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.
Navigating balance between healthy season, dead period
Ever since the Big Ten season was revamped, Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have had to strike a delicate balance during the recruiting dead period.
On one hand, getting recruits to campus for visits to see the facilities, the inner workings of the program and the overall culture are critical to acquiring elite talent and building Ohio State’s foundation. On the other hand, bringing in recruits and their families from all over the country while fighting a pandemic and the league’s stringent protocols for testing and a shutdown of football activities is probably not the best idea.
After all, you don’t want a recruit from California, Florida or anywhere else in America coming into the facilities, getting face time with a player (or multiple players) and then have a positive COVID-19 test follow that may have stemmed from that recruit’s visit. Not while chasing a national championship during a season schedule that has no wiggle room.
For the Buckeyes, they have still been able to form the nation’s No. 2-ranked class in 2021 (and 2022) even without being allowed to host visitors since March. Most of the recruits in each class were able to visit, but TreVeyon Henderson, Tyleik Williams and Denzel Burke (2021) and Jyaire Brown and Dasan McCullough (2022) have still never been to the Woody or other campus facilities. (2021’s Zen Michalski and 2022’s Bennett Christian have worked around the dead period rules and have made campus visits on their own dime without stepping foot into The Shoe or other athletics buildings.)
But when going after guys in the 2021 class who still need to visit – like J.T. Tuimoloau – or for those who would like another visit to get another go-round at seeing Ohio State up close – like Tristan Leigh – it’s given the Buckeyes a tricky balance to navigate.
“It’s been difficult, for them, mostly,” Day said on Tuesday. “I feel really bad for the recruits and their families that they haven’t been able to be here. We know what this is, and we’ve been able to get a good feel for our recruits and their families, and we feel really, really strongly that we have a great fit in this class. But there’s just been some guys that haven’t had the opportunity to come spend time in our culture, around our campus and around our players.”
That’s where the togetherness of the 2021 class – one that is well-documented for being a tight-knit group – and the leadership at the top has made up for some targets having not been able to see everything in person.
“The cool thing is I think they communicate with the guys that have been around, and they get a feel for it that way,” Day said. “But I think when they do get here they’re just gonna love it even more. There’s not much we can do about it. Is it difficult? Sure, it’s hard. But we’re making the best of it. It’s the same across the board. It’s just like we mention with everything else and find that right fit. There’s still a couple more spots that we’re working at and trying to figure out what that is, and hopefully we’re able to get guys on campus in January.”
Again, though, the 2021 recruits’ efforts will be shining through for the program once again via their organizing of the Buckeye Bash next weekend. In what is expected to be a huge weekend in the recruitment of Leigh – and a big weekend for the commits’ continued relationship-building in the search for a national title or two in the years to come – the Ohio State coaches are going to have no hand in that gathering outside of making sure everything is legal from a compliance standpoint.
“We just have to stay out of all that,” Day said. “If we ever hear of anything, we immediately call (associate athletic director for compliance) Justin Kume in our compliance and make sure everything’s being followed – first off, from NCAA compliance protocol but also from COVID and other things like that. So we can’t really get involved with that, but at the same time we understand that some of these guys really wanna be a part of this thing. It’s really kind of out of our hands, and we just rely on compliance to help us.”
Dunn set to return
While one future Ohio State safety has been sidelined by injury, another is set to return.
Dunn is a senior at South Warren (Kentucky) High School but has missed the first three games of the season with a quad strain. He will be back on Friday, however, as he has been practicing since Monday and has had no signs of a setback.
“He looks great,” Mitchell Dunn said. “Can’t wait to see him on the field.”
Kirk picks Michigan State
A.J. Kirk, the younger brother of former Ohio State safety Mike Doss, has found a home. Kirk committed to Michigan State on Tuesday night, becoming the second Ohioan in Mel Tucker’s 2021 recruiting class.
BREAKING: Michigan State has landed AJ Kirk from Columbus (OH).— Justin Thind (@JustinThind) October 13, 2020
The safety had offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Minnesota, and Kentucky.
This one is a shocker... pic.twitter.com/Yp4thhC291
Kirk was extended an Ohio State offer in the summer of 2019, but the Buckeyes stopped recruiting him by the winter of 2019-20, which we reported in February.
A three-star safety, Kirk is now playing his senior season for Archbishop Hoban after previously playing at Dublin Coffman.
Header photo: Ryan Day – Ohio State Dept. of Athletics