Springing Visits on the Buckeyes
This is the first year the NCAA has allowed official recruiting visits during the spring. Traditionally, visits have taken place from September through February, so this was a brand new experience for college football coaches.
Some coaches, like Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, did not want to extend invitations for official visits. Ohio State, however, has done so sparingly. And only in certain circumstances.
Wide receiver Garrett Wilson visited officially this spring and committed to OSU two weeks later. They are also expected to host Texas quarterback Grant Gunnell at the end of the month.
“We don’t want to have people visit that aren’t going to decide until next December or even next January,” Urban Meyer said. “That’s too long to hold someone. So we’re being very selective. It’s going to be interesting though. This is all new for everybody. I think timing is going to be of the essence, and that means if you’re going to make an early decision, we’ll consider an early visit.”
Picking and Choosing
How does a coach go about picking a quarterback in a hotly-contested competition? It depends on the coach. Some coaches rely on analytics and chart all of the data and come to a decision. Other coaches watch, take it all in, and then trust their gut to make the right call.
How does Urban Meyer do it?
“Data’s second,” he said this spring. “It’s something that helps you because it’s also factual.”
The ability to throw the ball is something that anybody can see, but the intangibles to get the job done in the most difficult of circumstances are what the Buckeye coaches are actually looking for.
“Well, I think with a quarterback, a lot of it is leadership and some of the impact they can have on the team,” said quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. “Because it’s not just taking the ball and throwing it. There’s a lot of other things that go in it: competitiveness, leadership, toughness, football IQ, decision making. All of those things. So, all of those things go into it when we evaluate quarterbacks.”
Competition is the Norm
The quarterback competition was the story of spring camp for the Ohio State football team, but now that it has been settled with the departure of Joe Burrow, there are other competitions that have yet to be settled.
The linebacker position, for instance, has three jobs completely up for grabs. It’s a constant battle for every linebacker to earn their coaches’ trust, but it’s something that they have become accustomed to.
“At Ohio State that’s all we do is compete,” said junior linebacker Keandre Jones. “That winner mentality, you want to win every rep, you want to win everything you do, whether it’s on the field or off the field, you want to win in everything you do. So, we’re all competitors.”
The acceptance of the competition is one of the reasons why Urban Meyer and linebacker coach Bill Davis left the spring so confident that they will get the job done.
“[Meyer] is confident in our abilities,” Jones said. “And that just encourages us to keep pushing and making that linebacker room known that we’re here to stay and we’re here to step up and lead that defense to victory.”
Replacing Denzel Ward
Replacing cornerbacks who have been drafted in the first round has become old hat for Ohio State nowadays.
Eli Apple replaced Bradley Roby, Marshon Lattimore replaced Apple, and last year Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette replaced Lattimore and Gareon Conley. This year, the Buckeyes have to replace Denzel Ward, who was selected fourth overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.
Arnette and Sheffield are back and joining them are a trio of talented second-year players, led by Jeff Okudah.
For many coaches, replacing the fourth overall draft pick can be daunting. For OSU cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, however, he’s not too worried.
“Very. Very confident,” he said. “Again, just from what I’ve seen, and not just out here on the field but from what I’ve seen in the meeting room, in the training room, and weight room, I’m very excited. Very excited. I know we’ll be able to answer the bell.”