It’s May, and the college football recruiting world is still entrenched in a dead period of undetermined length. To this point, it’s a stretch that’s gone pretty well for Ohio State.
Since the recruiting world shut down on March 11, the Buckeyes have added nine total commitments in the 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes — and landed a major impact transfer in the form of Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon for good measure. As most programs have tried to keep themselves afloat, Ohio State has seen smooth sailing. Because of that recruiting rush, it has found itself running well ahead of every other team in the country and now sits with a comfortable lead in its attempt to win the program’s first recruiting championship in the modern era.
But for Ohio State to do that, the real hard work may just be beginning — especially when it comes to a number of the Buckeyes biggest 2021 targets.
What has to happen for the month of May to be considered a success for Ohio State on the recruiting? Lettermen Row breaks down a few key points in another month without in-person recruiting visits or evaluations.
Here’s what we’re looking for after a good month of April for the Buckeyes.
No. 1: Ohio State has to know about June visits
I suppose this could sound pretty ambiguous, but that’s the unfortunate nature of this particular beast right now. There is no way for Ohio State to know exactly what’s going to happen over the next six weeks, but it could easily be argued that the planned June 12 weekend is the single most important weekend for the goal of finishing as the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class.
A year ago, Ohio State utilized a similarly planned weekend to strengthen the bonds of many top 2020 targets and some elite members of the 2021 class, a plan that helped them work significantly ahead in this cycle. The June 12 weekend could be the final piece of the puzzle for a number of players from all over the country.
It’s a very stressful time for a lot of recruits who are in a position that none of their peers have ever been in. There’s no guarantee when or if they’ll be able to make visits to their top schools, and the Buckeyes need to know as soon as possible if they’re going to be forced to completely adjust plans ahead of a very important summer visit weekend.
No. 2: Buckeyes can’t lose any top targets due without next visit
So here’s the thing about unusual times: It’s hard to figure out how people react.
The last two months are actually a pretty good example of that, because most folks weren’t expecting a big run of commitments in these two impromptu dead periods but here we are. It’s also not just Ohio State that’s been cleaning up. Kids and their families are reacting to the uncertainty by now, more than ever, locking in commitments earlier than expected — because it makes sense to do so.
There are a lot of times when kids know where they want to go but opt to let the process play out a bit in order to enjoy visits elsewhere for any number of reasons.
That move, at least for now, is officially off the board for 2021, and that’s leading to a number of might-as-well type of commitments. Ohio State needs to make sure that none of its top targets feel compelled to make a choice in a similarly arbitrary fashion because it’s generally much more difficult to land a commitment from prospects when they’ve committed somewhere else.
The decision to publicly commit is a big deal. The choice to decommit is too, because it comes with a ton of backlash. Right or wrong, that sticks to kids throughout their college career as though it’s evidence of a character flaw — which is sometimes the case — rather than just being proof a big decision was made hastily, which is usually the case.
The point? For a number of top Ohio State targets, the next visit to Ohio State is a big one. For kids like Barrett Carter, J.T. Tuimoloau, Emeka Egbuka, Troy Stellato, J.C. Latham or Jager Burton, getting to the next visit is probably more important than anything else. Those are kids without defined timelines for a choice who were expected on campus in Columbus in the spring but had to cancel. Another major visit being canceled could prompt some kids to give a might-as-well commitment to a local powerhouse or a school that they’ve been to more recently.
It sounds simple, but continuing to build relationships with top targets so that they don’t feel the urge to commit anywhere else is important for Ohio State this month.
No. 3: Ohio State needs to narrow in on 2022 quarterback
Like the June 12 recruiting weekend, the Buckeyes plans for their summer camps haven’t officially been publicized. Visits are much easier to pull off on short notice than camps with hundreds of volunteers, employees and participants. Because of that, it seems likely the camps get canceled in the near future.
If that happens, Ohio State and every other program in the country will lose extremely valuable evaluation time for 2022 prospects — and that includes the quarterback position. The Buckeyes are already behind compared to the previous two recruiting cycles at the spot and have only offered four sophomore quarterbacks, just two of which have ever been on campus: Texas standout Quinn Ewers and Steve Angeli, from New Jersey. But it’s been two years since the last chance to watch Ewers in person.
So if the summer camps are wiped away as expected, how will Corey Dennis and the Buckeyes advance the relationships they need in order to find their future quarterback? There would be no chance to see 2022 quarterbacks in June at camp, no ability to freely communicate with them until Sept. 1 and only the opportunity for a couple weeks of evaluation in the fall if the calendar doesn’t change at all between now and then, which is almost certainly going to happen.
As Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni said in April, it’s going to be about 0n-tape evaluation more than ever. For Dennis, who is in his first year as a full-time position coach, the onus is considerable. If Ohio State waits too long to begin offering more quarterbacks, even without seeing them in person, they run the risk of falling behind in key recruitments in the game’s most important position.