The Hurry-Up: Derrick Davis Sets Announcement Date, Tony Alford Talks Approach in Recruiting Two Running-Back Class, Larry Johnson Details Difficulties of Closing Out a Class During a Dead Period

By Zack Carpenter on October 8, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Tony Alford

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.

Davis sets commitment date

Derrick Davis Jr.'s recruitment will soon come to an end. The No. 2 safety in the 2021 class out of Gateway (Pennsylvania) High School has set a commitment date of Nov. 14 and is down to Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Georgia and USC, he said on the Mr. PA Football podcast.

I still believe the current Crystal Ball predictions will prove accurate and that he winds up at Penn State, though I believe the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions are the final two programs he's considering. In speaking with Davis in early August, he said it's not hard to block out the noise of people talking about it being exclusively an Ohio State-Penn State battle in his recruitment, and then he let it slip that he may already have a plan in place.

“I don’t even pay attention to that. I really don’t,” Davis told Eleven Warriors. “I don’t even look at that. I just go about my day. I don’t worry about that stuff. I know where I wanna go.”

Alford's strategy in recruiting two-RB class

Tony Alford received plenty of criticism for his recruiting misses after losing out on both Bijan Robinson and Jaylan Knighton in the 2020 cycle. What no one can accuse him of, regardless of recruiting wins or losses, is being dishonest. Really, that’s Alford’s main calling card, and either recruits love it or leave it.

I really started to get a better understanding and feel for that in February, when I spoke with Michigan running back Donovan Edwards

Edwards had heard the rumors that Alford might leave Ohio State to take the head coaching job at Colorado State, so he asked Alford straight up if he would take the job and leave Columbus. Alford looked him in the eyes and told him yes.

Obviously, Edwards did not wind up taking one of the Buckeyes’ two running back slots in the 2021 class, with those going to TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor. Still, that honesty served as a turning point for Edwards’ view of Alford, and it’s that anecdote that still serves to define Alford’s approach in recruiting: full transparency is the name of the game.

That’s how he approached the recruitments of both Henderson and Pryor as the Buckeyes wanted and needed two running backs in the class. 

“I think if you’re forthright and honest with what you’re doing and everybody knows on the front end, ‘this is what we’re doing and here’s why,’ it usually works out for those that are willing to do that,” Alford said on Tuesday. “And for those who aren’t, they get off the ship real fast.”

Fortunately for Ohio State, each of those backs wanted another running back in the class in order to save some tread on their tires before they go off to the NFL, and they were very adamant about that in interviews with Eleven Warriors. Alford still had to do a good job of navigating both recruitments simultaneously, but he fought back against the notion that handling the recruitment of a two-running back class is difficult.

“To say, ‘is it hard?’ I don’t know if it’s hard,” Alford said. “I think it just depends on your approach to things, and my approach has always been to be as honest and forthright as I can. And, ‘here’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.’ If it’s one guy, here’s why it’s one guy. If it’s two guys, here’s why it’s two guys, and here’s the type of guys we’re looking for. To say, ‘is it hard?’ It depends on who you talk to. To me, it’s not hard. You just tell them what it is and you find the guys that are willing to be involved in that.”

Alford ultimately landed the two running backs he wanted in the 2021 cycle in Henderson and Pryor, and this week he opened up more about what he wants out of each player if he brings in multiple running backs in the same class.

“You don’t want the same player, obviously, but you want guys that you can develop to be complete players,” Alford said. “Some guys’ skillset will lend itself to maybe he’s a little bit better in this area than this guy. But both of those things can be developed and hopefully developed at an elite level. But to get the same guy, no. But there’s gonna be a lot of similarities based on what we do as an offense. You better be able to run the ball between the tackles. You better be able to make some plays out in space as well, on the perimeter. You better be big enough to be able to hold up in pass protection. 

“But at the same time, a guy that we can put you out and use you out of the backfield to catch some balls. If you’re a guy that’s maybe a better pass receiver than I am, as I will continue to work on that skillset, but that’s more your cup of tea than mine. But we can balance it out that way.”

LJ details closing out a class during pandemic

There may not be a coach on Ohio State’s staff where building relationships up close and in person is more important than with Larry Johnson. So the Buckeyes’ defensive line coach has had to make some major adjustments during the prolonged dead period.

He admitted this week that it’s been difficult not being able to see the players and families he’s recruiting face-to-face, and that’s added another layer of difficulty when trying to close out a class without recruits being able to visit coaches on campus.

“The biggest thing is not getting kids on campus,” Johnson said. “That’s tough with the pandemic, and so you have to really try to take the campus to them and give them the opportunity to see that. Really, it’s about how the kids see us and how they fit into our system. You try to show that and show exactly how we fit and how you fit in our defensive scheme and what we’re looking for. But there’s nothing like getting on campus in person and getting to meet the people you’re gonna be around. That’s probably the toughest thing.”

Burden news on the way?

Three weeks ago, St. Louis five-star 2022 receiver Luther Burden posted to his Instagram that he had made a decision and that a commitment announcement was coming soon. Shortly thereafter, Burden changed his mind and instead released a top-five list almost exactly 24 hours later.

It was a list featuring Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia and Missouri gunning for the class’ No. 2 receiver and No. 14 overall player.

Now, it appears that Burden has decided once again that it’s time to announce his college intentions, tweeting on Thursday, “Big news, maybe tomorrow.”

Maybe this ends up being an announcement for the Under Armour All-America Game or something similar. But it’s still worth monitoring, combined with the fact that he had apparently made up his mind as recently as mid-September. 

Based on what we’re hearing, and based on the current Crystal Ball predictions, it’s looking like Oklahoma has had this recruitment locked up for the last few weeks and that it’s going to come up crimson and cream for Burden.

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