Justin Fields stole the show on Tuesday across college football and the NFL with his impressive pro day performance.
It was the top storyline to come out of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this week, as were the showings from several other top athletes such as Baron Browning, Tommy Togiai, Trey Sermon and others.
That’s obviously what Tuesday was all about – Ohio State players getting the chance to showcase their athleticism and skill for NFL GMs, head coaches and scouts to try and improve their draft stock. But one of the underlying, yet still important, facets of the day is the effect that such a day can have on recruiting.
Relationships will always be the No. 1 factor in any given recruitment until the end of days. Probably the second-most important, when you’re recruiting on the national level of a school like Ohio State, is the path to the NFL that the program provides.
Blue-chip prospects locally and nationwide take notice of the NFL draft every year, and they see that Ohio State perennially ranks in the top three of having the most players selected every spring. The coaching staff makes sure of it with the graphics and social media blitz we will see once we hit late April, and we will certainly see more scholarship offers being extended in conjunction with the 10 or so Buckeyes who will be taken.
This week’s pro day was just a precursor to that as 14 future pros (at least nine of whom are very likely to be drafted with 10 or 11 being the potential number in the end) took center stage in Columbus.
Some of Ohio State’s top recruits took notice of that, and even though they may have just seen highlights (these are high school students, after all, who were in school during pro day coverage), it still leaves an impact on them. Just gives the Buckeyes another nice sales pitch, even if they just let the numbers and actions speak for themselves instead of harping on it through Zoom calls and texts.
“I saw some of the highlights because I was in school,” one of the Buckeyes’ priority running back targets, four-star 2022 running back Nicholas Singleton, told Eleven Warriors. “It’s real good to see that. Obviously, my goal is to go to the NFL and have a successful career there. You see them producing great players who go to the league and have success in the league, so it makes a big impact for me.”
Again, it comes back to relationships and some other factors in Singleton’s recruitment. (Which we broke down a bit earlier this week.) However, that pro factor is right at the top of the list.
“Ohio State’s obviously a good football team, the coaches are outstanding, the players are obviously good – especially the running backs they produce,” Singleton said. “There’s Ezekiel Elliott, J.K. Dobbins, Trey Sermon. Their running backs are obviously amazing, and they do a good job of producing them.”
We caught up with Hayden this week as well, and he took similar notice to Singleton in watching Sermon improve his draft stock with impressive showings in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and as a receiver during Fields’ workout.
“I just thought it was awesome,” Hayden told Eleven Warriors of seeing the pro day success. “I feel like programs like Alabama and Ohio State, you look at a lot of the teams in the NFL at least have one, two or more guys from those programs on their team. That just shows that their strength coach, Coach Mick (Marotti), is one of the best in the business because all his guys usually run fast times for their position.”
As Hayden alludes to, when you’re mainly competing on the recruiting trail against two other programs (Alabama, Clemson) that do nearly as good of a job of leading their players to the NFL (plus programs such as Georgia, LSU and Oklahoma), then the margins are much smaller.
So employing one of the nation’s best strength coaches is another enticing legup that the Buckeyes have, as Marrotti can sometimes be one of the major factors in Ohio State’s ability to recruit that we (i.e. Me) probably don’t talk about enough.
He doesn’t do a ton of recruiting himself and doesn’t talk to prospective Buckeyes as much as the other assistants. After all, Marotti is the main one who has to de-recruit the players when they get here, and he’s spoken in the past about how he doesn’t like to do the buttering up that sometimes comes with the recruiting process.
But Marrotti still serves an integral role in the Buckeyes’ recruiting infrastructure, and the high school athletes do take notice.
“I’ve talked to him twice. I don’t talk to him quite often,” Hayden said. “When I was talking to Coach (Tony) Alford, Coach Mick got on the FaceTime call and he was talking to me. He’s a great guy and one of the best in the business. He always says that he’s gonna get us ready for the next step and hopefully get us to our next career at the next level.”
When we spoke with Kiyaunta Goodwin for the first time in the fall, the two things we’ve hit on today (pro success and Marotti) were two of the main topics of discussion we kept coming back to.
He spoke about the relationship he’s continuing to build with Marotti, and down the road his familiarity with Marotti could serve as a major stepping stone in getting him to become a Buckeye. Goodwin’s trainer/guardian, Chris Vaughn, was coached by Marotti when Vaughn was a receiver at Notre Dame while Marotti was the strength coach in South Bend.
When you’re arguably the nation’s best high school prospect at your position – one who has a high chance, even at just 17 years old, of one day becoming a first-round NFL draft selection – then those pro dreams aren’t really dreams so much as they are expectations. Goodwin told us that his “goal is to be the No. 1 player in the country when it matters most, and that’s in the NFL draft 4-5 years from now.
“(Coach Greg Studrawa and I) sat there and watched Joey and Nick (Bosa) and Chase (Young),” Goodwin said. “Even though that’s (defensive) ends, that’s a really big selling point that Ohio State has. You had three top picks. That’s very important. That’s a really good selling point for offensive linemen. … Pros in practice. That’s important for me, and they’ve had a bunch of pros.”