When it comes to recruiting, Billy Davis arrived at Ohio State with zero bad habits.
Of course, he also came to Ohio State with no recruiting habits, as he had never done it before.
An NFL lifer, Davis was an off-the-field defensive analyst for the Buckeyes last season and was not permitted to recruit. Now as Luke Fickell’s replacement as OSU’s linebackers coach, he is entering just his sixth month on the recruiting trail.
Things didn’t get off to a great start in February, as 5-star linebacker prospect Palaie Gaoteote committed to USC after Ohio State was thought to be his long-time leader.
Since then, however, business has picked up. Toledo linebacker Dallas Gant committed two weeks ago, and the Buckeyes made up a bunch of ground on 4-star Virginia linebacker Teradja Mitchell over the spring. Mitchell announces Friday June 2.
Being new at this whole deal, Billy Davis has to rely on others to teach him the ins and outs. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, he’s got one of the best teachers in the game, and Davis is a very apt pupil.
“I’ve never done recruiting, so it’s brand new to me,” he said in the spring. “Like I told Coach Meyer, that’s a positive. You tell me how you want it done and that’s how you’re going to get it done. The routine and way we do recruiting here, I’m a blank slate and he’s making it however he wants it to be, so I’m attacking the recruiting trail like the rest of the staff is.”
A great deal of a college coach’s recruiting is done by the logo on his shirt, and that’s no different at Ohio State. But once the foot is in the door, the real work begins.
At OSU, recruiting begins in-state, and that was one of the areas where Fickell was outstanding. While Davis is new to recruiting, he’s not new to the Ohio high school football scene.
“Ohio has a great tradition of high school football,” he said. “I myself went to Berea High School up in Cleveland, so I know the Ohio high school football very well. The state of Ohio takes so much pride in growing the young men and the football players of the same mentality we say comes out of Ohio State. I think the state of Ohio kind of fosters that.”
Ultimately, recruiting is about communication. How well can a coach communicate Ohio State’s message to a recruit and his family? If he can’t pass that message along, then he can’t recruit. And if you can’t recruit, you can’t coach under Urban Meyer.
Billy Davis and Meyer have known each other for decades, so Meyer at least knows what kind of person and communicator he is getting in Davis.
“It’s all work ethic and relationship, and that’s the kind of person he is,” Meyer said. “He’s done a really good job. There’s no shortcut in recruiting, and the people who do that end up not going to bowl games. It’s all work ethic and relationships and he’s been great at both so far. But it’s the bottom line — you’ve got to go get the guys. We’re still in the process of getting some guys.”
Davis and the linebacker recruiting got off to a rough start, but that was to be expected with the loss of Fickell. He had an established relationships with hundreds of people, and now Davis is building his own.
Was Meyer concerned about Billy Davis’ ability to recruit before hiring him? You already know the answer.
“It’s always a concern, but there’s not a chance that I don’t know him and what kind of work ethic there is,” Meyer said. “He has an outstanding work ethic. The unit leader in his group is Greg Schiano, as good a recruiter as there is in the country. Then you’ve got Kerry Coombs in there and you’ve got Larry Johnson, so it’s going pretty well.”