Ryan Day assembles No. 3-ranked recruiting class for Ohio State football

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State receivers coach Brian Hartline will have four highly regarded signees to work with this season. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

Ryan Day once sat with a coach who had a book on his office desk about how to close a sale.

Recruiting, in other words, was like cajoling a car customer into signing on the dotted line. Day recalled that story Wednesday on early national signing day with a bit of disdain in his voice.

After his first complete recruiting cycle since his hiring as Ohio State's coach, Day got plenty of elite players to put their signatures on the dotted line. The Buckeyes' 24-player class ranks third nationally behind Clemson and Alabama in the 247Sports composite rankings.

The newest recruits widen the gap between Ohio State and its Big Ten rivals even more. The Buckeyes had nine players ranked in the top 100. The other 13 teams combined for six. Michigan's top recruit ranks 92nd.

But to Day, fixating on the numbers or reveling in reeling in parents and their players misses the point.

“It's not about 'getting a sale,' ” Day said. “That's not what recruiting is. It's about building a vision and letting them know what your program is and what you're going to do for their sons, building that relationship and then treating them the way they're recruited.

“That's what it comes down to. When you're honest and you're real with them, then obviously it translates better for when they get here. It's not about getting them to sign. It's about making sure they're successful when they're here.”

The Buckeyes' class looks poised to be that. The biggest question Wednesday was whether four-star California quarterback C.J. Stroud would join Arizona quarterback Jack Miller in the class. Stroud did, a needed boost in both quality and quantity in a thin quarterback room.

Ohio State replenished its roster on almost all fronts. The four-player receiver group headlines the list. Julian Fleming from Pennsylania is the No. 2 overall prospect nationally, even though he played in a form of the run-oriented wing-T offense at Southern Columbia High School.

Texan Jaxon Smith-Njigba, No. 33 nationally, had more than 2,000 receiving yards and caught 34 touchdown passes. Gee Scott Jr., from the Seattle area, ranks 62nd nationally, and St. Louis' Mookie Cooper was 82nd, even though he was ineligible his senior season because of a transfer issue.

“This is probably the strongest (receivers) class I've seen in a long time that I can remember,” Day said. “I think that had something to do with being about to sign two quarterbacks in this class — knowing they're coming in with really good receivers.”

Another area of emphasis was the offensive line. In past years, Ohio State's recruiting of linemen has been hit or miss. But with Cincinnati Princeton's Paris Johnson leading the way as the No. 7 overall prospect nationally, Day believes the 2020 class will be a superb one.

“Paris Johnson, the No. 1 tackle in America, has been with us all along,” Day said. “He helped us in recruiting. He and his mom, Monica, were a huge part of this thing. I owe them everything because they've kind of kept this thing together for us.

“That was a position of need going into this class, and I thought we hit a home run there.”

Boston College's hiring of defensive co-coordinator Jeff Hafley as coach threw some uncertainty into the mix in the final week. Two defensive backs held off signing on Wednesday. California cornerback Clark Phillips III said he would announce his decision Thursday amid speculation he was considering a flip to Utah. Michigan's Cameron Martinez said he would wait until the traditional February signing day to complete his choice.

That uncertainty put only the smallest damper on what looks to have been a banner haul for Ohio State.

Day had the task of succeeding Urban Meyer, a highly energetic recruiter who had the benefit of being able to flash national championship rings in front of awed high-schoolers. Day assembled most of his class before he had a game as full-time head coach.

“Coach Day is awesome,” wide receivers coach Brian Hartline said. “He's a stud.

“You can tell he bleeds this program. He bleeds the culture. He makes sure it's not just a bunch of position coaches recruiting these guys. He's recruiting them.”

Wednesday was the payoff.

“What a great day this has been,” Day said. “We think it's an unbelievable class.”



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