COLUMBUS — When Ryan Day took the helm at Ohio State from Urban Meyer, he had some tough choices to make with respect to his first coaching staff.
It would’ve been easy for Day to maintain the status quo when it came to those choices. He could have kept coaches like Greg Schiano, Billy Davis and Taver Johnson, each of whom were respected in the coaching profession after lengthy careers with stops at the game’s highest level. After all, those were some of the men that Urban Meyer picked to lead alongside Day, so it would likely have been palatable to ride into a transitional year with the same group.
Day didn’t do that, though. He overhauled the defensive staff after an underwhelming 2018 season and brought in his own group of coaches. On offense though, Day stood pat, choosing to quickly retain Kevin Wilson — and then a little less than a month later announced that Greg Studrawa would remain in his role as the Buckeyes offensive line coach.
“His background is excellent,” Day said then. “What I’ve seen him do in terms of development with our offensive line is why [he was retained].”
What Day didn’t mention was Studrawa as a recruiter. In his first signing day press conference at Ohio State, Day was asked about the recruiting at that spot after the Buckeyes offered and missed on five in-state linemen in the previous two cycles. He pulled no punches, acknowledging it was a problem that needed fixing.
“It’s something that for sure I’m well aware of,” Day said. “It’s an area that we’ve got to do a better job at. … We’re a little bit down in the offensive line, so we’ve got to do a great job moving forward to get that addressed.”
Following the 2019 cycle and with the help of Day, Wilson and assistant line coach Kennedy Cook, Studrawa has picked up the pace on the recruiting trail. In that group, it was Day and Wilson that get the majority of the credit for signing Harry Miller, Enokk Vimahi and Dawand Jones. But without Studrawa’s reputation as a talent developer, those battles may have ended different.
Regardless, Studrawa had to get better as a recruiter for Ohio State. Ryan Day knew that, and Studrawa knew it, too.
Though ultimately it was Day who had to earn the commitment of Paris Johnson in 2020, it was the relationship with Studrawa who helped steady the boat when the waters were rockiest. It was the NFL development of recent Buckeyes by Studrawa that captured the attention of Luke Wypler, the country’s No. 1-ranked center in the Class of 2020. And it is Studrawa that did the bulk of the work building with Donovan Jackson, the country’s No. 2-ranked offensive lineman regardless of position in the 2021 class.
“He told me and my parents straight up,” Jackson told Lettermen Row. “He was like, ‘You know, this is a great situation for you. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but I believe that I can do this with him and get him where he wants to go.’
“He laid it out. Like when Billy Price came in. He was doing this and that, and [Coach] showed how he helped fix it and now he’s playing for the Bengals as a first-round pick. So he did a good job breaking that stuff down to my family.”
Talking about football is important for recruits, but knowing when to be a real person and not talk about football is what usually makes a college coach a good recruiter. Coach Stud, as he’s more commonly known, has always maintained that approach. But it can be easy to get lost in the mix on a staff full of the game’s best recruiters.
“Coach Stud knew when to turn off the recruiting talk, you know? Going on these visits, each coach is saying the same thing over and over again,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t, he keeps it real. I know a lot of players saying this, but he really does keep it real. He doesn’t like dabble in the recruiting talk too much. He was like: ‘If you’re committed to me, I’m going to be committed to you.'”
In the world of college football recruiting, some recruits relate pressure-packed recruiting with being a priority. Tristan Leigh, a 5-star prospect in 2021 who is at the top of the Ohio State recruiting board, believes Studrawa has done a good job separating those things. The Buckeyes have had major needs along the offensive line in the last few cycles, but the approach still hasn’t changed.
“We have a great relationship,” Leigh told Lettermen Row. “I prefer the approach where they don’t push for a commitment because you should know how much of a priority you are based on how much they’re recruiting you. I feel much more comfortable when they say, ‘We want you bad, take your time with recruiting and this process.'”
Studrawa and Ohio State taking that approach worked out well in 2020 as the Buckeyes signed six offensive linemen. He’s real with kids and their parents. He preaches patience, not pressure. The Buckeyes have pushed ahead to 2022, where a number of top targets have major interest in the program. But there’s work to be done in 2021 still.
Coach Stud and Ohio State need to finish. He’s done a great job identifying and evaluating and developing talent and relationships. Now, for the Buckeyes to have a shot at one of the top classes of all-time, Studrawa has to show the best of the best around the country — like Tristan Leigh and Jager Burton — why he is the right man to coach them.
Just like Ryan Day thought he was.