pantoni says some prospects want to be leaders and help recruit, so the staff enlists their help. Other recruits don't have the personality to do it. He says this class has a big group chat with committed prospects and some uncommitted targets.
  • He says sometimes Ohio and Midwest prospects are late-developing since they miss spring practice. 
  • He says the Ohio State brand is so strong that it's not hard to sell.
  • Pantoni says it's expected that coaches are ranked high individually in recruiting rankings.
  • "It's never just one person recruiting a kid." Most of the time, Pantoni says, two or three coaches are recruiting a certain prospect.
  • Pantoni says it's too early to talk about possibly having the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.
  • On the need to get to the 85-scholarship limit: "It ends up always working itself out." He says he's confident they'll get to 85 scholarship players by August.
  • On whether it's easier to sell recruits from a certain position after missing on a cycle: "I would agree 100 percent on that. It looks better when you're trying to sell that. It's real, too."
  • On Tony Alford: "Tony is one of our best recruiters on staff, and he always has been." 
  • "Between myself, the area coach and position coach, we're going to do separate evaluations."
  • He says he used to check the transfer portal multiple times per day, but nowadays you can almost get information faster on social media from reporters.
  • On using the transfer portal: "It's just based on positions of need."
  • While recruiting prospects, he said, the staff has to ask each other whether or not they think they can graduate from Ohio State. "There's no general studies to put them in." He says they look closely at absences and tardies.
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