Even though he didn’t have many ties to Ohio before he became an assistant coach for the Buckeyes in 2017, Ryan Day has successfully recruited in-state prospects as well as anyone could have hoped for so far in his tenure as Ohio State’s head coach.
In his introductory press conference in December 2018, Day asserted that recruiting the top high school football players in the state of Ohio would “continue to be our first priority.” He backed that up almost immediately by landing commitments from two in-state prospects, including five-star defensive end Zach Harrison, in the 15 days between being named head coach and the class of 2019’s early signing period.
Day continued to place an emphasis on in-state prospects in his first full recruiting class as Ohio State’s head coach; the Buckeyes signed eight prospects from Ohio in 2020, the most they have signed from their home state since 2016. But it’s what Day and his staff have done in beginning to build their classes of 2021 and 2022 that have really shown just how well their recruiting efforts are resonating with in-state players.
Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2021 currently includes commitments from six in-state prospects, including five players ranked in the top 113 of 247Sports’ composite rankings –defensive end Jack Sawyer, wide receiver Jayden Ballard, defensive tackle Mike Hall, linebacker Reid Carrico and offensive tackle Ben Christman – as well as safety/linebacker Jaylen Johnson, the No. 350 overall prospect in the country. Of the state’s six top-150 prospects, the only one headed elsewhere is wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr., who chose to commit to Notre Dame.
Those six in-state commitments – all of which came before February – built the foundation (along with the early commitments of Pennsylvania quarterback Kyle McCord and wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., Texas offensive lineman Donovan Jackson and Colorado tight end Sam Hart) for Ohio State to soar to the top of the 2021 recruiting class rankings. That momentum set the stage for nine more commitments – including eight prospects ranked in the top 201 nationally, plus a top punter in Jesse Mirco – over the past five months that have positioned Ohio State to bring in its highest-rated recruiting class ever.
“I wanted to build the best class in the country. And we’ve been doing that so far,” Chrisman told Eleven Warriors in an interview last month.
It also set the stage for the early commitments Ohio State has landed for the recruiting class of 2022.
With more than 17 months still to go until any prospects for the class of 2022 will sign, Ohio State already has commitments from four of the state’s top five prospects, all of who are ranked in the top 150 nationally. Linebacker Gabe Powers, the No. 1 prospect in the state of Ohio, announced his commitment to Ohio State on Saturday, joining the April and May commitments of cornerback Jyaire Brown (who lived in Louisiana at the time of his commitment but is now in Cincinnati), linebacker C.J. Hicks and offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola. Of the five 2022 prospects from Ohio who have received offers from the Buckeyes so far, Strongsville offensive tackle Blake Miller is the only one who hasn’t yet committed – and he’s viewed as a likely future Buckeye even though he’s planning to take his time with the recruiting process.
Without any commitments from out-of-state prospects, Ohio State is already one of just two teams with four or more commitments for the class of 2022 (LSU has five), and they’re all ranked among the nation’s top 15 prospects at their respective positions – giving the Buckeyes early momentum to potentially have a top-ranked recruiting class once again next year.
|ZACH HARRISON||DE||OLENTANGY ORANGE||2019||No. 1|
|CADE STOVER||LB||LEXINGTON||2019||No. 4|
|RYAN JACOBY||OL||MENTOR||2019||No. 7|
|TOMMY EICHENBERG||LB||ST. IGNATIUS||2019||No. 8|
|NOAH POTTER||DE||MENTOR||2019||No. 9|
|PARIS JOHNSON JR.||OT||PRINCETON||2020||No. 1|
|DARRION HENRY||DL||PRINCETON||2020||No. 2|
|JOE ROYER||TE||ELDER||2020||No. 9|
|MIYAN WILLIAMS||RB||WINTON WOODS||2020||No. 17|
|TY HAMILTON||DE||PICKERINGTON CENTRAL||2020||No. 24|
|JAKOB JAMES||OL||ELDER||2020||No. 28|
|TREY LEROUX||OT||NORWALK||2020||No. 43|
|JAKE SEIBERT||K||LA SALLE||2020||No. 58|
|JACK SAWYER||DE||PICKERINGTON NORTH||2021||No. 1|
|JAYDEN BALLARD||WR||MASSILLON WASHINGTON||2021||No. 2|
|MIKE HALL||DT||STREETSBORO||2021||No. 3|
|REID CARRICO||LB||IRONTON||2021||No. 4|
|BEN CHRISTMAN||OT||REVERE||2021||No. 6|
|JAYLEN JOHNSON||S/LB||LA SALLE||2021||No. 11|
|GABE POWERS||LB||MARYSVILLE||2022||No. 1|
|JYAIRE BROWN||CB||LAKOTA WEST||2022||No. 3|
|C.J. HICKS||LB||ARCHBISHOP ALTER||2022||No. 4|
|TEGRA TSHABOLA||OT||LAKOTA WEST||2022||No. 5|
Much like the early commits in the class of 2021, the four early commits for the class of 2022 – which puts Ohio State right on pace with where it was with the 2021 class at this time a year ago – can now take on a leading role in encouraging other top prospects, both from elsewhere in the state and nationally, to consider committing to the Buckeyes themselves.
“I think other ‘22s are going to look at us and be like, ‘Man, they started that off,’” Brown told Eleven Warriors. “We’re just going to try to recruit as hard as we can. C.J., Captain Buckeye, recruits everybody so I’m just gonna try to follow his footsteps so he can teach me a little something about recruiting.”
Day’s approach to recruiting in-state prospects has differed from that of his predecessor Urban Meyer, who often slow-played offering recruits from Ohio – while reeling top talent from all over the country – with the belief that he and his staff could make up ground later if the Buckeyes wanted those players. And they often did. But it’s hard to argue with the results that Day and his staff are achieving right now.
In building its recruiting class of 2021, Ohio State has done an exceptional job of both making Ohio’s top prospects a priority – encouraging them to commit early – and using that as a springboard in its efforts to recruit other top prospects from all over the nation. And the Buckeyes have certainly been following that same blueprint once again as they start to build their class of 2022.
That strategy is reliant on the state of Ohio having a strong group of top prospects, as it has for both 2021 and 2022, so Day and his staff will have to be prepared to adjust their strategy accordingly if there’s a down year for in-state talent. But if the Buckeyes can turn their strong start within state borders for the 2022 cycle into a similar kind of class as they’ve been building for 2021, the future of Ohio State football will look very bright for at least the next four to five years.