Pantoni Already Having Big Impact at Ohio State
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Typically guys who are hired as a school’s director of football administration don’t get much publicity, even at a place like Ohio State.
Mark Pantoni is anything but typical.
He has been called the “master mind,” the brainpower behind much of Meyer’s recruiting dominance at Florida and he has already made an significant impact in a short period of time since joining Meyer’s new staff at Ohio State.
“He’s basically, you would almost call the head coach’s ‘right hand man,’” said Tom Loy, who covers recruiting and high school sports in the Sunshine State for FlaVarsity.com.
“Especially with how close he is with Urban Meyer. He was the easy front-runner to take over at Ohio State.”
With his help, Ohio State might just “take over” the Big Ten in a way rarely seen before Meyer became the 24th head coach in school history. It has barely been two weeks since Meyer’s introductory press conference in Columbus, but already he has turned the recruiting world upside down.
After the first major weekend of visits, Meyer landed not one, but two major commitments on Monday evening. The first was Tommy Schutt, a blue chip defensive tackle out of Glen Ellyn, Ill. who had been committed to Penn State.
The buzz from Schutt’s commitment had barely quieted down when 4-star defensive end Se’Von Pittman followed suit, backing out on his verbal commitment to Michigan State.
Meyer and former interim head coach Luke Fickell will get most of the credit, and rightly so. They will always be the reason a kid like Pittman ultimately does or doesn’t pick Ohio State, but Loy insists Pantoni will play a major part in the recruiting process.
“His hand is going to be in everything,” Loy said.
“He’s going to be there on National Signing Day. He’s going to be there any time anything big happens in recruiting. He’s going to be involved in every possible facet of the program.”
At Florida, Pantoni was the driving force behind the Gators' recruiting efforts. He helped Meyer land a top-3 class in four of his six seasons in Gainesville, but he is more than just a recruiting coordinator.
It is Pantoni’s job to schedule visits, coordinate calls, orchestrate a Friday Night Lights type event and, most importantly, identify and connect with the top recruits in the country before anyone else.
“He’s very good at what he does,” Loy proclaimed.
“He’s extremely hard working, and he develops great relationships with recruits. It’s not often a non-coach comes up with recruits.”
Yet Pantoni’s name came up quite frequently with recruits after it was announced he would be leaving Florida to join Meyer at Ohio State.
“He was definitely one of the best I dealt with. Big loss for UF,” five-star offensive tackle John Theus posted on his personal Twitter page.
Ohio State officially announced the addition of Pantoni to their staff on Monday, along with director of football operations, Brian Voltolini. The reality is that Pantoni left Florida to reunite with his former boss in Columbus almost immediately after Meyer took the job.
Though he never coached a position for Meyer with the Gators, it is clear that he became more than just another guy on the staff when it came to his relationship with potential incoming recruits.
“So we’re really close,” Florida oral commit Latroy Pittman told The Independent Florida Alligator.
“I would say (he’s) like a big brother to me. Hopefully he can do at OSU everything he did for Florida.”
If he can do that, and there is no reason to think he won’t, the Buckeyes could enjoy unprecedented success in the world of recruiting. In just two weeks they have already reversed the fortunes of a recruiting class that had been all but written off.
“Ohio State should be extremely pleased with who they are getting, both in his work ethic and as a recruiter,” Loy added.
“His name was all over everything in Florida.”
And apparently everywhere else. A quick look at Meyer’s recruiting classes at Florida would reveal the fact he and Pantoni won’t stop at the state lines.
They pulled in major prospects from just about everywhere in the country, including Maryland (Joe Haden), Connecticut (Aaron Hernandez), Texas (David Nelson), Philadelphia (Sharrif Floyd) and even California (Ronald Powell).
If that is any indication, Schutt and Pittman are just the beginning.
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