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What We Learned from Ryan Day about final recruiting push, Jeff Hafley

Ryan Day-fiesta bowl-clemson-press conference
Ohio State coach Ryan Day talked recruiting with two days left before signing day. (BIrm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football Recruiting

What We Learned from Ryan Day about final recruiting push, Jeff Hafley

Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Monday’s notebook addresses the speculation and news around Ohio State’s recruiting class following the news that Jeff Hafley would be leaving for Boston College.

Ryan Day addresses Jeff Hafley impact on recruiting

The Buckeyes met the media on Monday and as expected the news that co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley was leaving for Boston College was absorbed a lot of the conversation.

From the start of the afternoon press conference, Ryan Day was tasked with answering questions about Hafley’s departure and didn’t shy away from what it means for the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail and everywhere else.

“It’s been a group effort,” Day said. “Certainly going to miss Jeff, wish him nothing but the best of luck. He’s going to do a great job at Boston College.

“We have a great staff, and we’re going to go find somebody else to fill in. We’ll be fine.”

Jeff Hafley-Ohio State football-Ohio State Buckeyes-Ohio State-Buckeyes

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley is leaving for Boston College after the College Football Playoff. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State will bring in ‘best in country’ to replace Jeff Hafley

The biggest questions for Day have complicated answers.

Who is going to replace Jeff Hafley, and how will that coach fit in with Day and his philosophies on defensive football and recruiting? Perhaps more important with the early signing period now just two days away from beginning: When does the first-year coach want this to happen?

“It depends,” Day said. “I obviously want to do it as quickly as I can.

“We’re going to get the best in America because it’s Ohio State. We want to make sure we make the right decision for a lot of reasons. We’re going to get the best coach in America to go coach that position. That’s what’s great about Ohio State. We want to move quickly but be smart as well.”

Day is working off a list of potential coaches with whom he’s familiar.

“You always have a list, you always have people that you have ready,” Day said. “In this world, you go to a place like Ohio State, you do well, things like this are going to happen. You can either go hire somebody that is going to be here for seven or eight years or go hire the best in the country. We’re going to hire the best in the country.

“I told the defensive backs last year at this time, I am going to go get the best guy in the country. They didn’t know who Jeff Hafley was, now they love him, they’re going to miss him. Going to do the same thing again next year. Go get the best there is. ”

Ryan Day expects all defensive backs to sign with Ohio State

The loss of Hafley is most impacting the Buckeyes five defensive back commitments, as we chronicled on Saturday and Sunday here on Lettermen Row. Though there remains some uncertainty around the status of La Habra (Calif.) 4-star cornerback Clark Phillips, Day appeared confident on Monday morning that all five of the Ohio State commitments would sign on Wednesday.

“These guys chose this school for Ohio State, for what we’re doing on defense and the defense isn’t going to change,” Day said. “I’ve talked to the recruits about that. It’s my job to go find them the best in the country. I felt like I did that last year. I’m going to do that again this year.

“We’re not going to change the defense. The defense is a vision I had early on when this whole thing started. Ohio State has been here a lot longer than Jeff Hafley. It’s going to continue to be great. Coach Hafley is a big reason they came here, but it wasn’t the only reason. Our guys have been strong in their response. They’re excited to sign on Wednesday.”

But the question is whether or not they’re all going to sign. And that attention is primarily on Clark Phillips, who took an official visit to Utah over the weekend. The Buckeyes did not hear from Phillips at all over the weekend, but contact has resumed with him as of Monday morning. There’s likely not going to be a final answer coming from the top-rated defensive verbal in the Buckeyes class yet, though.

Day is erring on the side of optimism.

“They committed to me as the head coach, to Ohio State. They understand that. That’s been the response,” Day said.

When asked if he expects all five defensive backs to sign this week, he doubled down: “I do.”

Ohio State still aiming for four quarterbacks

If there’s going to be an additional player added to the Buckeyes signing class on Wednesday that isn’t currently committed anywhere, C.J. Stroud is likely to be that guy.

Ryan Day reiterated his desire to add a second quarterback in 2020 because he simply isn’t happy with the numbers currently in the Ohio State quarterback room.

“We’re still working through that,” Day said. “Here is the deal: Right now we want to make sure that we have four quarterbacks in that room, at least three.

“That’s something that’s not easy to do. So we’re trying to figure that out. Like we said before with the quarterback situation, it’s tough to make sure we have that. We have to make sure that that quarterback room is solidified moving forward.”

Day acknowledged that the transfer portal and the success of quarterbacks like Justin Fields, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts has complicated an already complicated roster spot.

“It’s one of those things I think you just have to deal with on a year-to-year basis, try to figure out the best way to manage your team — it’s not easy,” Day said. “You like to have four quarterbacks. It’s almost impossible now to have four quarterbacks on your roster that are on scholarship because they all want to play right now. The great thing about coming to Ohio State is you know you’re going to get developed at a high level.

“The hard thing about that is as you develop these guys, if they can’t play at Ohio State, they feel like they can play somewhere else. They go on, possibly try to play somewhere else. It’s frustrating. … We don’t want that. We want guys to be here, stay here, be here throughout their whole careers.”

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