Ryan Day inks 1st recruiting class


Among the many questions surrounding Ohio State’s hiring of Ryan Day to replace Urban Meyer in January was whether Day would be able to maintain Meyer’s elite recruiting prowess.

On Wednesday, Day emphatically answered that question with the signing of his first full recruiting class as the head coach in Columbus.

Twenty-four recruits took advantage of the early signing period, now in its second year, to send in their letters of intent to make their commitments to the Ohio State program official.

According to 247 Sports’s composite recruit rankings, Ohio State’s 2020 recruiting class currently ranks as the third best in the country, trailing only Clemson and Alabama.

Day opened his press conference detailing the class on Tuesday by thanking the families of the recruits who continued to believe in him and the staff before they had proven anything on the field.

“There’s a lot of families here that jumped on board here before we won a game at all this year, and they believed in what we were talking to these families about and the philosophies and what was going to go on,” Day said. “And here we are on early signing day, undefeated and playing in the national semifinals.”

The class is headlined by a tremendous, four-man group of wide receivers in Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr. and Mookie Cooper. All rank within the top 15 at the position and within the top 85 of all recruits.

Fleming, a 6-foot-2-inch product of Southern Columbia High School in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, headlines the group as the No. 2 overall recruit in the country across all positions. Ohio State was able to pluck him away from Penn State, where Fleming was once considered a strong lean.

As good as Fleming figures to be, however, it was 6-foot-1-inch Smith-Njigba who, perhaps, made the biggest name for himself this fall with a monster senior season that included 104 catches, more than 2,000 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns. His highlight-reel catches seemingly became a weekly occurence throughout the season, displaying his wide catch radius.

Scott represents the biggest target of the group at 6-foot-3-inches tall, while Cooper brings a variety of talents as a smaller, likely slot-receiver type of pass-catcher.

Ohio State’s thin quarterback room has been bailed out this season by Justin Fields’ wildly successful transfer and ability to stay relatively healthy, but depth at the position has been a glaring weakness in the program this season. To address the critical need, Day signed two quarterbacks on Wednesday.

Jack Miller, who stands at 6-foot-4-inches tall and hails from Scottsdale, Arizona, had been committed to Ohio State since the summer of 2018, and despite rumors of his commitment wavering in recent months, Miller made good on his original pledge by signing.

Miller saw a significant dip in his rankings over the summer as a result of a shoulder injury that limited his performances in the big camp events such as the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and the Elite 11 Finals. Still, Miller checks in as the 14th-best pro-style quarterback in the class and was hand-picked by Day, who said he knew Miller was someone to target since seeing him throw as a 16-year-old.

Day and Ohio State’s search to add a second quarterback to the 2020 class lasted all the way to early signing day, but they ultimately landed their guy in Rancho Cucamonga, California native C.J. Stroud, who chose Ohio State over Georgia, Michigan, USC and Oregon during a ceremony on Wednesday.

Stroud’s recruitment was relatively slow to gain steam until his camp performances this past summer had the opposite affect of that of Miller. After a strong showing at The Opening, his recruitment took off, including the interest from Day and the Buckeyes. Stroud ascended quickly in rankings and currently sits as the second-best pocket passer in the country, giving Ohio State a pair of highly-touted arms to develop behind Fields next season.

Of course, a quarterback is only as good as the protection in front of him, and Ohio State addressed the offensive line in a big way as well.

Paris Johnson Jr., a 6-foot-7-inch behemoth from Cincinnati, gives Ohio State the top-ranked offensive tackle in the country and the seventh-ranked recruit overall. He, along with Fleming, represent the Buckeyes’ two five-star players in the 2020 class.

Luke Wypler, a four-star recruit out of New Jersey, gives Ohio State the second-ranked center in the class, and the Buckeyes added four more offensive linemen in Grant Toutant, Jakob James, Josh Fryar, and Trey Leroux.

Defensively, the class is highlighted by Arizona safety Lathan Ransom, who ranks as the fifth-best at the position. Day said of Ransom on Wednesday, “Lathan Ransom is going to be as good a safety as we’ve had here in a long time.”

In addition to Ransom, Florida safety Lejond Cavazos and Texas cornerback Ryan Watts give the Buckeyes a strong defensive back trio that might still add more players between now and February’s National Signing Day.

Outside linebackers Cody Simon, from New Jersey, and Kourt Williams, who is from California, give the defensive coaching staff a pair of versatile playmakers to bank next year. Both are similar in size at 6-foot-1-inch tall and in the range of 220 pounds and will bring quality athleticism to the linebacker unit.

While Wednesday’s signing class didn’t include the marquee pass rusher Ohio State fans may have grown accustomed to, defensive line coach Larry Johnson added a pair of defensive tackles with high ceilings to his arsenal in Darrion Henry and Jacolbe Cowan.

Cowan checks in as the 15th-ranked defensive tackle in the class, and Henry is right behind him as the 16th-ranked tackle. Henry is ranked as the second best recruit in Ohio behind Johnson, and the two were teammates last season at Princeton High School in Cincinnati.

An already-spectacular class could get even better with the addition of one of the nation’s best cornerbacks. Clark Phillips III, from La Habras, California, verbally committed to Ohio State in June but did not sign on Wednesday, instead delaying his announcement to today.

Phillips, who is the fourth-ranked corner in the class, took a late visit to Utah following the news of Jeff Hafley’s departure over the weekend, and he will make his decision know today. Should he stay with his commitment to Ohio State, he would become the Buckeyes’ highest-ranked defensive recruit in the class.

Four-start athlete Cameron Martinez will also wait to sign but won’t do so until February. Martinez, who played quarterback in high school at Muskegon in Muskegon, Michigan, figures to wind up in the secondary in college.

Of Ohio State’s 24 recruits to sign on Wednesday, 14 will enroll early at Ohio State and join the program next month.

Paris Johnson Jr. takes in the pregame festivities while on a visit for Ohio State’s season opener on Aug. 31.
https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2019/12/web1__DSC0204.jpgParis Johnson Jr. takes in the pregame festivities while on a visit for Ohio State’s season opener on Aug. 31. D. Anthony Botkin | The Gazette

By Dillon Davis

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Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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