Early signing day complicates job for Ohio State coaches

12:14 p.m Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 Sports
Southern California’s Clay Helton, left, and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer speak at a Cotton Bowl press conference on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, at the Omni Dallas Hotel in Dallas, Texas. David Jablonski/Staff

Fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes will spend the next month waiting to see which underclassmen enter the NFL Draft. Defensive end Sam Hubbard, cornerback Denzel Ward, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon and hybrid back Parris Campbell are among those who could leave early.

Waiting for these decisions is an annual tradition for a program that has seen eight players selected in the first round in the last two years alone, the best two-year stretch in school history.

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For Ohio State coaches, January will be an important time because they’ll want to know how many roster spots they need to fill. The early signing date in December complicated matters.

The coaches had their busiest December ever. Sometimes only five or six coaches were at practice, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said, because the rest were on the road recruiting. Now January could be hectic, too.

“I never worked like that in December,” said Meyer on Thursday in Dallas in the final press conference before Friday’s Cotton Bowl. “Normally you’re recruiting, getting things ready for January. You have a couple official visits and you move on. It was every night in that plane somewhere, and you’re trying to squeeze in those official visits. We did very good. I’m very pleased with who we got.”

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As for the next month, Meyer said, “We’re still having those conversations: What do you do in the month of January? I imagine it’s going to be mostly junior recruiting. I imagine most teams have two or three (spots). I think we have maybe two spots left; that’s it.”

Southern California coach Clay Helton called it a guessing game and a juggling act. Like the Buckeyes, his program competes for the best players in the country. Some won’t make their decisions until February.

“You have to do a great job of not worrying about filling out numbers,” Helton said, “and saying, ‘Hey, the midterm signing date, let’s go sign all 25 guys.’ You better get the best players for you and your group. I thought when you look back at what we were able to accomplish this past signing period, I’m very happy with it. We were able to get the guys who we felt, one, fit our systems but they’re extremely talented individuals. We’re still leaving ourselves numbers to be able to go compete for the best of the best come February. Those guys are still out there and still on our radar and there are battles that we need to win.”

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