Momentum for Ryan Day and the Ohio State program on the recruiting trail was already sky-high as commitments from the top prospects in the 2021 and 2022 classes have rolled in seemingly daily of late.
And then Thursday night happened.
The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft received the highest ratings ever recorded for an NFL Draft broadcast, which should come to the surprise of no one given how starved for sports the country is in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. For those in the Ohio State program, that meant a record number of viewers tuning in to see one long solicitation of what playing in Columbus can do for the NFL dreams every recruit holds dearly when mapping out their college career.
The Cincinnati Bengals ended all speculation of who they might take with the first overall pick hours before the draft was set to begin as LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was informed he was the man whose name would be called first.
Without giving Ohio State too much credit for Burrow’s success — he did transfer to LSU — it has been Burrow himself who has never shied away from his affinity for The Ohio State University, where he earned his degree, and the development he saw under the tutelage of Day in 2017 prior to his departure.
One pick later, it was Ohio State defensive end Chase Young whose name was called by the Washington Redskins, making it four out of the last five drafts in which an Ohio State player was selected in the first five picks.
Young, who many believe to be the best overall player in the 2020 draft, joins brothers Joey and Nick Bosa as Buckeye defensive ends selected in the first three picks dating back to the 2016 Draft.
For Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who is widely considered to be the best in the business at developing defensive linemen, Young’s selection marked the seventh of his former players to hear their names called in the first round dating back to his time coaching the same position at Penn State.
The Ohio State infomercial was just getting started with the selection of Young when, just one pick later, the Detroit Lions made Buckeye cornerback Jeff Okudah the third pick in the draft.
With the selection of Okudah, Ohio State became the first program in history to have two teammates selected in the first three picks in multiple drafts; it also did it in the 1997 NFL Draft with first overall pick Orlando Pace and third overall pick Shawn Springs.
Okudah became the sixth Ohio State cornerback taken in the first round dating back to the 2016 Draft, and to the surprise of many on draft night, the Buckeyes weren’t done adding to that total.
Graded as a second-round talent by most everyone in the business of evaluating NFL prospects, Damon Arnette made it a trio of first-round Buckeyes when he was selected by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 19th pick.
Arnette’s selection gives Ohio State a total of 15 first-rounders in the last five drafts and pushes Ohio State’s total number of defensive backs drafted in all rounds since 2000 to 31, seven more than the next closest program (Miami, 24).
In total, the Buckeyes now have 83 first-round picks, the most of any program.
While the first-round selections get most of the attention, getting drafted in any round is a tremendous accomplishment, and Ohio State is far from finished in hearing former Buckeyes’ names called in the 2020 Draft. As many as six more players are expected to hear their name called over the final six rounds.
“Developed Here” is a mantra that can be be found all throughout the Ohio State program. It is used to celebrate all of the greats who have come through the program while encouraging current recruits with a decision to make to think carefully about adding to Ohio State’s rich history.
But oftentimes a mantra is little more than a catchy slogan. Nights like Thursday, however, don’t need to be sloganed. “Developed Here” played out masterfully for millions to see, and while other programs squabble over titles of “Running Back U” or “Defensive Back U,” Ohio State has further staked its claim to “NFL U.”
If you’re one of the top recruits in the country, holding an offer to be developed there, how could you say no?
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.