High-profile recruits set to visit during spring game

Joey Kaufman
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said the huge crowd expected to watch the spring game at Ohio State is "a huge selling point” when entertaining recruits. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has a new routine after practices.

It involves more meet and greets and fewer X's and O's.

“Once practice is over, I go into my office and recruits are just coming through all the way until I go home at night,” Day said. “There's no watching football, there’s no watching film. That’s part of being a head coach.”

Since spring practice began last month, high school football prospects across the nation have traveled to Columbus, continuing a sort of introductory period with Day, who replaced Urban Meyer in January after the coach’s retirement.

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Day, who was elevated from offensive coordinator, largely recruited quarterbacks and select other players in his previous role with the Buckeyes. Since his promotion, Day is tasked with becoming acquainted with prospects from all positions.

The Buckeyes’ spring game Saturday is the latest milestone on the recruiting calendar for the first-time head coach. The event is expected to draw a number of visiting recruits and was described this week by Day as a “huge selling point.”

It’s largely due to crowd size, a hallmark for the program. More than 63,000 tickets had been sold earlier this week, according to a school spokesman, nearing the reduced capacity at Ohio Stadium. The crowd will be capped at 76,000 because of stadium construction but still will likely mark one of the largest turnouts among major college football programs for a spring game this offseason.

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“The amount of people that show up for our spring game is extraordinary,” Day said. “It shows the support of Buckeye Nation.”

Several of the high-profile recruits expected in attendance Saturday include Paris Johnson Jr., a five-star offensive tackle from Cincinnati who has been committed to Ohio State for the past year but continued to visit other schools, as well as other commits — four-star quarterback Jack Miller and four-star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

A handful of uncommitted targets who are current juniors and sophomores in high school will also make the trek, including Lavon Bunkley-Shelton, a four-star wide receiver from the Los Angeles area, and Darrion Henry, a four-star defensive end from Cincinnati.

None of the prospects had been expected to make official visits, said Bill Kurelic, who covers Ohio State recruiting for the website Bucknuts. It is the second straight year, though, that recruits can take one of their official visits in the spring, a result of the new early signing period in college football.

Keeping Johnson in the fold despite the coaching transition remained paramount. Not only is he the top-ranked player in Ohio, but he also comes at a position of need. To bolster their depth, the Buckeyes might need to sign close to a half-dozen offensive linemen in their next recruiting class. They have made progress toward that effort. Of their seven publicized commits, four are on the offensive line, but none as decorated as Johnson, listed at 6 feet 7½ and 295 pounds by 247Sports.

As with earlier weekends in spring practice when prospects visited campus, the spring game affords Day a chance to continue to make an early impression with the visitors before beginning his first full season at the helm.

Through his first few months, he’s earned sufficient marks.

“Recruits generally feel like it's been a pretty seamless transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day,” Kurelic said.

Many of them have reported Day being personable and confident on previous visits.

“He's left no doubt that this is his program now,” Kurelic said. “It's not Urban Meyer's program, it's the Ryan Day Ohio State program now. I think he's come off as really genuine as a players' coach and the type of guy that recruits want to play for, really. That's the thing I've heard quite often. Recruits feel like he's a genuine guy and honest, an intelligent guy and a really good coach.”


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