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How Mark Pantoni turned Ohio State’s recruiting department into a juggernaut

The “general manager” of Ohio State football is constantly working to help the Buckeyes find the best players.

NCAA Football: Ohio State Spring Game Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“Be the best. Nothing else.”

Ohio State Director of Player Personnel Mark Pantoni via Ari Wasserman, Cleveland.com

How things have changed in just over a decade for Mark Pantoni. In 2006, Pantoni was a graduate student at Florida, and was a recruiting intern on Urban Meyer’s staff. 11 years later, Pantoni is essentially the general manager of Ohio State football for Meyer. Heading into his sixth year with Meyer at Ohio State, the duo has accomplished so much already, but they have their eyes on even more. Not only did Ohio State win the inaugural College Football Playoff, but the 2017 recruiting class was the best in school history, and the 2018 recruiting class is currently the best in the nation. When Pantoni arrived in Columbus, it was just him and Greg Gillum on the recruiting staff. Now the staff has grown to 10 people. The hard work of Pantoni and everybody else is certainly not going unnoticed.

Pantoni and his staff have put together a system to help try and earn the commitments of the top football talent around the nation. First, the staff breaks down every play of a prospect’s career, which allows them to spot any weaknesses. From there, Ohio State’s recruiting department puts out more than 500 graphics and videos per week. When Pantoni arrived at Ohio State, there were three sport designers for the whole athletic department. Now Ohio State football has three designers of their own. The next step is to get the recruits on campus for a visit, where the recruits can get an even better feel for just how special Ohio State is. Finally, the recruiting staff emphasizes life after football, and how coming to Ohio State can help prepare them for that. Recruiting has definitely changed over the years, and luckily for Urban Meyer he has a guy like Pantoni working with him to help the program change with the times.

“Where the pendulum swings, that’s something no one really knows because he is in that soup bowl of players. If he happens to be that lucky name that gets called up there, he’s going to be fine. Me personally, I feel he’ll get drafted from what I know and what I’ve seen thus far.”

Ryan Thompson, father of Trevor Thompson via Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch

While many of the major sports outlets don’t project former Ohio State center Trevor Thompson to be taken in tonight’s NBA Draft, Thompson’s father is confident that his son will be drafted. Thompson held his pro day in California and worked out for five teams, and heard a lot of positive feedback from the teams that were in attendance. The consensus from Thompson’s pro day is that the teams were there saw the center surprise by doing things on the court that he didn’t really show during his time at Ohio State.

After flirting with entering the NBA Draft last year, Thompson decided to return to Ohio State for his junior season. The move paid off, with Thompson being one of the few bright spots on a disappointing Ohio State team, averaging nearly a double-double. This year Thompson again declared for the NBA Draft, but unlike last year decided this time he wouldn’t return to Columbus. Thompson’s size and his growth from last year to this year are the main reasons why his father is more confident than most that his son will be one of the names called tonight. It may seem like a long shot that Thompson actually gets drafted, but there have been stranger things to happen in previous drafts.

The ESPYs are less than a month away, and yesterday the nominees were announced. A number of current and former Buckeyes were nominated for the 2017 ESPYs for their accomplishments. In most of the categories, the Buckeyes are likely a long shots to win, but that shouldn’t stop you from voting for them to improve their chances.

The Best Play category features 16 of the best plays which are voted on bracket-style. Noah Brown’s incredible touchdown catch behind an Oklahoma defender’s back is ranked 16th and faces a tough test as it squares off with Julian Edelman’s catch in the Super Bowl in the opening round.

Wrestler Kyle Snyder was snubbed for Best Male College Athlete, as Penn State’s Zain Rutherford was nominated after his national championship season. While Snyder might not be in the mix for Best Male College Athlete, he was nominated for Best Male US Olympic Athlete, so all is not lost. Snyder will have a tough time taking home the award though, as he will be going up against Michael Phelps, Ryan Murphy, and Ashton Eaton.

After leading the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, Ezekiel Elliott was nominated for Best NFL Player. Elliott joins Tom Brady, Khalil Mack, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan. It’ll be hard for Elliott to top the trio of quarterbacks in this category, but this likely won’t be the last time the star running back is nominated in his career.

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