If you’re a longtime follower of Ohio State football recruiting, this year’s National Signing Day will be much quieter than you’re used to.
In years past, Ohio State probably would have already announced multiple signees by the time this article even published this morning. As soon as National Signing Day officially began at 7 a.m., Ohio State’s fax machine would start lighting up with National Letters of Intent.
Today, though, there’s no guarantee that the Buckeyes will even receive any NLIs – and if they do, they probably won’t receive any of them (or at least announce any of them) before noon.
With the advent of the Early Signing Period two years ago, what used to be a race to February has now become a race to December, and as such, the Buckeyes already signed the vast majority of their 2019 recruiting class on Dec. 19.
Last year, the Buckeyes signed five players on National Signing Day, including three who had already committed to Ohio State (Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday and Chris Olave) and two who announced on signing day – Nicholas Petit-Frere and Javontae Jean-Baptiste.
This year, though, the Buckeyes enter National Signing Day with just one unsigned commitment in Doug Nester, and he’s not even expected to sign with Ohio State on Wednesday. After opting not to sign with the rest of Ohio State’s commits in December, Nester is expected by recruiting insiders to announce he is signing with Virginia Tech when he makes his announcement at 5 p.m. Wednesday. (Update: Virginia Tech announced Nester's signing on Wednesday morning).
Ohio State could still potentially sign two offensive linemen on Wednesday in Enokk Vimahi, who will announce where he is signing at 12:30 p.m., and Dawand Jones, who will announce where he is signing at 6:30 p.m. Both of those players would reinforce depth and give the Buckeyes building blocks for the future at a position group where they are thin on numbers.
Even if both of those players ultimately choose to become Buckeyes, though, Wednesday isn’t going to feel like a traditional signing day. New Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, the midyear freshman enrollees and their new assistant coaches meeting with the media for the first time on Wednesday is likely to garner more attention than anything that happens on the recruiting front.
That doesn’t mean that Wednesday isn’t an important day for Ohio State to complete its 2019 recruiting class, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not likely to be a day that makes or breaks the program’s future.
You might find yourself nostalgically longing for the onslaught of #BOOMs that typically accompanied for the first Wednesday of February, but there’s no real reason to be alarmed about this year’s lack of signing day activity, because that’s likely to be the new normal going forward.
Ohio State’s goal now is to sign as much of its recruiting class as possible during the early signing period in December, leaving the February signing day only for priority players who are not yet ready to make their decisions or to fill holes that might emerge late in the process.
Even though they only signed 15 players in December, the Buckeyes never intended to add a large number of players to their recruiting class today.
“We don't lose a lot of seniors this year, and so within the 85 scholarships, there's really not that many spots and limited room,” Day said during his early signing period press conference on Dec. 19.
If Nester had signed with the Buckeyes in December as originally planned and fellow offensive lineman Michael Jordan had opted to stay at Ohio State for his senior season instead of entering the 2019 NFL draft, it’s possible the Buckeyes wouldn’t have pursued any February signees at all. They’d currently be at 85 scholarships if Nester and Jordan were on their roster, and neither Vimahi nor Jones became priorities for the Buckeyes until after the early signing period.
Ohio State will surely sign larger recruiting classes in most years than it will this year, which could leave a few more spots open in February in future years. The Buckeyes also haven’t had many unexpected player departures yet this offseason, keeping their roster mostly full heading into National Signing Day.
If things go according to plan, though, quiet February signing days that lack drama will become the norm for Ohio State, because that will mean the Buckeyes have already signed the players they wanted most in December. And with the exception of Nester and quarterback Dwan Mathis – for whom they didn’t recruit a replacement for in the class because there weren’t any unsigned quarterbacks left that they wanted – that’s what they did this year, leaving only a couple of players who the Buckeyes hope to receive pledges from on Wednesday.