OSU recruits committed despite controversy
It’s week 3 of Urban Meyer’s paid administrative leave from coaching the Ohio State football team. But as far as the commitments to the Buckeyes’ next two recruiting class are concerned, it is business as usual.
Thus far, all 15 pledges to the 2019 class, headlined by receiver Garrett Wilson and offensive lineman Harry Miller, and the six to the 2020 class, led by offensive lineman Paris Johnson and quarterback Jack Miller, have stood firm with OSU.
That doesn’t mean that other schools are sitting idly by without trying to make new inroads while OSU officials complete their investigation of what Meyer knew and how he responded to allegations of domestic abuse against former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Wilson, for example, said some of the schools he spurned when he committed to Ohio State on April 29 have been calling to gauge potential new interest.
“I’m definitely solid in my commitment,” said Wilson, from Lake Travis High School outside Austin, Texas. “But if they’re just talking, asking me how I’m doing, I’ll tell them. It’s not going any farther than that. … I’m solid to Ohio State and I plan to stay solid.”
Besides, he added, “I am confident coach Meyer is going to be all right.”
That seems to be a prevailing sentiment among OSU commitments, said Bucknuts veteran recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic, who has spoken with them all.
“There are several factors involved at the moment, one being those kids want to play for Ohio State, and they also believe Urban Meyer will be back at some point,” Kurelic said. “Another is the fact the OSU staff has done a really good job with all of these guys.”
Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting for 247sports.com, said credit for projecting stability should go to the OSU assistant coaches and the personnel staff, directed by Mark Pantoni.
“This staff’s ability to build relationships is second to none,” Wiltfong said. “Those bonds the prospects have with the staff aren’t easy to break.
“I believe these recruits are hoping for the best regarding coach Meyer and his future with the program. They believe in him and their future playing for him and his staff so much they’ll wait and see what happens.”
Kristina Miller, whose son Harry is a four-star prospect for the 2019 class from Buford, Georgia, said relationships between the assistant coaches, who do the bulk of recruiting, the recruits and their families has been solid.
“Everyone says, ‘Don’t commit to a coach, commit to a school,’ ” she said. “But if you have a choice between a staff that you don’t feel close with and a staff that feels like your extended family, it seems pretty simple. … The relationships we have with the Ohio State coaches, including (line coach Greg) Studrawa, are very real and very genuine.”
Wilson and his family lived in Dublin into his middle-school years before making the move to suburban Austin, so he already leaned toward Ohio State. Then offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day made him a priority in the recruiting process soon after being hired by OSU in January 2016. Day is now the acting head coach as the Meyer situation is sorted out.
“Coach Day is an NFL-level coach, he had NFL job offers over this offseason,” Wilson said. “I definitely feel confident he’ll be a good head coach one day, and, I mean, if he was my head coach I’d still feel confident with that.”