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For Ohio State, it’s business as usual in defensive back recruiting

Matt Barnes-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Matt Barnes has been more involved with a few recruits that Jeff Hafley was recruiting for Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Recruiting Question of the Day

For Ohio State, it’s business as usual in defensive back recruiting

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. Thursday, we’re taking a look at how Ohio State is handling its defensive back recruiting while Jeff Hafley’s replacement remains unnamed.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

It’s not easy to replace a dynamic and successful recruiter. But Ohio State has been tasked with doing just that following the departure of Jeff Hafley a little under a month ago.

Hafley helped the Buckeyes land the Big Ten’s best 2020 recruiting class in his one year in Columbus, serving as the lead recruiter for Kourt Williams, Cody Simon, Lathan Ransom, Ryan Watts, Cameron Martinez and helping with others. He was also the point man with Clark Phillips, who left the Ohio State class after Hafley took the Boston College job.

Put simply: There’s no doubt that with Hafley leaving, the Buckeyes lost a valuable piece of their recruiting machine.

But at the risk of stealing a cliche from Ohio State, there’s no time for lamenting the loss. In Columbus, it’s always going to be Next Man Up. Right now, though, as the holding pattern for Hafley’s replacement remains in effect, the next man up isn’t really just one man.

It’s Ryan Day. It’s Al Washington. It’s Matt Barnes. It’s Larry Johnson. It’s Mark Pantoni and the entirety of the Buckeyes recruiting department.

Kerry Coombs-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

If Kerry Coombs takes over, he’ll need other Ohio State coaches to help jumpstart important relationships. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

And the really interesting part of this approach? It’s not new. That’s how Ohio State has run it’s recruiting efforts for the last handful of years, and it’s a plan designed exactly for this reason. When teams lose a big-time assistant coach, it’s hard to replace him with one guy, no matter how dynamic that one guy is.

That’s why from the minute that the Buckeyes identify a prospect as worthy of recruiting, he’s recruited by Ohio State in its entirety — and not only by one coach. Martinez had developed a real bond with Hafley, sure. But he was also heavily recruited by Day and Brian Hartline.

Hartline gets most of the credit for Julian Fleming and the incredible group of receivers that Ohio State signed in 2020. But Day’s involvement from the beginning helped cultivate a relationship with the entire staff in Columbus, and that goes a long way with kids and their families.

With only three weeks until the next signing period begins on Feb. 5, Ohio State is hoping that approach can carry the day as it evaluates and offers new prospects, especially in the defensive backfield. It’s assumed that Kerry Coombs will become the guy to replace Hafley. But until he’s officially named and even after, recruits who Coombs will be asked to recruit will need Day and other assistants to bridge the relationship gap.

Fortunately at Ohio State, that is just standard operating procedure.

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Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for and and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.