Even though Ohio State signed a class of 20 players on Wednesday that included 18 four-star recruits and one five-star recruit, there’s reason to feel like the recruiting class of 2023 isn’t all that it could be.
The Buckeyes failed to land any of the three five-star defensive ends they pursued heavily in the months leading up to signing day: Keon Keeley (who signed with Alabama), Damon Wilson (Georgia) and Matayo Uiagalelei (Oregon). They lost five prospects to decommitments: Cornerbacks Dijon Johnson (Florida) and Kayin Lee (Auburn), tight end Ty Lockwood (Alabama), running back Mark Fletcher (Miami) and quarterback Brock Glenn (Florida State), though Glenn was replaced by a higher-rated quarterback (Lincoln Kienholz).
While the Buckeyes had a wave of recruiting momentum over the summer when they landed commitments from 12 different prospects in the 2023 class from June to August, that momentum faded during the fall as the Buckeyes landed only three 2023 commits over the last four months. Couple that with last weekend’s decommitment of five-star 2024 quarterback Dylan Raiola, the No. 1 overall prospect in the junior class, and some Buckeye fans have lacked enthusiasm about the 2023 class even though it’s still ranked as the fifth-best class in the country.
Ryan Day, though, still offered plenty of enthusiasm as he talked about the 2023 class during his signing day press conference.
“It's a great group. And I think when you look at the quality of the people that we're bringing in, I think that's the focus right now,” Day said Wednesday. “These are guys who want to be Buckeyes.”
Day said he didn’t want to dwell on which players the Buckeyes didn’t get but rather celebrate the players they did get, who cumulatively have the third-highest average composite rating of any team’s recruiting class behind only Alabama and Georgia, who have the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked classes.
“There's just a lot of twists and turns along the way, a lot of emotional roller-coasters, but in the end, it's like, ‘Okay, who are the guys you bring in?’ And I think when you look at this list of 19 guys, I don't know what rankings or anything like that. But I know if you take, you know, the quality of each guy, it's gotta be up there as one of the top ones in the country,” Day said during his press conference, at which time Jayden Bonsu had not yet signed with the Buckeyes as he delayed his signing until late Wednesday night.
That said, the wave of aforementioned decommitments – all of which have come since late July – and the other top targets the Buckeyes didn’t land certainly raise more questions about whether Ohio State is doing enough to keep up with a changing landscape in which NIL deals have become a major factor in recruiting.
Day isn’t overly concerned that the Buckeyes have had five decommitments in the 2023 class. That’s not a unique phenomenon to Ohio State – Georgia, for example, had six decommitments (though one of them, Daniel Harris, ended up rejoining the class) – and he believes flips are simply a reality of modern recruiting. After all, Ohio State signed four prospects of its own who decommitted from other schools: Brandon Inniss (Oklahoma), Calvin Simpson-Hunt (Texas Tech), Joshua Mickens (LSU) and Kienholz (Washington).
|QB||LINCOLN KIENHOLZ||★★★★||#205 (#14 QB)|
|WR||BRANDON INNISS||★★★★★||#29 (#4 WR)|
|WR||NOAH ROGERS||★★★★||#45 (#9 WR)|
|WR||CARNELL TATE||★★★★||#61 (#10 WR)|
|WR||BRYSON RODGERS||★★★★||#325 (#45 WR)|
|TE||JELANI THURMAN||★★★★||#99 (#2 TE)|
|OT||LUKE MONTGOMERY||★★★★||#52 (#3 IOL)|
|OT||MILES WALKER||★★★||#486 (#34 OT)|
|OG||AUSTIN SIEREVELD||★★★★||#249 (#12 IOL)|
|C||JOSHUA PADILLA||★★★★||#218 (#10 IOL)|
|DE||JOSHUA MICKENS||★★★★||#131 (#20 ED)|
|DL||JASON MOORE||★★★★||#65 (#8 DL)|
|DT||WILL SMITH JR.||★★★★||#263 (#36 DL)|
|DT||KAYDEN MCDONALD||★★★★||#278 (#38 DL)|
|LB||ARVELL REESE||★★★★||#198 (#18 LB)|
|CB||CALVIN SIMPSON-HUNT||★★★★||#79 (#8 CB)|
|CB||JERMAINE MATHEWS||★★★★||#136 (#16 CB)|
|S||MALIK HARTFORD||★★★★||#163 (#11 S)|
|S||JAYDEN BONSU||★★★★||#270 (#23 S)|
|S||CEDRICK HAWKINS||★★★★||#282 (#25 S)|
“I just think it's kind of the way of the world right now. You know, some guys decommit two and three times before they actually sign nowadays,” Day said. “And I would say if it was 10 years ago, yeah, I'd probably be like, ‘What's going on?’ But right now, we've had some guys change commitments from another school to our school. I remember a time when once somebody committed, everybody just stopped recruiting them. That doesn't change anything anymore. So with early recruiting, with all the different things that are out there right now, guys are changing their minds. And we just have to adapt to it and move on.
“So that just means when they commit that we just keep recruiting them. And the same thing with other guys across the country who are committed, they still kind of look around a little bit. And not that I necessarily agree with everything that goes on in that world, but it's the way things are going, it's the trends that are going on across the country, and we just have to adapt.”
While Day didn’t provide a direct answer when asked how many players he thought Ohio State didn’t get in the 2023 class because of NIL, he acknowledged, “there are a lot of things going on out there that I know it's hard for guys to walk away from.” And while it remains apparent Ohio State would rather promote the NIL opportunities players will have after they arrive on campus than broker deals for players through NIL collectives, Day said OSU is constantly evaluating whether it needs to do more to compete with other top programs on the NIL front.
“As NIL continues to change and move, we're constantly having conversations on a weekly basis on what we need to continue to improve on, what we need to do better, where it's going and we're going to keep building on it,” Day said. “And it's Ohio State. So we should be the best in the country, and we will.”
Day says he believes the players who have signed with the Buckeyes will “have unbelievable opportunity in the NIL space” when they arrive in Columbus. Ohio State’s primary pitch to recruits, though, has been that becoming a Buckeye will give them the opportunity to compete for national championships while being developed for the NFL. And Day believes that’s why the players who chose to sign with the Buckeyes on Wednesday made the decisions they did.
“There's a lot that comes with deciding on where to go to a school. A lot of these guys did it for the right reasons,” Day said. “What I mean by that is like focusing on the things that truly matter in this case, and one of those things, first off, it's the development at Ohio State. It's the ability to come in and get an unbelievable education. It's being a part of a program that's going to be in the national championship hunt every year, but also part of an unbelievable culture and the city of Columbus. There are just so many things that come with being a Buckeye that these guys recognize early on.
“And it's about relationships. And I think our coaching staff did an unbelievable job of building relationships throughout this process. Because this year was a unique season. And it's gonna be a whole other unique recruiting cycle next year. And every year, it changes. This year certainly has been a lot of changes. But in the end, it comes down to relationships, and our guys did a great job of that.”
That message seemingly resonated with Ohio State’s signees, as multiple of them sent tweets expressing similar sentiments following Day’s press conference.
Something special going on here https://t.co/xwZZS209QF— Austin Siereveld (@SiereveldAustin) December 21, 2022