The early December signing period was not without its drama for Ohio State.
With secondary coach Jeff Hafley leaving, that left the Buckeyes without a guy in charge of the defensive backs.
More timely, however, it left OSU’s defensive back recruits with plenty of questions.
For defensive back recruits Lejond Cavazos, Lathan Ransom, and Ryan Watts, they were given answers that proved sufficient, so they signed back in December. California cornerback Clark Phillips wasn’t as convinced, so he ended up decommitting from Ohio State and signed with Utah.
That left 4-star Michigan prospect Cameron Martinez. Martinez had been committed to the Buckeyes since July 4, but the Hafley departure caught him off guard. He decided not to sign in the December signing period so that he could see who OSU head coach Ryan Day was going to hire.
Eventually, Day hired Kerry Coombs and Martinez went ahead and signed with the Buckeyes.
“Well, I totally understood,” Day said of Martinez’s delay. “I talked about the continuity and that I’m going to go hire the best coach I can in the country. And Kerry was my number one pick and that worked out. A place like Ohio State, you’re going to have great coaches here. And I told him it’s my job to make sure he has the best coach he can possibly have and that’s what we’re going to do.
“But at the same time I told him if he needs to go look at other places, that he can do that. I said I’m not going to like that too much, but at the same time I respect your family enough that you can go ahead and check some places out. Now he never really ended up doing that.”
Day’s approach to Martinez is the same as his approach to any other recruit.
You do your best to paint the most accurate picture of a future at Ohio State, and that painting can’t be abstract. It needs realism or else it will never live up to the player’s expectations. And if what they envisioned is not what they’re experiencing, then it won’t be long before they hit the transfer portal and look for a place that is more suited to their expectations.
“I think in today’s day and age, whether you sign or not, if the kid’s not happy or doesn’t really pick the school for the right reasons, he’s going to end up in the transfer portal and leave anyways,” Day said.
“It’s not just about getting the kid to sign on the dotted line. It’s not that way anymore. Now it’s having trust and having the relationship with the family and common respect for each other that things are going to go in a certain way.”
Forcing a recruit’s hand may get their signature on a letter of intent, but in two years it could leave you a man down when that player’s expectations aren’t being met.
Which is why Day told Martinez to take his time and look around.
“And I think that’s the way it is with Cam,” he said. “And I think that’s the way it is with all the recruits in that they know they’re going to be treated the same way here as when they were recruited.”
Day’s mandate that players be treated the same way they were in recruiting is a new concept for many, but if a coach wants those players to stick around, he might not want to be Dr. Jeckyll in recruiting and Mr. Hyde when coaching.
Fewer surprises for players will lead to fewer surprises for the coaches, and for Ryan Day, that process starts in recruiting.
The days of locking recruits in and then locking them down are over and if coaches prove to be two-faced, don’t expect everyone to stick it out.
Players have enough eye-opening experiences in their first year. By being the same guy in recruiting as he is in coaching, Day is simply trying to keep from being one of those freshman road blocks.
And if a player can get through that first season and see the possibilities ahead, they are more likely to stick it out and see where years two, three, and four will take them.