Mark Znidar
Mark Znidar

Mark Znidar comes to Press Pros Magazine after 33 ½ years at The Columbus Dispatch. From 1996 until September 2018, he staffed high school sports, Ohio colleges that included the Mid-American Conference, Ohio State’s upcoming opponents in football and Ohio State baseball. In the previous three seasons he covered the Columbus Clippers triple-A baseball team. His other beats were Ohio State basketball (1985-88), Clippers (1985-86 and 1989-93), Cincinnati Bengals (1993-95) and NASCAR (1994-2008). He subbed on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State women’s basketball beats. In March 2017, Znidar was inducted into the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Znidar was born in Cleveland and raised in Richmond Heights. He graduated from Cleveland St. Joseph High School and the University of Dayton. He also worked for The Atlantic City Press, Lake County News-Herald and Baltimore News-American. He has a daughter, Amanda, son-in-law Josh and four grandchildren.

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Coach Ryan Day said he already sees some leaders in a recruiting class that is challenging Alabama for the No. 1 ranking.

Columbus – There was a lot of speculation since the United States began to get bogged down by COVID-19 last March about just how difficult it would be for a team such as Ohio State to not only get commitments from high school players, but to get their signatures on national letters of intent.

In year’s past, the home sideline in Ohio Stadium would be crowded with the various five- and four-star recruits on game day. It was like open house in that recruits would tour campus and the football facilities on a given weekend.

Veteran columnist Mark Znidar writes the Buckeyes for Press Pros Magazine.com.

There’s nothing like the up-close-and-personal touch, and coach Ryan Day, just like Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel before him,  excels in his ability to close the deal.

This season, Day, recruiting coordinator Mark Pantoni and the rest of the staff were limited to Zoom calls, text messages and telephone calls.

Forget in-home visits. Forget watching the players play on Friday night. Forget about walking the hallways of high schools and, as defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs does, even asking janitors and teachers about the player in question.

After all that hand-wringing, there was zero drama Wednesday when all 21 players in the class signed before 11 a.m. That allowed Day to move up his scheduled news conference to 11:30 a.m. from 2:30 p.m.

Fourth-ranked Ohio State (5-0) has been practicing at noon in preparation for the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern (6-2) at the same time Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“We identified early on some special families that just built this thing,’’ Day said. “Who are the guys who fit our culture? We said that over and over again. If they didn’t fit, maybe they should go somewhere else.’’

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Recruiting has its various rankings just like the Associated Press and College Football Playoff committee does for the actual blocking and tackling on the field.

Rivals.Com might have another team higher than, say, 247Sports. The public will find out in the next couple of days what the experts think.

The Buckeyes were said to be head-to-head with Alabama for the No. 1 ranking.

What does Day think about his crop?

“It’s the best class in the country for Ohio State,’’ says Day.  “What’s the best class for another school isn’t the same thing for us.’’

“It’s the best class in the country for Ohio State,’’ he said. “What’s the best class for another school isn’t the same thing for us.’’

This class, Day said, already has some leaders.

Day said his staff looks at three things: 1. Ability; 2. Culture fit 3. Academics.

Day said he and his staff have been honest and “an open book’’ when talking the recruits.

The staff expects the same thing from the players and their families.

“Before we even take a kid’s commitment, we want to make sure they’re a great culture fit,” Pantoni said. “We don’t want to deal with a lot of games being played and kids have decommits and then a couple weeks later, he wants to go visit other schools. We try to eliminate that early on, make them understand what a commitment here means, and it just shows the quality of kids we’re recruiting.”

Five five-star players, seven top 50 players and 12 top 100 players are on the list.

There could be a 22nd player with five-star defensive end JT Tuimoloau of Sammamish, Washington, delaying his signing until February. Ohio State is among his finalists with Alabama, Washington, Oregon and Southern California.

Here’s a look at the Buckeyes’ catch:

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Quarterback: Kyle McCord, 6-3, 215, Philadelphia.

Running backs: TreVeyon Henderson, 5-11, 195, Hopewell, Virginia; Evan Pryor, 5-10, 190, Cornelius, North Carolina.

Receivers: Emeka Egbuka, 6-1, 190, Steilacoom, Washington; Jayden Ballard, 6-2, 175, Massillon, Ohio (Washington); Marvin Harrison Jr., 6-3, 190, Philadelphia.

Tight end: Sam Hart, 6-3, 190, Aurora, Colorado.

Offensive linemen: Ben Christman, 6-6, 300, Richfield, Ohio (Revere); Donovan Jackson, 6-4, 308, Bellaire, Texas; Zen Michalski, 6-6, 288, Floyds Knobs, Indiana.

Linebackers: Reid Carrico, 6-3, 225, Ironton.

Defensive linemen: Jack Sawyer, 6-5, 248, Pickerington, Ohio (North); Mike Hall, 6-3, 290, Streetsboro, Ohio (Streetsboro); Tyleik Williams, 6-3, 330, Manassas, Virginia.

Defensive backs: Denzel Burke, 6-0, 190, Scottsdale, Arizona; Jantzen Dunn, 6-2, 178, Bowling Green, Kentucky; Jordan Hancock, 6-1, 170, Suwanee, Georgia; Jakailin Johnson, 6-1, 175, St. Louis; Jaylen Johnson, 6-1, 200, Cincinnati (La Salle); Andre Turrentine, 6-0, 175, Nashville.

Punter: Jesse Mirco, 6-3, 200, Melbourne, Australia.

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