The Hurry-Up: Ohio State's Best Recruiting Tool Showed Itself Again This Weekend with 10 Buckeyes Drafted

By Zack Carpenter on April 28, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Damon Arnette

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.

Best recruiting tool showed itself this weekend

I know that I just wrote 1,900 words on this last week, but it’s worth touching on once again: Ohio State’s success in the NFL Draft is the program’s best recruiting tool. Just is. There are a ton of other reasons for players to choose to be a Buckeye, which we have gone over in the past aplenty. 

The absolute, no-doubt-about-it, most important factor in any given player’s recruitment to any given school is relationships – relationships with coaches and oftentimes relationships with fellow recruits or even players on the current team. Not even up for debate that it’s the biggest factor. 

But what do the majority of high-level recruits care about the most after that? Getting to the next level and getting paid. And Ohio State is running a Get Paid Factory.

Those two things – relationships and making it in the NFL – go hand-in-hand. Players who want to reach their NFL dreams and put 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 Ms in their bank account are going to trust coaches a hell of a lot more, and develop better relationships with them, when they know they have a track record of doing so. 

When asked how much more confidence he had that he would be developed because of Brian Hartline’s track record of success in the NFL and at Ohio State, receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba said in February, “It’s definitely a difference. You got coaches that tell you to do it and just probably never played, and you got coaches that are right beside you telling you what you need to do and have been in that position, and he's been to a higher level, a level that we're all trying to get to, so coming from him, when he gives me advice or when he coaches me up, I'm full attention and aware and just listening to him.”

That’s what Hartline, Ryan Day and Kerry Coombs (to name a few) bring to the table, and it was the same during Jeff Hafley’s brief tenure. 

After this past weekend, it’s becoming increasingly more impossible to ignore that fundamental fact.

“The shrug emoji”

A group of Buckeye assistant coaches – Hartline, Coombs, Tony Alford, Larry Johnson, Al Washington, Kevin Wilson and Greg Studrawa – were made available to the media the day before the draft via teleconference. Each time one of them was asked about how hard they hammer home the program’s success of putting players into the NFL Draft, they shot down the notion of that being such a big deal in their recruiting pitches.  

“I would say the conversation about the NFL is a quick conversation,” Hartline said. “At the end of the day, it’s like, ‘Oh, what was it like? Oh, that’s cool. What kind of cars did you have? Oh, that’s cool.’ That’s it. I think it’s a good experience and a way to connect, but I don’t really talk about it a whole lot.”

And then, after the Buckeyes had 10 players drafted to give them the most players drafted since the draft expanded to seven rounds in 1994 (173 total picks), the pounding-of-the-chest tweets and retweets started flowing like the rivers of ancient Babylon.

That was all preceded by Ryan Day’s Thursday night appearance on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, who joked about how easy it must be to make pitches to recruits after they saw three players go in the draft’s first 20 picks during the most-watched draft in television history: “I imagine there’s some texts or FaceTimes, or whatever you’re allowed to do with recruits now, that we’ll let you get to,” Van Pelt quipped. “And I imagine you can just run back this segment of the show or the draft and just sort of shrug – just send the shrug emoji and let the rest take care of itself.”

According to the coaches, that’s basically what they do when they talk about the NFL on the recruiting trail.

“The draft takes care of itself. I don’t really need to talk about that,” Hartline said. “Your guys are probably interested in Ohio State because of the academic prowess and the productivity in the NFL Draft. Just to make sure those numbers are clear and making sure the prospective matches the hard data is all you have to do. As a recruit, I wanted to go to Ohio State because I knew it gave me the best chance to play in the NFL, whether numbers could validate that or not.”

Added Alford: “I think that our track record speaks for itself. Let’s make sure we understand that this place is much, much, much bigger than the NFL. That is a piece. But there are so many other pieces that help develop these players. That’s what we do. We talk about those things openly. Does the NFL come up? Of course it does because that’s part of it. But to say that that is all of it and the main part of it, for me it has not been. 

“But we have had success at our position and all positions, for that matter, but that’s not the selling point. It’s about relationship-building. For a young man and his family, do I want this person to coach my child? Do I want this man to put stuff into my child’s heart and mind every day? We’re building a relationship where that family and that individual person thinks this is advantageous for my personal growth as a player and as a person. That’s what we harp on. Does the NFL come up? Sure it does. But that’s not the end-all, be-all.”

Now, I don’t believe the coaches are being completely forthcoming. After all, the vast majority of recruits we talk to bring up their relationships with Buckeye coaches and then some version of “I’m interested in Ohio State because they have a great track record of putting guys in the league” as the second fiddle to why they are attracted to the program. And that’s often accompanied with recruits telling us that the Buckeye coaches will name drop current pros and how they helped develop them. 

So I think the coaches talk about the NFL with them more than they let on, even if it doesn’t dominate the conversation.

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