Ohio State football set for wave of visitors as recruiting dead period reaches end
For the first time in nearly 15 months, high school football players will be allowed to visit Ohio State and meet with coaches next week.
The recruiting dead period, in place since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, is expiring and will allow the Buckeyes to host prospects as soon as Tuesday.
A lot of company is expected.
Director of on-campus recruiting Erin Dunston said the program has approved 51 official visitors for June and also expects between 150-200 unofficial visitors over the coming month.
The total approaches the maximum number of 62 official visits allowed for one recruiting cycle.
“This is pretty extraordinary,” said Mark Pantoni, the Buckeyes’ director of player personnel who oversees their recruiting department. “But it's not unexpected either.”
Most recruits in the class of 2022 had not been able to visit schools prior to the pandemic. They were only sophomores in March 2020 when rising coronavirus cases across the country prompted the NCAA to ban in-person recruiting in all sports.
As a result of the delayed trips, the magnitude of the upcoming visits has grown.
Pantoni acknowledged that next month might offer the only opportunity for some prospects to visit Ohio State before they are left to make their commitment or sign a letter of intent in December.
Many will visit other major programs in June, hear a variety of convincing pitches from staffs and tour lavish facilities.
Can the Buckeyes stand out among their peers?
“We have to hit a home run while we have them here,” Pantoni said, “because we're not sure if it's going to be the one and only time we have. So we just have to assume that it is and hit it out of the park with them and just show all the facts, why we think this place is the best place for them.”
While visits can begin on Tuesday, a bulk of the earliest ones come on June 4 and continue over the first weekend of the month.
The Buckeyes are bringing in committed players as well as others who are uncommitted and considering the Buckeyes.
“We just felt like since they've been so loyal to us, we wanted them to get here that first week, because they deserve it,” Pantoni said. “They deserve to all be here together, get to know each other. They are our best recruiters. Them along with our current players.”
Twelve players are committed to Ohio State, giving it one of the largest classes in the 2022 cycle.
Only Louisiana State and Notre Dame hold more verbal commitments at 13 apiece. In 247Sports’ composite rankings, the group of Buckeyes commits is ranked second nationally behind Georgia.
As official visits are set to roll through Columbus over the weekends in June, it presents some challenges for the Buckeyes’ staff in accommodating the large number.
The 51 official visitors represent a typical number for an entire cycle, not a span of one month.
Ohio State is also hosting camps for prospects in the 2023 and 2024 classes, affording the staff opportunities to evaluate rising high school juniors and sophomores in person.
The prospect camps were not held last summer, and due to the dead period coaches did not travel to see players at their high schools during the spring evaluation period.
There is no COVID-19 testing required for participants, but the camps will be in pods of 25 due to protocols.
Unofficial visitors will also be permitted to work out for an hour with a coach.
“Every day is going to be crazy,” Pantoni said. “There’s not going to be any days off.”
Pantoni praised Dunston, the on-campus recruiting director, for her preparedness and organization, calling her a “rock star.”
She joined the program in March after holding the same role at Kansas in 2020 and 2019 and was previously an athletics administration associate at Purdue.
“Honestly, I'm just super excited to get everyone back on campus,” Dunston said. “Working in this field and being with these prospects and getting to know them, it’s just an exciting opportunity to have them finally back and transition back to the normal times.”
With the hectic month ahead, Pantoni also already thought about his plans for when the next dead period goes into effect on June 28.
“In the month of July, my phone's probably gonna be turned off,” he said, “and nobody's gonna be able to track me down.”
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