Presser Bullets: Ryan Day and Brian Hartline Discuss Ohio State's 2020 Recruiting Class

By Dan Hope on December 18, 2019 at 1:45 pm

After signing 24 players on Wednesday morning, including two five-star prospects in Julian Fleming and Paris Johnson Jr. and two four-star quarterbacks in Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud, Ohio State coach Ryan Day met with the media to talk about the Buckeyes' recruiting class of 2020 for the first time.

Here's a quick sampling of what Day had to say, followed by wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, who also met with the media on Wednesday afternoon:

Ryan Day:

  • “It's been a great morning ... What a great day this has been. We think it's an unbelievable class.”
  • “I just want to thank all the families out there, and all the recruits who believed in us from the beginning.”
  • Day said the staff did a great job coming together to work with Lejond Cavazos, Ryan Watts, Lathan Ransom and Kourt Williams to land their commitments even with the departure of defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. He said everyone had a hand in that, but specifically named Mark Pantoni and Matt Barnes for their contributions. He said the Buckeyes did not have a 10th assistant coach on the trail serving in Hafley's place because he recruited for most of the week and then had conversations with the recruits before he left about his decision.
  • “This has been a great place before Jeff came and it will be a great place after he’s gone.”
  • Day said this class of recruits are “some of the best people I've been around.”
  • On signing six offensive linemen: “I thought going into this recruiting cycle, offensive line was so huge, and Coach Stud did a great job.” 
  • Day said Paris Johnson and his mom Monica were huge in helping the Buckeyes recruit other players.
  • On how the recruiting process was different this time as a head coach: "This was our first class from beginning to end. There was a lot more time and deeper connections there."
  • Ohio State still has two unsigned commits at defensive back (Clark Phillips and Cameron Martinez), but otherwise, the class is pretty much full at this point.
  • Day said the early signing period made this time of the year extremely hectic with game prep and all of the other end-of-the-year things going on. “However this came down, I’m not sure if they sat down and they realized… I think we have to take a hard look at that."
  • On the class of wide receivers (Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr., Mookie Cooper): “This is probably the strongest class I've seen in a long time that I can remember.”
  • On Scott: “Every time you talk about Gee Scott, everyone has great things to say about him, because he's not only a great player, he's also a great person.”
  • On Luke Wypler: “I think he has a chance to be a great interior lineman.” Said he has some Jersey in him, some edge in him, but he has also has the hard-working Midwestern mentality.
  • Day on signing two quarterbacks: “That's huge ... We felt like we had to try to get more depth in that room.” He said Jack Miller and CJ Stroud bring different things to the table, praised Miller's loyalty in staying committed and said he thinks both are excited to come in and compete to be the backup quarterback next year. He said the decision to bring in two quarterbacks was “not something we took lightly – this is difficult stuff ... “In order to go win championships, you have to have depth at that position.”
  • “I think this offense is very quarterback friendly.” Day said the success of Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins – both Heisman finalists in consecutive years – speaks for itself.
  • “I can say this, our future at quarterback is much stronger after today.”
  • On signing eight players from Ohio: “Ohio has been a priority for us and always will.”
  • Day said he had an emotional conversation with Paris Johnson Jr. and his mother this morning about finally getting to this point. “We're finally here ... I just thanked them for their loyalty.” He said both Johnson and Lejond Cavazos “really mean a lot to me” for their loyalty in becoming Buckeyes after initially committing to Urban Meyer.
  • On the hours leading up to signing day: “There's a lot of stress.”
  • Day on recruiting across the country: "No matter where you go, and they see that Block O… It’s unbelievable.” Day said Ohio State’s brand is strong across the nation.
  • “We try not to talk people into coming here ... because of the transfer portal.” He wants to be honest with players about what they will get at Ohio State, rather than just trying to make a hollow sales pitch. “I think at the end of the day, they want relationship and they want people that care about their kids.”
  • Day said he believes recruits and their parents feel the family atmosphere at Ohio State when they come for a visit.
  • “If you're a high school quarterback right now with an opportunity to come play at Ohio State, there's a lot of people that would want to do that.” Because Ohio State only has two returning scholarship quarterbacks for next season in Justin Fields and Gunnar Hoak, so there's opportunity there for Miller and Stroud to both come in and compete for playing time quickly, and Day believes that was exciting to them. 
  • On Miyan Williams: “It's like he's angry when he runs. We like that.” Said the fact that Williams is an Ohio native was part of the appeal in recruiting him, as was his production at Winton Woods and as strong and powerful as he runs.
  • On how he's feeling today: “This is exciting. This is a great day for us ... To put together a class like this, it's just great ... When you want to look at the future, you look at recruiting.”
  • On linebacker/safety Kourt Williams: “I'll be a surprised if he's not a captain when he's here ... He's got a lot of versatility, he can do a lot of different things.”
  • On offensive linemen Trey Leroux, Jakob James, Josh Fryar and Grant Toutant: “I think they know, they have a little bit of developing to do.” Day said Johnson and Wypler are the most likely candidates among the offensive linemen to compete for early playing time.
  • Day said recruiting is about building relationships, not making a sale. “When you're honest and you're real with them, obviously it translates better for when they get here.”
  • On Stroud: “We got a lot of great feedback on CJ.” He acknowledged that Stroud was “kind of an unknown“ before the Elite 11 and Opening camps this summer, but the other signees who were at those camps with him gave great feedback on him. “He handles himself the right way. He looks you in the eye, he shakes your hands ... He's got a lot of respect, he makes great decisions.”
  • Day said DaVon Hamilton's development is "kind of the model" for his brother, defensive line signee Ty Hamilton's development. He said Ty "terrorized" opposing offenses this year and Ty could have “a bigger impact early on his career than maybe we thought coming into this season.”
  • Day said he tells all recruits that he expects them to graduate from Ohio State, and that the transfer portal never comes up in recruiting, even though he recognizes circumstances come up sometimes.
  • Do you have room if another player or two wants to join the class? “We might be able to make some room.” He said the Buckeyes are “right at the number right now, but there's some wiggle room in there.”
  • On freshman offensive linemen Enokk Vimahi and Dawand Jones: “To see the way those guys have developed, those guys are really good players. Really good players.”
  • “Lathan Ransom is going to be as good a safety as we've had here in a long time.”
  • Day said there's “a really good culture here” where everyone welcomes each other in and players aren't territorial even though they all come from different backgrounds.
  • Day said Ohio State has practiced five of the last six days, and now the players are going home for three days to spend time with their families before they reconvene for the trip to Arizona on Sunday. Because the Buckeyes didn't practice much the week before that, it's almost like having two bye weeks before next week's game.

Brian Hartline:

  • Hartline said Mookie Cooper will likely play in the slot but he believes Julian Fleming, Gee Scott Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are all flexible to play multiple spots. With K.J. Hill leaving after this season, “all options are on the table“ in terms of potentially moving current or incoming receivers into the slot to help fill that void. He doesn't want to box receivers into playing one position or another, even though he has some idea in his head right now of where each of them could fit in.
  • With Hill, Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor and C.J. Saunders all leaving, Hartline said it is “really important“ for the incoming receivers to be ready to play quickly.
  • Hartline said the program Smith-Njigba comes from in Rockwall, Texas is “amazing. It kind of mimics what we do here.”
  • Hartline says the Buckeyes focus on who they want to recruit, not who else is recruiting specific players, because Ohio State believes it can compete with anyone on the recruiting trail.
  • On Day's work leading his first full recruiting class: “Coach Day is awesome. He's a stud ... I can't say enough about the availability he has when it comes to recruiting.”
  • Hartline said it really hard to find weaknesses in Smith-Njigba's game. “He runs routes, he's a smart guy ... he feels really coachable ... he's a playmaker.”
  • ”I think one thing you'll notice about these guys, they're all elite pass-catchers,“ which of course is crucial to playing wide receiver.
  • On Mookie Cooper: “A smaller guy, but really stocky. When he goes to block, he tries to knock you out.”
  • On Gee Scott Jr.: “Every time there's a high-point, I feel like he goes and gets that ball.” Hartline said the key for Scott will be to work with Mickey Marotti on getting faster.
  • On Julian Fleming: “He's 6-2, runs really well ... really great ball skills, very physical in the run game.” Said because he played in a Wing-T offense in high school, his expectations for targets should be “pretty low,” Hartline joked, but Fleming is a great blocker who regularly sends Hartline clips of his blocking. He said Fleming doesn't have a ton of route-running experience, so that's something he'll need to work on.
  • “I've never had a guy I developed a deep relationship with not come here. I know that's gonna happen one day, and I'm gonna be crushed. ... I really dive deep into the relationships.”
  • Hartline said he doesn't like the term of being called a “recruiter,” because he tries to build real relationships with players and help them make an informed decision.
  • On signing two quarterbacks: “That's unheard of,” but he believes that speaks to their desire to compete.
  • On the receivers Ohio State looks for: “I like guys who can basically do everything.”
  • Hartline defined K.J. Hill's legacy to Ohio State's receiver room as “unselfish.” “If you pull K.J. Hill out of that room, we are not as talented in that room ... I think his biggest legacy, hopefully, will be how the young guys turn out,” because of how he has taught them and they have learned from him.
  • On Smith-Njigba's production in high school: “The career he's had in Texas, that's a great football state ... for him to be amongst the best of all-time is just astounding. Another thing that jumps off is on his Twitter, you see how good of a teammate he is.” He joked that it's the inverse of Fleming, because he's never going to be as targeted as much in one game in Ohio State's offense as he was at Rockwall.
  • Hartline said he doesn't look much at height in recruiting wide receivers, but catch range is really what matters.
  • Hartline said it was hard for Mookie Cooper to be unable to play this year (he was ineligible after transferring schools) because “football's his life,” but it isn't something that concerned him in terms of recruiting Cooper. “If anything, his body's taken less hits, so he's fresher.”
  • Hartline said he isn't looking to leave the Buckeyes for a bigger job anytime soon. “I have a strong passion for Ohio State ... I don't know what would get me out of the city, frankly, unless I'm just not good.“ He said he currently has “no desire” to leave.
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