It is impossible to assess just how good a recruiting class actually is until some time has passed.
Writers and analysts want to immediately hand out grades or deep thoughts as soon as the faxes are in, and it’s just ridiculous. They can’t possibly know how things are going to shake out that soon after the class is wrapped.
That’s why I wait until the next day to pass down my judgments. I like to let things breathe a bit.
Ohio State signed 15 players yesterday and their class of 16 commits (offensive lineman Doug Nester did not sign) is currently ranked No. 12 in the nation and No. 3 in the Big Ten. When you look at the average ranking per player, however, it is the Buckeyes at the top of the Big Ten and third in the nation.
Ryan Day’s first class is the smallest of any of the top classes so far, and the smallest among the Top 32 classes overall.
The reason for the small numbers isn’t because players are unsure about Ohio State’s future, but rather because there isn’t as much room in this class as there has been in other OSU classes. And Day said on Wednesday that the Buckeyes only had room for a few more players.
One of the open spots will be held for Doug Nester, and another for a possible landing spot for Georgia quarterback Justin Fields. Any additional spots beyond what is already available will have to come from yet-to-happen NFL departures.
What Ryan Day was able to do with the spots they had, however, was impressive.
A Pair of Playmakers
The attention here goes to Lake Travis wide receiver Garrett Wilson, but watch just this little bit of fellow receiver signee Jameson Williams from his junior season and tell me he shouldn’t be receiving just as much attention.
[Sees Jameson Williams averaged 30 yards a catch last year.]
Me: Probably just a bunch of bombs.
[Watches first five plays of junior highlights.] pic.twitter.com/TEhuWL39D5
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) June 14, 2018
Or this kickoff return from this past season.
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) December 20, 2018
Of course, watching Garrett Wilson do this…
Oh my goodness Garrett Wilson… pic.twitter.com/Toriwc90Qv
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) December 23, 2017
Garrett Wilson reminds me of Peter Warrick. pic.twitter.com/ZfrdL5PMW6
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) April 30, 2018
…you can understand why he gets so much attention.
With as much talent as the Buckeyes are losing at receiver, you can’t convince me there aren’t roles for both players next season. Of course they need to be capable of handling those roles, but the talent and ability to make plays is already there.
Light in the Trenches
Signing just two offensive linemen — with possibly more to come — is not enough. The two they got, 5-star center Harry Miller and 4-star Mentor lineman Ryan Jacoby, are a good start, but this can’t be how they finish.
The Buckeyes lost out on in-state linemen Zeke Correll (Notre Dame) and Nolan Rumler (Michigan), and were never really that close to landing either player.
Ohio State doesn’t appear to be in on any top players like they were last year with 5-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, which makes keeping Doug Nester committed — and eventually signed — the second-most important thing left for Ryan Day to get done.
Another Three ‘Backers
I like what the Buckeyes did at linebacker. You get the two best in-state linebackers in Cade Stover and Tommy Eichenberg and then grab a guy in Craig Young who blew everybody away at camp with his athleticism.
Young has run a 10.7 100m, so with a 6-foot-4 frame, they understandably believe there’s some good clay there to work with.
Stover is already drawing comparisons to Matt Wilhelm or Andy Katzenmoyer. Eichenberg, meanwhile, is one of those Ohio kids who was a late addition to the class. He basically forced Ohio State to offer him due to an outstanding senior season.
I don’t know what kind of players they will become, however.
I will need a few more days to know definitively, but they should be fine.
Losing cornerback Jordan Battle to Alabama hurts pretty bad. In the past, Urban Meyer has wanted two cornerbacks in each class, and right now they have none. One in this class would have been enough since 2018 signee Tyreke Johnson redshirted this past season.
If they had to do it all over again, they may have tried to redshirt one of Cameron Brown or Sevyn Banks as well. Both players have now played in five games, so they’re in it for good now.
There aren’t any obvious possibilities out there right now, but don’t expect Ryan Day to stop looking.
Urban Meyer taught Ryan Day that the most important thing about coaching and recruiting is relationships, and the fact that so many of the committed prospects signed after a coaching change speaks to the relationships that Meyer and Day built with the players.
While Meyer was facing accusers in the public eye back in the summer, the mother of 5-star center Harry Miller spoke publicly and openly about the trust and comfort she had in Meyer. That only comes with a strong personal relationship.
Day’s first two weeks on the job were spent solidifying those relationships and making sure the players knew who he was. Clearly, he was successful.
The Buckeyes signed four players ranked in the 500s or below, which is the same number they signed in 2016, 2013, and 2012. That’s not including kickers Sean Nuernberger or Blake Haubeil, or long-snapper Liam McCullough, who weren’t ranked at all.
The most 500s or lower signed by the Buckeyes in the Urban Meyer Era came in 2015, which was also Meyer’s most disappointing class (but not necessarily because of the bottom of the class). He signed eight players ranked between 507 and 998. Only Damon Arnette has emerged as a full-time starter from that group. Branden Bowen would have been added to that group if not for a broken leg.
The 500 Club this time around was safety Bryson Shaw (No. 570), athlete Craig Young (No. 599), tight end Cormontae Hamilton (No. 691), and defensive tackle Jaden McKenzie (No. 865). McKenzie is the fifth-lowest-ranked signee since 2012. The players below him? Jahsen Wint (2016) at No. 871, Darius Slade (2014) at No. 891, and a tie between Davon Hamilton (2015) and Pat Elflein (2012) at No. 998.
Of the 25 members of the 500 Club between 2018 and 2012, seven have started for at least one full season. That doesn’t include players like Hamilton and Rashod Berry who don’t always start, but play nearly half the snaps.
However, of those seven starters, only two have come from the last five classes — out of 17 players.
The Pass Rushers
If you outstretch Zach Harrison and Noah Potter fingertip to fingertip, it would only take 17 of them to circle the globe. They are both long defensive ends who don’t actually have to get to the quarterback in order to reach him.
I don’t know how involved either of them will be next year, but both of them will need to be in the two deep by year two.
And when they get there, they may not even have to cross the line of scrimmage to actually notch a sack.
What About the Quarterback?
Yeah, that’s not so great right now. Dwan Mathis flipping to Georgia may not have had anything to do with Georgia quarterback Justin Fields potentially transferring to Ohio State, but it certainly had something to do with Georgia having an opening and a promise of early enrollment that Ohio State could not offer.
This makes securing a quarterback tremendously important. Ryan Day wants four on scholarship, which they have now with Dwayne Haskins, Tate Martell, Matthew Baldwin, and Chris Chugunov. That number is likely to change once Haskins announces that he is leaving for the NFL, which will create a significant need for a fourth quarterback.
And here’s the thing, it has to be a quarterback that Day is comfortable enough to turn to. Chugunov was brought in as a grad transfer this season to provide depth and be a backup. They don’t want to bring in another quarterback to be emergency depth. They can’t have 50% of their scholarship quarterbacks being emergency quarterbacks.
That’s where Justin Fields comes in. The top dual-threat of the 2018 class is looking to transfer and expects to be made eligible immediately for 2019. The Buckeyes need somebody like Fields to fill out their depth (and possibly start), but bringing him in could create some friction in the quarterback room.
If nothing else, Ryan Day can explain to his quarterbacks that the Buckeyes needed to bring in another quarterback to get to four and Fields was willing to be that fourth. Both Martell and Baldwin were going to have to compete like hell in the spring anyway. This doesn’t necessarily change anything, just the number of contenders.
How Did Ohio Go?
Ohio State offered the top nine players in the state of Ohio (Composite rankings) and signed five of them. They missed Cincinnnati defensive tackle Jowon Briggs (No. 2), who went to Virginia; Cincinnati offensive lineman Zeke Correll (No. 4), who went to Notre Dame; Akron offensive lineman Noah Rumler (No. 5), who went to Michigan; and Clayton linebacker Jestin Jacobs (No. 7), who went to Iowa.
Areas of Focus for 2020
The Buckeyes will hit cornerback hard in 2020 and there are plenty of prospects with mutual interest.
They already have a quarterback committed in Arizona’s Jack Miller (No. 4 pro-style QB), but you have to wonder if maybe they’ll need to look for a second quarterback to even out their numbers. Chugunov will be gone after 2019, so he will need to be replaced. Miller covers that.
If Fields transfers in, there would only be one year of separation between him, Martell, and Baldwin. Given how often quarterbacks transfer, would it be a shock to see one of those three leave?
I don’t like to speculate about transfers, but the quarterback position is different because, as Ryan Day said on Wednesday, only one guy can play.
Quarterbacks transferring is just part of college football today, so teams have to prepare for it through recruiting.
The Buckeyes are also going to have to hit the offensive line hard in the 2020 cycle. There’s too much of a crapshoot at those five spots to expect to hit on them all. More depth is needed.