Ryan Day’s first full signing class as head coach at Ohio State finished fifth in the national rankings this past February. The Buckeyes signed 25 players, including the nation’s top offensive tackle in Paris Johnson, two 5-star receivers in Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, as well as a 5-star quarterback in CJ Stroud.
Day showed pretty early on subbing in for Urban Meyer in 2018 that he could handle the coaching work, then left no doubt last season by putting a playoff team on the field.
There may have been some questions about Day’s recruiting prowess, even though he did a great job of holding onto the 2019 class in the two-plus weeks between Meyer’s retirement and signing day. He also displayed some of his skills by landing quarterback transfer Justin Fields. Fields and Day proved a lethal combination last year.
Recruiting has continued to be outstanding, leaving some to think that maybe Day is even better than Meyer was at this recruiting thing.
“Yeah, I don’t get too much into reading all that stuff,” Day said back on signing day, “But certainly you want to prove yourself as more than just an offensive guy. And so, yeah, we’re competing at the highest level and trying to recruit the best players.”
Ohio State is certainly making noise in the recruiting world. They currently have by far the highest-ranked class in the 2021 cycle, but a lot more goes into scouting players than simply looking at the tape.
“For us it goes back to the fit. We want to have great players, the best players in the country, but the right fit for this program and this culture,” Day said.
“I think that’s what I’m the most proud of right now. When you look at the kids coming into this program, when you look these guys in the eye, they’re beautiful kids. They’re made of the right stuff and have the right work ethic, the right families. And we’re getting ahead in recruiting right now. And it’s exciting to be part of Ohio State, which in that case it’s fun to be the head coach.”
Recruits communicate with each other more than ever, and have many different ways of communicating with the coaches who are recruiting them. And with how much more recruiting has sped up over the years, players are being recruited earlier and earlier, which means the relationships are becoming deeper and deeper.
Even before the players get to campus, Day can already feel the sense of family that has been built by an incoming class.
“Yeah, I do. I do. I think the way we’re recruiting right now, there’s a family atmosphere here right now,” he said. “And I think these recruits and these families will see as time goes on, just like we talked about, they’re going to be treated the same way they’re recruited, in that we’re recruiting this thing tight and you are family.”
It is normal for recruits to be treated as kid-gloved as possible, but then the gloves come off once they sign. That’s not what Ryan Day is basing his recruiting ideals on. He doesn’t see the need for a bait and switch.
“There’s certainly a business side to it, but it’s not a business,” he said. “It’s a family. We’ve been talking about that all along. Even through the recruiting process we start to recruit at such a young age that that relationship builds over time. And you’re talking about years.”
With so much time and money invested in recruiting players, it doesn’t make sense to then lose them to the transfer portal because they immediately feel that they’ve been lied to. And if the family atmosphere is going to remain, players can’t feel like they’ve been betrayed by a stranger.
“Paris Johnson, shoot, we were recruiting him, Jaxon Smith, these guys are two years in, so certainly the relationship has gotten stronger as we’ve gotten into it,” Day said. “Even when they come in here for their first day, their relationship has been building here for multiple years before they get here.”