On an unseasonably warm Wednesday in central Ohio, Ryan Day had a lot to smile about after signing a 15-man recruiting class he no doubt hopes is the foundation of a long career for him as Ohio State football coach.
Here are five things to know about signing day at Ohio State:
1. What it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in quality.
Ohio State’s class ranked No. 12 nationally and third in the Big Ten as of Wednesday night according 247Sports Composite rankings.
Both rankings would be the lowest since 2010 if they hold, though they are bound to change between now and the traditional signing period in February.
“I think this class would rank top five nationally when grading the individual player, not cumulatively,” Day said. “We don't lose a lot of seniors this year, and so within the 85 scholarships, there's really not that many spots and limited room. So when you look at the quality of the player, and obviously we'll talk about the student-athlete, as well, how important it is, we think we're as good as we've ever been.”
That was more than spin: In terms of average player score, Ohio State’s class ranked No. 3 nationally, trailing only Alabama and Georgia.
2. A pair of five-star prospects headline the class.
Being able to hang onto Garrett Wilson, a five-star receiver from Texas, and scoring a signing day selection by Zach Harrison, a five-star end from Lewis Center Olentangy Orange, boosted that average.
“As talented a young man as I've been around in terms of ball skills, speed, changing direction,” Day said of Wilson. "He could be a Division I basketball player if he wanted to be, but (he is) even a better young man. The way he handles himself is with class, and that's because they have such a great family.”
Meanwhile, Harrison drew comparisons to All-America defensive ends Joe and Nick Bosa.
“Yeah, I mean, when you look at somebody who runs a 10.8-(second) 100-meter dash at his size and the potential that he has, all you think of is the Bosas of the world and some of the top defensive ends in all of America,” Day said of the 6-foot-5, 243-pound Harrison. “He thought this thing through. This wasn't something he just jumped to, and obviously being under (defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s) tutelage, that's a big part of this thing. And so it isn't all going to happen at once, but the ceiling for Zach is really, really high.”
3. However, they could use some more offensive linemen.
A third five-star prospect, Harry Miller of Buford, Ga., is also a major part of the class along with four-star tackle Ryan Jacoby (Mentor, Ohio), but attempts to flip Nick Broeker, a three-star offensive lineman from Illinois, were unsuccessful. (He signed with Mississippi.)
Including Miller and Jacoby, that leaves Ohio State with only 12 scholarship offensive linemen scheduled to be on the 2019 roster -- and All-America center Michael Jordan could still decide to enter the NFL draft.
“We've got to do a really good job obviously in the 2020 class,” Day said. “We're a little bit down in the O-line, so we've got to do a great job moving forward to get that addressed. We're hoping Mike stays. Obviously that would be a huge part of this next year, and so into January we'll keep looking at it. We have a few guys obviously that we're close with, and so we'll just look to close those guys out.”
(Doug Nester, a four-star prospect from Spring Valley Academy in Huntington, W. Va., remains verbally committed but is exploring his options before signing somewhere in February.)
4. What about Ohio?
With five Ohioans, Day’s first class has already matched the total from last year’s full-year effort by Urban Meyer, who was still the coach when Mansfield Lexington linebacker Cade Stover, Jacoby and Mentor teammate Noah Potter committed.
The 2018 class had 26 members, though, so only 19 percent of it came from in-state, the lowest percentage in at least 30 years and likely ever.
Day can’t commit to bringing in a certain percentage of recruits from Ohio (nor should he) in any given year because the number of worthy targets will fluctuate from year to year, but he reiterated a desire to prioritize finding as many Buckeyes as possible from the Buckeye State.
“We want to make sure that in the next class that's a huge emphasis, as well, but we're recruiting the kids from Ohio harder than anybody in the country, and it's going to continue to be a priority,” Day said.
5. The life of a coach can be a lot like a box of chocolates.
Day doesn’t much resemble Forrest Gump, but he told a story that made it sound like his life resembled the fictional character from the classic 1990s movie at times over the last two weeks.
As soon as he was announced as the next Ohio State head coach, he hit the road to meet as many prospects as he could, shoring up previous commitments and trying to score a few new ones.
He squeezed in a trip to New York city for the Heisman Trophy ceremony with quarterback Dwayne Haskins, leading to an interesting juxtaposition when it was time to drop in on the Stover farm back in Ohio the next day.
“We were down in Times Square and there were people everywhere, thousands and thousands of people, and we were in the busiest place in all of the world, and the next morning we drove up to see Cade Stover and his family and I was on his farm with not a person to be seen taking a picture with his pet pig, Ronnie,” Day said with a smile. “It was like the most extreme — New York City and then up on the farm taking a picture with a pig. That's been kind of my last two weeks.”
Just imagine what’s next.