Change is Good, or Seems So, for Ohio State Recruiting
Continuity on a college football staff is often perceived as a strength, but sometimes the actual strength in a program is simply the strength of the program.
That looks like the case at Ohio State when it comes to the Buckeyes' early recruiting success at a time when no on-campus visits or off-campus scouting can take place because of COVID-19 precautions.
Despite that, and a moratorium on coaches working from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, OSU has since mid-March secured verbal commitments in the 2021 class from five-star running back TreVeyon Henderson, four-star running back Evan Pryor, four-star defensive back Andre Turrentine and three-star cornerbacks Jakailin Johnson and Devonta Smith, as well as gained the transfer of Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon.
"Our staff right now is so strong, they’re very motivated, hungry,” said Mark Pantoni, OSU's director of player personnel, in a Friday teleconference. “And maybe that’s from losing that Clemson game that sparked us all. And guys are hungry. We have great staff cohesion, we have a great group of guys that work really hard and work great together. And I think just putting that all together, we have a strong culture in that locker room. So when guys come up here, they feel differently than a lot of different schools.”
Typically, staff continuity is necessary to maintain relationships with elite recruits. Losing an assistant coach often equates to losing the player, or players, he was wooing.
Ohio State worried about that when defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley departed to take over as the head coach at Boston College, but the Buckeyes lost only defensive back Clark Phillips from its commitment list.
Hafley's replacement, Kerry Coombs, quickly bonded with Clark Phillips and he signed with the Buckeyes in February.
Likewise, OSU suffered no defections when quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich left after the Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson to become the offensive coordinator at Texas.
Wrapping up the bulk of its 2020 class during the early signing period in December allowed Ohio State's staff to concentrate on its 2021 targets, which has paid off recently, despite the Buckeyes spring recruiting plans being upended by the coronavirus.
"We were hoping that spring practice would give us time to get these kids back on campus where we felt like we might be able to close the deal with some of them," Pantoni said. But with the limitations, I think a lot of the kids had their minds made up and coming on campus again would have just finalized their thoughts.
“So, just because of the way things have turned out, they decided to publicly commit to us to hold their spot in the class.”
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