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More roster attrition leads to more additions for non-Big Ten programs

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Ohio State and Alabama are bound by the same roster rules, but seem to have different paths of getting there. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Recruiting Question of the Day

More roster attrition leads to more additions for non-Big Ten programs

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 we talk roster management and why, despite the perception of disparity, things aren’t that out of control in the SEC and other conferences. 

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

A very thorough report from writer Hank South on Wednesday gave a detailed account of why Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o is leaning toward a transfer to Alabama, provided that the SEC rules in-conference transfers kosher this offseason.

Ohio State has been battling hard for a chance to bring in To’o To’o, who could step into the Buckeyes defense and likely start in Columbus this fall — assuming that he’d be immediately eligible because of the dumpster fire in Knoxville that caused his transfer. Alabama, which signed 27 commitments in the Class of 2021, is also the primary competition for 5-star defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau. And it was a finalist for highly-ranked receiver Brian Thomas, who ended up signing with LSU this week.

The subject of roster management is one that seems to always draw the interest of people who follow recruiting. Because of that, when classes like Alabama’s begin to pile up on top of each other the question inevitably comes up: How do the Crimson Tide keep signing 27-28 players every year?

It’s understandable to wonder. Alabama has brought in 105 players in the last four cycles, a number that includes four transfers, and Ohio State has brought in just 93. It sometimes feels more than that, and it’s confusing because the “rules” in place seem to change annually and are so rife with loopholes that they’ve been rendered somewhat meaningless. The baseline though, is simple: Schools can’t have more than 85 scholarship players on their rosters when Aug. 1 rolls around.

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Recruiting is all about names and numbers but none matter more than the number 85. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

That’s the one thing that everyone seems to understand and adheres to in college football. Everything else is somewhat up for grabs — and yes, it sure seems like there’s more roster management in the south, but that’s not across the board. Clemson has signed only 88 players in the last four years while Oklahoma and Texas (101) have had considerably more.

So what gives? That’s subjective, probably, and while I’ve not done a deep-dive into the number of transfers, NFL early-entrees, academic casualties and other forms of attrition, the anecdotal answer is that the Buckeyes and other schools in the Big Ten seem to have fewer guys leaving their programs early. It doesn’t take much more than a cursory glance at the Ohio State roster to see some veteran players who haven’t made an impact on the field and wonder: Would that player still be on the roster if the Buckeyes handled things like Alabama does?

We’ve talked time and time again about how recruiting is way different in other parts of the country, and those players usually end up picking schools in the South. The things that lead to wacky recruiting tales don’t stop when they arrive on college campuses and, in most cases, just get amplified. It’s a different world with different expectations and different ways of thinking.

Maybe there’s more to it, maybe the NCAA should do more to regulate it, but at the end of the day, everyone gets to 85 by Aug. 1. It just feels like other places have more players the rest of the time.

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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.