The Hurry-Up: Mark Pantoni Believes the Buckeyes' 2021 Class Has Done “Better Than Any Class I've Ever Seen” of Recruiting Other Top-Level Prospects

By Zack Carpenter on April 3, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Ben Christman
Ben Christman

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.

Commits are recruiting at a high clip

Ohio State had five 2021 commits back in September, and that number has tripled a lot faster than expected. A lot of that is because of the quick decisions being made as a result of recruiting visits being suspended.

“Just because of the way things turned out, they decided to publicly commit to us to hold their spot in the class,” Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni said in a teleconference with reporters on Friday morning.

The coaching staff's early, thorough ability to build relationships with prospects is one of the chief reasons for the players being comfortable enough to eschew visits with other programs. The bonds those commits have made with the coaches, however, are not the only relationships crucial in the process. Far from it.

“This class may have done that better than any class I’ve ever seen of coming together and going after the top guys,” Pantoni said. “Social media these days, it’s easy to connect with guys they’ve never met or met once at a camp or met here on campus. Those guys building these relationships and getting the best players that wanna come here.”

That brings us to a phrase that it feels like we've repeated at least two dozen times in this space over the last seven months: Recruits recruiting recruits.

This 2021 class has been special in terms of already being tight-knit despite not even being teammates yet. That's an impact we've discussed in Hurry-Ups and feature stories aplenty, but regarding this class, we've never heard Pantoni – who rarely does interviews or press conferences – detail how important of a factor that is until now.

If Ohio State continues to see sustained success and College Football Playoff runs, most of it will be attributed to the crop of talented players the staff has acquired. And unless it's a departure for the NFL draft, injuries or disciplinary reasons, the main players contributing to that success are unlikely to leave the program.

The assistant coaches, though, are always prime candidates to leave for more money, higher positions and new challenges – the Buckeyes' staff, as a whole, becomes a “victim” of that success.

So there's an argument for a player having strong relationships with the fellow players coming into his class as being just as important, perhaps even more so, as his relationships with his position coach or other assistants. 

There are so many factors Ohio State has been able to put together – the brand itself, Real Life Wednesdays, a “badass” head coach. And the leadership of commits like Jack Sawyer, Kyle McCord and Ben Christman – the three ringleaders of this crop of commits doing their own recruiting – making continued pushes and pitches to uncommitted prospects is one of the underlying, but critical, factors.

According to Pantoni, that's not necessarily something the coaches say is a requirement of their current commits, but there's still some pushing.

“Each guy has different personalities. Some guys wanna be leaders, and they wanna help recruit,” Pantoni said. “We kind of give them the option of, ‘Hey, you’re committed now. We want you to help build this class.’ Some guys take it by the horns and are out there talking to as many guys as they can. Some guys really don’t have that personality type to be doing that stuff.

“We bring it up, and we ask them if they want to or not. Most of this class has been gung-ho about talking with each other.”

Pantoni also referenced the recruits' Twitter group chat that has soared to more than 20 prospects that Jordan Hancock detailed to us a bit back in January:

Hancock’s phone wouldn’t stop buzzing from a 23-man Twitter group chat that Hancock is a part of. 

“The group chat kept on going off, and I had to turn (Twitter notifications) off real quick,” Hancock told Eleven Warriors. “That kind of gives you an idea of how much we text in the group chat.”

The group chat features nearly all of the Buckeyes’ nine commitments in the 2021 recruiting class, a few players who have committed to other Division I programs and more than a dozen other top prospects, some who have Ohio State higher on their lists of schools they are interested than others. 

It’s a pretty heavily trafficked chat with light-hearted trash talking, congratulatory messages to those who have committed to colleges and discussions about who will be next to commit to the Buckeyes.

“They have a big group chat amongst themselves,” Pantoni said. “They have a lot of uncommitted kids that are in that group chat with them, and they’re sharing their experience and why they chose Ohio State, and they’re doing a great job.”

Buckeyes offer Virginia defensive tackle

About two months ago, Virginia defensive tackle Tyleik Williams was on the phone with Larry Johnson when the Buckeyes' defensive line coach offered Williams a scholarship. Apparently, Williams told Eleven Warriors, there was “a misunderstanding,” and Williams didn't realize that Johnson was offering him a scholarship.

“I didn’t realize he offered until I talked to him (Thursday). I didn’t understand at first,” Williams said. “I had talked to him over the phone, and he said he had offered me on the phone. I guess I didn’t hear it.”

Maybe a bit weird. Maybe a bit confusing. But now, that's all been cleared up, and Williams becomes the 15th defensive tackle offered by the Buckeyes in the class of 2021.

Williams is the 15th-ranked defensive tackle in the country, and the Stonewall Jackson High School prospect is the No. 7-ranked player in the state of Virginia. He is rated as the No. 244 overall player in the country and has 30 offers, including from Alabama, North Carolina, Penn State, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Michigan.

Jackson trims list

Trimmed lists of six, seven, 12 or 13 schools – pick any number, really – have been coming out in droves over the past few weeks, and another recent one features Ohio State.

Shambre Jackson, out of Boone High School in Orlando, Fla., is the 15th-ranked strongside defensive end in the country and is the 217th-ranked overall player in the nation. On Wednesday, he put the Buckeyes on his trimmed list of 13 schools, which also features Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Alabama.

Jackson, who told us he had planned a spring visit to Columbus, was offered by Ohio State in January and says he speaks with Johnson every day. He is a top-30 player in the state of Florida.

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