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Ohio State: Grading Ryan Day’s first Buckeyes recruiting class

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Zach Harrison gives Ohio State a potential star at defensive end in the Class of 2019. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football Recruiting

Ohio State: Grading Ryan Day’s first Buckeyes recruiting class

COLUMBUS — The 2019 recruiting class is complete for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes signed just 17 players in this cycle, the smallest class since 2010, but they signed a handful of high-impact recruits that rank among the nation’s best at their respective positions. There were some ups and downs for Ohio State throughout the process, and that didn’t slow down on Wednesday as the second signing period kicked off with a decommitment from Doug Nester, who signed with Virginia Tech.

Ryan Day and his coaches bounced back, though. Day helped engineer an Ohio State recruiting first when the Buckeyes signed Hawaiian offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi, the first-ever scholarship prospect from the Islands to sign with the program.

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Ohio State rounded out its relatively quiet National Signing Day by adding Indianapolis offensive tackle Dawand Jones later in the evening.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about this small Buckeyes group, even if there were a few key misses along the way. That’s bound to happen to a program embroiled in controversy for much of the last few months, especially when it then loses a Hall of Fame head coach.

So how’d the Buckeyes do overall? Here is how Lettermen Row is grading the Ohio State 2019 recruiting class after all the signatures were collected at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Quarterback: Ohio State did not sign a 2019 prospect

Ohio State isn’t bringing in a freshman, but the Buckeyes did end up landing one of the highest-ranked recruits of all-time when they added Georgia transfer Justin Fields in early January. The addition of Fields likely ended up costing Ohio State a pair of quarterbacks, but his upside and prodigious talent are worth the risk.

Grading this position is perhaps the most difficult of all in the 2019 class because with Justin Fields, it’s an A. But without him, it’s an F. So, let’s kind of split the difference with our final grade. It’s hard to be upset by landing a potential starter at any position.

Final Grade: B+

Running back: Marcus Crowley, Steele Chambers are solid duo

Ohio State had a chance to sign a couple of the country’s biggest-name running backs but opted for fit over flash, signing a pair of 4-star running backs in Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers.

Crowley was named the Florida Player of the Year by Gatorade and has already enrolled at Ohio State. He’s a player the Buckeyes think can compete for playing time this season. In fact, Ryan Day believes each player is capable of that thanks to their talents and a favorable depth chart.

“Steele is somebody who is very, very talented, [and] comes from a great family,” Day said on Wednesday. “Marcus, Gatorade Player of the Year. We improved our depth there. Those guys will both compete, Marcus in the spring, Steele in the preseason.”

Chambers is a talented athlete who could also play linebacker, but it appears he’ll get his start on offense.

Final Grade: B

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Ohio State wide receiver signee Garrett Wilson is already on campus. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Wide receiver/Tight end: Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams are future stars

The Buckeyes lost three of the most productive and most respected receivers in the school history following the 2018 season, and they needed to replace them with big-time talents and they did just that.

Garrett Wilson is the country’s second-ranked receiver and a 5-star prospect who was nabbed from under the nose of Tom Herman and Texas. Jameson Williams is one of the country’s fastest prep players and a guy who will give the Buckeyes a true deep threat for the first time in the last four seasons — whenever he’s physically ready to play.

“Jameson is a legit down-the-field threat who can play with anybody in the country,” Day said of the St. Louis native. “We think he’s going to be a really good player. Maybe take a year to develop.”

Ohio State also signed tight end Cormontae Hamilton, a versatile athlete from Memphis who the Buckeyes are very high on — despite him not fitting the traditional tight end role.

Final Grade: A

Offensive line: Despite key losses, Ohio State bounces back

There were a number of different ways Ohio State could’ve avoided scrambling for offensive linemen as signing day approached. But the Buckeyes failed to connect with a number of in-state prospects who were offered late in the process and lost out to Michigan State for a pair of Northeast Ohio players and to Notre Dame for Cincinnati’s Zeke Correll.

Harry Miller and Ryan Jacoby signed in December, and that was a solid foundation. But the loss of Doug Nester on signing day meant Ryan Day and the Buckeyes had to land both Enokk Vimahi and Dawand Jones — which they did. Miller and Jacoby are going to push for early playing time, but Jones is likely a multi-year project at tackle. That’s hard to swallow.

Still, this group needed five or six players in it and shouldn’t have required Day rescuing the position in the last month by almost single-handedly keeping them in the game for Jones and Vimahi. The Buckeyes lost four starters from 2018 and need depth badly.

Final Grade: C+

Defensive line: Zach Harrison has monster potential

This recruiting class is a success despite the small numbers, and one of the reasons for that is they were able to secure a commitment from 5-star defensive end Zach Harrison in December over rivals Michigan and Penn State.

Larry Johnson brought in only three players along the defensive line, but the numbers were always going to be tight in this group. Getting Harrison along with Noah Potter and Jaden McKenzie, a personal favorite of Johnson’s, brings an excellent trio to the defensive line room at Ohio State.

But Harrison is the key — he’s got incredible potential and has already begun tapping into it according to his head coach.

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Noah Potter will push for playing time this spring according to Ryan Day. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“Zach Harrison, going through the recruiting process, I know there’s a lot on his plate,” Day said. “He’s come here and blossomed. Had an unbelievable day today. He’s been killing it in the weight room.”

Final Grade: A

Linebacker: Cade Stover, Tommy Eichenberg lead the way

Ohio State brought in three players at linebacker in the Class of 2019, led by long-time commitment Cade Stover. Ohio’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Stover was the only pure linebacker committed for most of the recruiting cycle. Tommy Eichenberg was a former Boston College commit who was Ryan Day’s first commit in December and a player the Buckeyes coaching staff has very high hopes for.

Athlete Craig Young comes from Fort Wayne (Ind.) and is one of the country’s most versatile athletes, and he is going to begin his Buckeyes career at linebacker.

“Cade Stover, Gatorade Player of the Year, excellent athlete,” Ryan Day said Wednesday. “Tommy comes from a great program. Happy to get him down the stretch in December. Then Craig Young, an excellent athlete that can do a lot for us.

Again, this is a position without a lot of openings and the Buckeyes signed two very solid players and a project with a high ceiling.

Final Grade: B+

Defensive back: Small, versatile group joins Buckeyes

Another smaller-than-expected group, the defensive backfield recruiting haul for the Buckeyes was thought to be over in June when they landed Florida’s Jordan Battle. He was the key part of that group all the way through December when he decided to flip his signature to Alabama on the first day of the early signing period.

Ronnie Hickman is one of the country’s best defensive back prospects but will miss the spring while he recovers from a torn ACL. He’s on campus and working with the Buckeyes already, and that should help him get ready to compete for time on special teams in the fall. Maryland 3-star Bryson Shaw is a spectacular athlete that is one of the country’s best lacrosse players.

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Ronnie Hickman is one of Ohio State’s most intriguing prospects in the Class of 2019. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State was dealing with a loaded depth chart and the loss of Kerry Coombs, and there’s no doubt that Taver Johnson struggled to meet the lofty standard he set.

Not replacing Jordan Battle was a tough blow for the Buckeyes that was mitigated a bit by the unexpected return of Damon Arnette, but Ohio State is going to have to hit this position group very hard in 2020.

Final Grade: C+

Overall, the work Ryan Day and Ohio State did in the wake of Urban Meyer’s retirement was nothing short of remarkable.

There are big things coming happening in Columbus, regardless of the size of the latest class.


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.