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Ohio State: Understanding class numbers, scholarship limits for Buckeyes

Marcus Crowley-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Marcus Crowley is enrolling early for Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Recruiting Question of the Day

Ohio State: Understanding class numbers, scholarship limits for Buckeyes

Have a question about Ohio State recruiting? This is the place for you, five days a week. Submit your questions on Twitter or on the Lettermen Row forums. Check in daily to see what’s on the mind of Buckeyes fans all over the country. Today’s question asks how Ohio State and other schools work around the 25-man per recruiting class limits imposed by the NCAA.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

If you follow recruiting closely, you’ve certainly heard all about the numbers.

That’s the insider term used when trying to get an idea of exactly how many new players programs like Ohio State will sign every year as it tries to reach that magic number of 85 scholarships, which is the NCAA’s limit for scholarships in Division I football.

The numbers can get tricky, but they’re also the most important guideline for coaches and recruiting departments as they attempt to build a class. Ryan Day made note of that almost immediately on Wednesday.

“We signed 14 players as of right now in the early signing period, and we’re very, very excited about all the players that we signed,” Day said. “I think this class would rank top-five nationally when grading the individual player, not cumulatively. We don’t lose a lot of seniors this year, and so within the 85 scholarships, there’s really not that many spots and limited room.”

The Buckeyes have only 10 seniors leaving the program after the Rose Bowl. So Day is saying is correct, but they signed 14 guys on Wednesday and there are three guys in Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones and Mike Weber who have already announced they’re leaving the program for the NFL. It’s a safe bet there will be more NFL early departures coming, but there is always other attrition to try to account for as well.

But how many guys? Usually the people inside the program have a pretty good idea.

But how do you figure it out at home? Let’s try and come up with some sort of equation, OK? Would you like that?

Total Scholarships – departing seniors – early NFL defectors + recruiting class number = 85.

So, for Ohio State today it now looks like this: 85-10-3+14 = 86.

That means there are more NFL departures coming? It’s safe to assume that Dwayne Haskins and K.J. Hill are going to leave early. I think it be reasonably assumed that Jordan Fuller and Damon Arnette are candidates as well. Then there are other guys like Michael Jordan, Malik Harrison and Kendall Sheffield that could make that leap as well.

So we can see that the Buckeyes could conceivably bring in six more signees in 2019 to reach 85. That means a class of 20 total players. Day brushed off the idea it’d reach that number.

“I don’t think it’ll be that high,” Day said. “We have to stay under 85, and like I said, we’re only graduating a small class of seniors, and three guys have declared. So there isn’t going to be that much room.”

Ryan Day press conference-Ryan Day-Ohio State Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ryan Day acknowledged that the “numbers” matter for Ohio State in the Class of 2019. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Getting to 85 this year really should not be an issue for Ohio State. Most years it can be noticed how they’re managing that even by signing 25 or more players.

The problem with hitting that number using another bit of mathematics is that brings a team to 100 scholarships over a four-year stretch — but that’s because in college football you’re actually counting on attrition every year. It’s impossible to avoid it, so you better prepare for it. That’s why Alabama signs 28 kids every year. The SEC limits its per signing classes to 28 players being signed between December and May in an effort to control the trend of early-enrollment as a means around the per class maximums. The Big Ten is 28 per year as well.

So how do early enrollees like Marcus Crowley and five other new Buckeyes signees enrolling in January work? They actually count back to the previous class and against the 85-man limit. So, with six guys coming in the program early, it’s a safe bet that six have already told the Ohio State staff they intend to leave — either via the NFL, transfer or not using fifth-years.

To answer the original question, pay less attention to the 25-man threshold, because it’s not really a rule. Schools can sign 25 initial counters, or players on the first year of their scholarship, but that’s usually avoided by guys that count back toward the previous class and the 85-man hard limit. The more players expected to leave, the more players can be expected to enroll early.

That limit, by the way, only needs to be reached by the start of August, which is why so many teams will enter spring football with almost 90 guys on scholarship knowing that it’s inevitable there will be more on the way out.

The best way to stay on top of all that recruiting #stuff? Subscribe to Lettermen Row’s Recruiting with Birm newsletter. Ryan Day and the Ohio State coaching staff will be all over the country during these next two weeks in an effort to change the mind of any kids planning on delaying their signing until February.

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