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 takes a look back at the missteps in the Ohio State 2019 recruiting class.
Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day
What is the biggest misstep the staff has made this cycle? How would they change that misstep if they could?
— Paul Counts (@PaulECounts) January 14, 2019
Ohio State is likely to finish with the Big Ten’s third-best recruiting class in the 2019 cycle. So, for the first time since Urban Meyer’s arrival, the Buckeyes won’t sign the league’s best recruiting class. Yes, a third-place finish is still pretty good when you consider everything that’s happened to the program since July — and we don’t need to rehash that anymore — but it’s hard to look at the overall class and not see some areas that could have ended up a bit different if Ohio State had handled them just a touch differently.
The cycle had a number of big moments that will ultimately define it, like the addition of Zach Harrison, but you can’t look back on this class and ignore the things that shaped the group even before the chaos began in late summer.
Thought I personally am more of a look-to-the-future type of guy, I think there is some value in learning from the past. Here are four ways that I think the 2019 class went awry for the Buckeyes and why.
Ohio State took the wrong quarterback in 2019
We could go back further and try to explain why the Buckeyes never gained any real traction with their real top target in 2019, Wisconsin signee Graham Mertz. But sometimes teams just get beat in the relationship game. It’s possible the Buckeyes beat themselves a little, though, when they gambled in June by hosting both Dwan Mathis and Brian Maurer for an official visit on the same weekend.
Mathis was committed to Michigan State, and the Buckeyes knew if he was visiting it’s because a flip was in his mind. Maybe it happened sooner than they’d planned, maybe they used Maurer and Mathis as leverage against each other, but either way: They ended up with the wrong quarterback. Because of that, Ohio State ended up with no quarterback as Mathis bolted at the first hint of Justin Fields’ transfer and gambled on himself by becoming the backup at Georgia the day he arrived on campus.
I feel comfortable saying that Brian Maurer would have committed to Ohio State and stayed committed through the chaos and addition of Fields.
Sampson James, Steele Chambers end Devyn Ford sweepstakes
Ohio State is going into next season season with one experienced running back in J.K. Dobbins, and it will rely on a couple of young ballcarriers to step up and become a solid backup. Freshman Master Teague III is one of them, but now the Buckeyes are going to rely on incoming freshmen Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers to pick up the slack.
But there was a time when Ohio State was the likely landing spot for Virginia’s Devyn Ford, who signed with Penn State. Ford was leaning toward the Buckeyes, who already had a commitment from Indiana’s Sampson James. But then Ohio State took a commitment from Chambers, and that sent Ford into reassessment mode because the program had two verbals.
James ended up decommitting from Ohio State to stay home with Indiana in October, and the Buckeyes were pushed into scramble mode, which led them to Crowley, Florida’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
Ford stuck with Penn State, which added Noah Cain to its class just before the early signing period, giving the Nittany Lions a pair of big-time running back talents. Chambers spent the majority of the All-American Bowl playing linebacker despite the fact that his college career should start on offense.
Ohio State botched offensive line recruiting
There’s no way to sugarcoat this one: Greg Studrawa and Ohio State fumbled in-state recruiting for offensive linemen this cycle. The Buckeyes missed on Cincinnati’s Zeke Correll because they had him below Harry Miller at center on their priority list, but Correll could have been an impact commitment at guard had the effort been made. Landing Correll early would’ve eliminated the need for players like Nick Samac from Mentor and J.D. Duplain from Strongsville, each of whom stuck with Michigan State after Studrawa tried unsuccessfully to flip them. The Buckeyes never gave a real look to Cincinnati’s Zach Carpenter, who signed with Michigan.
Ohio State never was able to forge the relationship it needed to with Darnell Wright, the country’s top-ranked offensive tackle, despite very early interest from him. Right now it sits with only two signees on the offensive line even though the need to replenish the position is wildly obvious.
This is the top-priority position for 2020, and Studrawa was retained by Ryan Day knowing that is the case. Will we see more of Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day involved with 2020 recruiting efforts?
Losing Jordan Battle to Alabama will hurt Ohio State
The Buckeyes have not signed a cornerback in the class despite having one committed from June to December. Jordan Battle was the cream of the Ohio State defensive crop before flipping to Alabama on the first day of the early signing period.
Battle wanted nothing more than to go to Ohio State from the day he was offered in February of 2018 and committed during the week after his official visit. From there, things went haywire as Zach Smith was terminated, leaving Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the country’s biggest producers of prep talent, without the coach that had recruited it for years prior. Then Urban Meyer was placed on administrative leave, and the Buckeyes seemed to take Battle’s commitment for granted, choosing to hold on to Battle by sending in Taver Johnson — who underwhelmed while Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide ramped up their efforts to make him a major priority.
It’s not a knock on Johnson to say he’s never going to out-recruit Nick Saban, it’s just fact. By the time Ryan Day got involved in Battle’s recruitment, the die was cast and the Buckeyes had lost.
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