Twenty coveted recruits signed the national letters of intent Wednesday. What does it all mean? Will these players help restore Ohio State to the top of the Big Ten and beyond? Is the program thriving or showing wear? Questons, questions, and more questions everyone is impatient for the answers to.
My interest in recruiting is casual. There I said it. Call me uninformed. Call me lazy.
But just like the recruiting nerds – and I mean that in an admirable way – they have no better chance of accurately predicting future production and program success than I do. No one knows for sure who three years from now will be entering the NFL Draft as stars with championship rings and gold pants or the transfer portal as guys who didn’t cut it.
If you’re a recruiting nerd, expert or observer – whichever label you prefer – you have obvious opinions about the group of 20 who signed on Wednesday to become Buckeyes. Maybe you wanted more on the defensive line, maybe the running back flip to Miami grates on you, maybe it’s something else. Maybe you loved it.
Nevertheless, based on the standards by which this day is measured, this is one of the best classes in the nation as it always is. That’s all we know about this group. To assert anything more or less is speculation and fandom. And if you are a fan, which I assume most reading this are, you have every right to have a fan opinion – positive, negative or neutral – and run with it.
I wish I could tell you that Jeremiah Smith is the next Marvin Harrison Jr. and not the next Julian Fleming. But I can’t.
Ryan Day, based on his obvious relief upon hearing the news of Smith’s signing during Wednesday afternoon’s news conference, believes Smith can be an All-American.
I wish I could tell you Eddrick Houston is the next game-wrecking, sack master and top-10 draft pick on the Larry Johnson resume. But I can’t.
Will one of the running backs – James Peoples or Sam Williams-Dixon – ever be a 1,500-yard rusher? Maybe.
Are the Armstrong brothers future offensive line All-Americans? Impossible to say.
So, while angst ensued among the fan base and inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Wednesday waiting for those Smith and Houston commitments to trickle in, the truth is we don’t fully know what the Buckeyes got Wednesday. And neither do the coaches. They believe each player is a good fit and can earn playing time, but the reality is they all won’t.
We know stars, rankings and highlight videos. Some of us might know what we saw in person on the field. I’ve seen Springfield cornerback Aaron Scott, a 24/7 Sports composite 5-star, play a few times like the best corner I’ve ever seen on a high school field. Life was kind of boring on Scott’s side of the field this year because coaches and quarterbacks learned that throwing or even looking Scott’s way was futile. So, yeah, I think he can become a star. But what do I really know? He must prove he knows how to compete hard at a higher level and be willing to learn. I have no reason to doubt he won’t do that.
But as much as signing day is about expectation, it is also about the unknown factors that will lead to each player’s success or failure to become a factor for the Buckeyes. Stars mean something. But time, effort and opportunity mean more.
Day and his staff certainly put in the time and effort to recruit top-tier classes. Those classes, presumably, present them with the opportunity to win a lot of football games and championships. But the latter isn’t happening.
When a program like Ohio State isn’t hanging banners, questions hang in the air. The same thing happens at Alabama and Georgia. Clemson fans can’t be happy these days.
It’s natural to look for reasons you fail. Coaches do it, players do it, sportswriters do it and fans do it. We look for cracks in the foundation. Are those cracks compromising fractures or just insignificant bumps?
How many recruiting flips, portal departures and perceived lack of portal recruiting does it take to go from bumps to fractures? A running back flips to an in-state school, a four-star receiver flips to a future Big Ten foe, a 3-star defensive lineman is a late get …
Signs of implosion? Only the most negative fans will say yes. The casual fan doesn’t even know when early signing day is. Everyone else is wait and see.
My friend, who is as dedicated an OSU fan as anyone I know, isn’t ready to go “jumping off a bridge,” but he’s on alert for decline. He even mentioned the name Cooper in his latest text.
To my friend – we’ll just call him G – my message is that three losses to Michigan don’t necessarily signal the end of anything. Perhaps, it will be the impetus for a renewal of what you and the rest of the fandom expect. Not promising Kyle McCord the starting QB job next season was a start.
G is concerned about the lack of activity in the transfer portal. On its face, that seems concerning. But until draft-eligible players announce their intentions and Day knows his exact needs for next season, he will be patient. He knows the best players will keep OSU an option if they foresee a possible fit.
For now, G, look forward to Devin Brown playing in the Cotton Bowl. He’s athletic and so is incoming freshman Air Noland. Remember, that was one of the most common gripes about McCord.
Look forward to more players than expected coming back next year. Day wouldn’t name names Wednesday, but it was obvious from what he did say that more are coming back than he probably expected.
Look forward to Marvin Harrison Jr., TreVeyon Henderson and J.T. Tuimoloau playing in the Cotton Bowl. They are practicing and it’s almost a week until kickoff. I’ll be surprised if they opt out.
The season – even though it felt like it on November 25 – isn’t over. The performances on December 29 and the announcements that precede it or follow it just might make you feel good again.
Then again, G, maybe you’re on to something.