It's been a wild year.
Ohio State's 2020 season officially gets underway Saturday at noon. It would be a vast understatement to say that we're living in some strange times, but our favorite fall festivity is now merely a few days away, and with it should come a small sense of normalcy.
Ryan Day and his staff will be in full game mode for the next three months. We always say that recruiting never stops, but it certainly appears that we're in line for a bit of a slowdown on the trail; especially as it pertains to the Class of 2021. Ohio State's class is ranked No. 2 in America behind Alabama and only has room for three or four more before February's national signing day.
The eight-month (and counting) unexpected dead period has only made things even more tricky for the current class as prospects have been unable to take official visits and meet face-to-face with any of the coaching staffs. Ryan Day, however, has handled this masterfully and kept the Buckeyes right in the thick of the chase for the 2021 recruiting crown.
With the season approaching and the focus about to shift, we look at some of the biggest takeaways and what we've learned from an unprecedented stretch on the recruiting trail.
Ohio State's Hot Start
We've learned that the Buckeyes handled the shutdown – especially its early stages – better than any other program in America.
No spring game? No Friday Night Lights? No problem. COVID caused two of the Buckeyes' annual recruiting extravaganzas to be scratched from the calendar, but it certainly didn't take away from the spring and summer fireworks. Day and Co. landed nine 2021 commitments between March and August. The list includes the likes of TreVeyon Henderson, Jakailin Johnson, Andre Turrentine, and the critical flip of Jordan Hancock from Clemson.
By summer's end, the class was nearly full, and only about a half dozen key targets remained on the board. High school football being shut down in some parts of the country has made it impossible to further evaluate some players, which means the Buckeyes' board hasn't changed a whole lot since the start of the pandemic.
Day has managed to land a handful of commitments from prospects who have yet to step foot in Columbus. We've talked about it before, but that's a pretty tall task when you consider most commits/signees have seen a school upwards of 2-4 times, and even more in many cases depending on proximity.
So, how did Ohio State pull it off? Mostly because......
Zoomin' & Boomin'
We've learned that Zoom calls, virtual visits, and a constant stream of contact have been crucial in the absence of on-campus visits.
Comfort and relationships are just about always the biggest keys to recruiting. Managing those two things in the midst of a dead period can present a challenge when staffs are unable to meet in-person with prospects and their families. The staff's ability to use technology to keep those relationships strong has been exemplary; especially for players like TreVeyon Henderson and Denzel Burke who have yet to make their way to Columbus.
The same can be said for the relationships that are being cultivated for the Class of 2022.
"It’s definitely helpful having that rather than nothing. You don’t know what you’re going into if you don’t have that, so having everything online and being able to see it through the screen it’s been really nice. It kind of gives me a perception of what it’s gonna look like and what it’s gonna feel like. They’ve shown me the weight room, nutrition, education, just how it’d be to be a daily player there and all the assets you get up there." - Caden Curry
The good news was coming fast and furious throughout the spring and early portion of the summer. Things have quieted down of late in part because the class is already nearing capacity. The Zoom-led commitment barrage helped the Buckeyes rise to the No. 1 spot in the team rankings for several months, but a big-time assist has to be given to......
Recruits Turned Recruiters
We've absolutely learned that the 2021 commitments have given a big assist to Ryan Day and the Ohio State staff. In-state stars like Jack Sawyer and Ben Christman have helped to build the class into what we see today, and now you have players like Henderson and Evan Pryor putting their own recruiting hats on to help add the finishing touches.
I spy 3 buckeye tag them ! https://t.co/PPpufPEpDc— Evan Pryor (@evanpryor3) October 19, 2020
You have to give credit where credit is due, and Oklahoma's class was the first to really arrange a gathering of sorts for commitments and top targets. Sawyer and the rest of the Buckeye commits have done the same as the Buckeye Bash is scheduled to go down this weekend. Five-star tackle Tristain Leigh will be a major point of focus as Ohio State looks to close things out along the offensive line.
How much of an impact can an event such as this – one where the coaching staff has no involvement – have on a player like Leigh? That's anyone's guess at this point, but it never hurts to strengthen the relationship among recruits; even if it's just hanging out at the Sawyer household in Pickerington.
Missed Opportunities & Bama's Surge
We also learned that Ohio State did miss out on some opportunities and will more than likely finish No. 2 in the final team rankings. And that's perfectly fine.
Some of the noteworthy misses were in part due to the dead period, but Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide had no problems capitalizing and finding their way into the top spot of the rankings. If the Buckeyes do in fact finish second to the Tide, the JC Latham recruitment is probably going to be the biggest reason. Ohio State was out in front for the five-star tackle before Alabama took over and secured his commitment in June.
The Buckeyes will continue to battle the Crimson Tide (and others) for Tuimoloau and Oklahoma looks like the top competition in the Egbuka sweepstakes. As for Tristan Leigh, it's looking like a three-team battle between Ohio State, LSU, and Oklahoma. Day has some ground to make up here, but we should have a clearer picture by next week.
I'd be a bit surprised to see the Buckeyes wind up at No. 1 as it may take a near clean sweep of the remaining targets to do so. But the class is already superb from top to bottom, and – most importantly – just about every major need has already been addressed in a big way.