Urban Meyer Enhanced Ohio State's Pipeline to the NFL, and Ryan Day is Primed to Maintain It

By David Regimbal on April 20, 2020 at 2:50 pm
Urban Meyer and Ryan Day
© Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday night, Ohio State will become the school that's produced the most first-round NFL draft picks.

It's a distinction it currently shares with USC. Both programs have had 81 former players selected in the first round dating back to 1938.

But with Chase Young and Jeff Okudah projected to go in the top five of Thursday's draft, with an outside chance of J.K. Dobbins sneaking into the backend of the first round, it should give Ohio State the edge over USC. Offensive tackle Austin Jackson is the only Trojan projected to the first round this year.

The Buckeyes covered a lot of ground in recent years. During Urban Meyer's tenure, Ohio State chased USC down by having an incredible 14 players taken in the first round. They were as far behind as the current No. 3 on the list — Notre Dame, which has 68.

But it's not just first-rounders. There have been 49 Buckeyes selected overall since 2013, an average of seven selections per draft.

Urban Meyer's Recruiting and Draft Output
Year Recruiting Rank Draft Picks
2012 5 -
2013 2 3
2014 3 6
2015 7 5
2016 4 12
2017 2 7
2018 2 7
2019 - 9

That's a reflection of good recruiting and development. Meyer and his coaching staff ramped up both during his time.

It's not that Ohio State wasn't an NFL pipeline before his arrival. Jim Tressel was an excellent recruiter in his own right, but he simply didn't consistently bring in the talent Meyer did. In Tressel's final eight seasons, his recruiting classes had an average rank of 12.1, per scout.com. Meyer's average recruiting ranking for the classes he signed was a staggering 3.5.

That, in addition to the elite development Meyer, his coaching staff and the training team under Mickey Marotti put into place, Ohio State hit a different pace.

And after his first full season as the Buckeyes' head coach, Day looks to be following suit.

The first-time head coach proved his ability to navigate the intricacies of the job by orchestrating one of the most dominant regular seasons in Ohio State football history. That put the Buckeyes in the conference title game, where they rallied to beat Wisconsin to win their third consecutive Big Ten championship.

That proves the development is there, and the recruiting is following suit.

The 2019 crop of freshmen, technically Day's first class, suffered from the uncertainty surrounding Meyer's health and future at Ohio State. But when Day was given the benefit of a full recruiting cycle, he came up big by signing the country's No. 5 class that features a trio of 5-stars and 10 players ranked inside the top 165 nationally in 2020.

And the momentum is only building. Day and his coaching staff are dominating the 2021 recruiting cycle as the Buckeyes are running away with the No. 1 ranking. Ohio State has verbal pledges from 17 players, 13 of whom rank inside the top 135 nationally. Three of those players (Jack Sawyer, TreVeyon Henderson and Kyle McCord) are 5-star prospects, and on top of that, Ohio State is favored to land four more players ranked in the top 100.

Day has the Buckeyes program humming as smoothly as Meyer had it during his tenure. And with the recruiting rolling along the way it is and nine former Buckeyes expected to hear their names called in the draft this week, it doesn't look like it will slow down anytime soon.