The Ohio State football recruiting machine was humming.
As it put together the early pieces for its class of 2021, it secured commitments from 10 players — a prized collection of talent setting it in contention to finish with the nation’s top-ranked class by the end of the cycle.
For most of this year, the Buckeyes have held the top spot in the composite rankings compiled by 247Sports.
But late Wednesday, the recruiting push came to a standstill.
Coach Ryan Day announced that the football program had suspended all official and unofficial recruiting visits through April 20 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Dozens of top high school recruits had been scheduled to visit Ohio State during spring practice over the following weeks, including the spring game on April 11 that was canceled Wednesday night.
Several of them were top-ranked running backs, including five-star recruit TreVeyon Henderson and four-star recruit Evan Pryor, top targets for the Buckeyes as they aim to boost their backfield.
Like most schools, Ohio State favored this juncture on the recruiting calendar as an opportunity for recruits to visit the campus.
For one, the stretch from March 1 through April 14 is a quiet period when coaches cannot meet with recruits off the college campus.
Then there’s further incentive to invite them.
Amid recent NCAA rules changes, recruits are permitted to take official visits during the spring, and they can watch spring practices with a front-row seat for how coaches interact with players.
“The college programs look forward to this time in the spring to recruit and showcase their program,” said Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting for 247Sports. “Obviously now they'll have to do it a different way.”
None of it will be in-person.
Communication between the Buckeyes’ coaches and players will be limited to phone conversations, text messages or social media messages.
Some recruits who had looked to visit Ohio State were also interested in committing in the spring or summer.
Those plans might change amid the recruiting restrictions, delaying possible commitments.
“It sets everything back,” said Bill Kurelic, who covers Ohio State recruiting for Bucknuts.com. “How much? Who knows at this point.”
Last year, 13 of their 25 signees committed between the Memorial Day weekend and July 31. Many had attended spring practices and the spring game, which drew more than 60,000 fans to Ohio Stadium.
Only a handful of 2021 recruits visited during the first week of spring practice, though one visitor was Donovan Edwards, a four-star running back from West Bloomfield, Michigan.
It’s unlikely the Buckeyes will be at a significant competitive disadvantage on the recruiting trail.
Other Big Ten rivals such as Michigan and Penn State have put in similar in-person recruiting restrictions in recent days.
Penn State went as far as to postpone all football activities.
And Clemson, which is challenging Ohio State for the top spot in the national rankings, will be impacted as well.
The Atlantic Coast Conference said Thursday that it is shutting down games and practices for all sports, including recruiting “until further notice.”