In a normal recruiting cycle, according to Mark Pantoni, Ohio State typically hosts a total of official visitors that ranges between the high 40s and low 50s for the entire year.
This June, they’ll host that many in just one month.
After a recruiting dead period that’s spanned more than 14 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, college sports teams will finally be able to host visitors again on June 1, when the dead period will come to its long-awaited end. That will kick off a 27-day “quiet period” that will in fact be far from quiet, as recruits who have waited more than a year to make visits to campuses will be trying to fit in as many visits as they can before another dead period starts June 28.
Ohio State director of on-campus recruiting Erin Dunston said Friday that Ohio State currently has 51 official visits approved for the next month – 62 is the maximum number of official visits allowed for the entire year – while the Buckeyes also expect to host 150 to 200 unofficial visitors, along with hundreds more athletes who will also make the trip to campus to participate in one of six one-day camps.
“The month of July, that phone’s probably gonna be turned off and no one’s gonna track me down,” Pantoni joked on a call with reporters when asked about how crazy the next month is going to be.
Ohio State is planning to host official visitors on weekends throughout June, Pantoni said, while the staff is encouraging underclassmen to make visits on weekdays – which are also when all of the camps will be held – so that they can focus their attention on the official visitors while they’re on campus while also being able to give the younger prospects the attention they deserve.
Evaluating players at camps will be more important than ever before over the next month, as most of those players will be working out in front of Ohio State coaches in person for the first time. As for the official visits, Pantoni said the Buckeyes aren’t going to anything differently than they normally would, but with less than seven months between the end of the dead period and the December signing period for the class of 2022, they do know it may be the only chance they have to bring many of those prospects on campus and really impress them.
“It doesn’t change anything,” Pantoni said. “It’s just we have to hit a home run while we have them here, because we’re not sure if it’s going to be the one and only time we have. So we just have to assume that it is, and just hit it out of the park, and just show all the facts why we think this place is the best place for them.”
Most of Ohio State’s commits for the class of 2022 are scheduled to make official visits on the first weekend of June, which Pantoni said was an opportunity the staff wanted to make available to them to reward them for their commitment, even though they’d love to have those commits on campus on other weekends, too, to help them recruit other players.
“We just felt like since they’ve been so loyal to us, we wanted them to get here that first weekend, just because they deserve it,” Pantoni said. “They deserve to all be here together, get to know each other. They are our best recruiters, them along with our current players. So some of the local guys, I’m sure will come back other weekends and help. But no, it was our decision to get them all here that first weekend if they could.”
The NCAA is allowing unofficial visitors to go through hour-long workouts with one coach during their visits in June, which will give Ohio State and other schools the opportunity to evaluate prospects in one-on-one settings that they would typically have while traveling to evaluate recruits. Official visitors, however, will not be allowed to go through workouts during their visits.
With so many official visits, unofficial visits and camps packed into such a short time, Pantoni says “every day’s gonna be crazy.”
“There’s not gonna be any days off,” Pantoni said.
Most of the prospects who will be visiting Ohio State will also be visiting numerous other schools during the month of June, too, so Pantoni and the rest of the Buckeyes’ staff know they need to make a lasting impression while they can.
“A lot of the top guys we’re going after right now, these next four weeks, they’re gonna be taking visits every weekend,” Pantoni said. “And so for a type of guy that may be visiting this first weekend and then going on three more trips after, is that feeling of Ohio State still gonna last? Because obviously the red carpet’s gonna be rolled out everywhere. So we just have to do a great job and then after the visit, we just have to do a great job staying in touch. And hopefully for some of these kids, I think the attraction of coming unofficially for a game will be there. So hopefully we can make that work in a lot of these cases.”
”We have to hit a home run while we have them here, because we’re not sure if it’s going to be the one and only time we have.”– Mark Pantoni on the importance of making a good impression during official visits
There’s no doubt the next month will be a stressful and hectic time for Pantoni, Dunston and the rest of the recruiting staff as they navigate a four-week sprint following an unprecedentedly long dead period. It’s also an exciting time, though, as they finally get to meet recruits in person and show them everything Ohio State has to offer to them.
“I think it’s a great problem to have,” Pantoni said. “I think the excitement of all these kids, it’s been almost two years since anyone’s been able to visit. So the kids are excited, the staff’s excited to finally see these people up front rather than these constant Zooms.
“The good thing is, we’re not in season right now, so it’s all hands on deck in the building, which it will be. And it’s just my job and Erin’s job just to be as organized as possible for when they get on campus with so many kids that we have a great plan and envision anything that could possibly go wrong and be prepared for it.”