A Turnaround on Defense This Fall Should Pay Big Dividends During Next Year's Recruiting Cycle

By David Regimbal on July 11, 2019 at 10:17 am
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley

A year after Ohio State's offense erupted under the direction of now-head coach Ryan Day, many of the nation's top offensive recruits are planning to make Columbus, Ohio their home during their collegiate careers.

Earlier this week, Eleven Warriors' own Colin Hass-Hill summarized the wave of talented prospects lining up to play in Day's offense.

There's 5-star wide receiver Julian Fleming and high 4-stars Jack Miller (quarterback), Mookie Cooper, Gee Scott Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba (wide receivers) for the 2020 class. Up front, the Buckeyes have some cornerstone pieces in 5-star tackle Paris Johnson Jr. and 4-star center Luke Wypler. And looking forward even further, 4-stars Ben Christman (offensive tackle) Kyle McCord (quarterback) and Jayden Ballard (receiver) are already in the fold for 2021.

With 5-star running back Bijan Robinson trending Ohio State's way, according to 247 Sports' Crystal Ball predictions, Day is on pace to sign an offensive haul that rivals anything his predecessor put together.

It's a simple case of on-field results creating momentum on the recruiting front.

That's what Ohio State's 2019 defense will try and achieve this fall.

That kind of momentum doesn't exist with defensive prospects for several reasons. For starters, the Buckeyes' defensive staff was almost completely (and rightfully) overhauled when Day took over. New co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Jeff Haffley, along with several new position coaches, just started recruiting 2020 defenders for Ohio State this year, which put them behind the ball.

There's also the fact that Ohio State's defense will be a new product this fall. If you're a top-flight defender, it has to be difficult to commit to something you haven't seen with your own eyes just yet.

But primarily, the memories of the Buckeyes' disastrous 2018 defense are fresh.

Last fall, Greg Schiano's unit ranked a dismal 72nd nationally in total defense, 51st in scoring defense and surrendered the longest rushing and passing touchdowns in school history. The unit was gashed on a nearly weekly basis and gave up an average of 43.6 points to Oregon State, Purdue and Maryland.

Combining all those factors puts Ohio State's slow recruiting start (on the defensive side) into perspective.

When the Buckeyes entered the month of June, they had just one defensive prospect committed to their 2020 class in 4-star safety Lejond Cavazos. The defensive staff gained their bearings a bit over the last two months, adding six defenders to the mix, highlighted by high 4-star cornerback Clark Phillips and defensive tackle Darrion Henry.

The staff will continue to work hard to close out 2020 strong, but the best thing they can do is turn things around on the field this fall. If Hafley and Mattison improve the Buckeyes' defense, even as marginally as effective as Day did the offense during his time as offensive coordinator, then blue-chip defenders should start considering Ohio State more seriously. 

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