Ryan Day didn’t have much time to waste after being named Ohio State’s next head football coach on Dec. 4.
While he won’t officially become the leader of the program until after Urban Meyer coaches the Buckeyes against Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, Day immediately took on responsibility for leading Ohio State’s recruiting efforts. That meant he had just two weeks to try to keep each of the Buckeyes’ class of 2019 commitments in the fold – and try to land a few more – before the early signing period began on Wednesday.
For the most part, he succeeded. Ohio State lost a pair of commitments on Wednesday. Four-star quarterback Dwan Mathis flipped to Georgia and four-star cornerback Jordan Battle signed with Alabama. Four-star offensive lineman Doug Nester, who was originally set to sign Wednesday and enroll early at Ohio State, decided to delay his signing until February – though he is still committed to the Buckeyes.
Even so, the Buckeyes still signed 15 players on Wednesday, including three recruits who weren’t previously committed to the Buckeyes before Meyer announced his retirement – most notably, five-star defensive end Zach Harrison, who was never a sure bet to attend Ohio State until Wednesday despite being the Buckeyes’ top target throughout the recruiting cycle.
It’s not the largest class of early signees, and as a result, Ohio State is ranked just 12th in 247Sports’ composite rankings. It’s full of quality, though, with an average rating of 92.16 that ranks third among all schools, behind only Alabama and Georgia.
That gives Day a solid first crop of recruits to hang his hat on as he looks to round out the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class between now and National Signing Day on Feb. 6, and then moves forward to building his first full recruiting class for 2020.
Making that happen, though, certainly didn’t come without a lot of hard work in just a short window of time.
“It started right that first day when we hit the road after the Big Ten Championship Game, and it didn't stop until now,” Day said Wednesday. “It's been a whirlwind. Obviously any time like this, something happens, you have to make sure that you're building relationships with the guys that you've recruited but also some of the guys that maybe you didn't have your hands on, especially some guys on defense, getting to know their families, and then also reaching out to some of the guys on the team during this transition and getting to know their parents some more.
“But a ton of phone calls. I felt like I had two phones to my ear for the last two weeks, but a tribute to obviously what the staff has done here and the relationships that have been built over the last few years.”
In his current role as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Day had already been involved in recruiting some of the players who he would ultimately sign on Wednesday, so it wasn’t as if he had to start from scratch upon being named the head coach.
It helped Day’s cause that he had already built strong relationships with the families of several of Ohio State’s eventual signees – including five-star wide receiver Garrett Wilson and five-star center Harry Miller – which led to them helping reassure other recruits and their families about Day and the future of the program.
“I think they communicated with the other parents to say, ‘Hey, this is our experience with Ryan and this is what you can expect.’ So I think that went a long way,” Day said. “Any time you're in recruiting, it comes back to the relationships and the trust that you have. And they had a big part in this.”
Even among those who he had already built relationships with, though, he had to assuage the concerns they might have about the future of the program without Meyer.
“That was the number one question,” Day said, recalling the in-home visits he made with the families of each of the players Ohio State was recruiting over the past two weeks. “Most people had their phones up, and they would look at their phones and they would turn on their phones and just kind of scroll through all their questions that they had while we were sitting in the home, because they knew we didn't have a whole bunch of time. But the first one that came up was exactly that. Your direction and what you see the vision for the program. And the way that I answered that was that we think we have the most comprehensive program from A to Z in the country, and the infrastructure is here and that the plan is not to change that.
“The plan is not to come in and blow all that up. There's a reason why there's been so much success here in the past, and we want to keep that going. Any time there's a leadership change, there's a change in personality and demeanor, and that’ll be part of this. But we want to keep really the infrastructure in place.”
“I felt like I had two phones to my ear for the last two weeks.”– Ryan Day on recruiting before the early signing period
After traveling all over the country to visit all of the Buckeyes’ prospective signees, Day described the last two weeks as “hectic” and “exhausting.” They were also rewarding, though, because they allowed him to strengthen his connections with a group of young men who he believes will help Ohio State continue its tradition of success both on and off the field.
“We love these kids,” Day said. “We think the quality of the guys that we've signed here is excellent. So we wanted to keep them all. And so that was really important for us. But when you look at who these kids are, in the last seven months and their loyalty, it's amazing. What happened in August, and then there's a coaching change here down the stretch and these kids stuck with us, that means a lot to us, and we're not going to forget that moving forward.”
Because of that, Day felt it was important to invest as much time as he possibly could over the past two weeks into getting to know each of those recruits and their families – even if it was a lot to do at once.
“Getting into the homes and telling them the vision of the program and kind of getting to know them and giving my background and who I am as a person and having my family come in and meet recruits and having them meet my family and showing them pictures of who my kids are, and that's really what it's been like,” Day said. “I think everybody on the recruiting trail really wanted to get to know who I was, and then the second thing was the vision for the program, and so that was really the focus and a lot of the conversations in the homes.”