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How does Zach Smith’s departure impact recruiting?

The proprietor of Zone 6 had become known for his recruiting acumen. So, what’s next?

Ohio State v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The creator and proprietor of #Zone6, the nickname for Ohio State wide receivers, is no longer on staff, as of Monday evening.

Zach Smith, one of the longest tenured coaches on staff, was hired back in 2012, as Urban Meyer brought him over from Florida, where he had been a graduate assistant. His departure isn’t surprising considering the charges against him, and after those 2009 (and other) allegations were unearthed, it was really only a matter of time.

With Smith no longer on staff, there are some questions, with the biggest obviously being about his replacement (we’ll have more on that soon), but there are certainly other’s to talk about as well, including the loss of his impact on the field and in recruiting.

The on the field question can be answered pretty concisely. There are reasons that Ohio State struggled to pass so much in the past few years, and many of them can be chalked up to Zach Smith. There was plenty of complaint about his coaching, and most of those complaints were warranted. “Zone Six” was a frequent point of contention, and that may no longer be the case with Smith gone.

His recruiting impact is a bit more complicated.

Smith was widely considered to be one of the best recruiters on staff, and it may be that recruiting ability that kept him employed for so long. He was able to relate to recruits, drum up hype on social media, and his connections to Florida proved valuable quite a few times. Is he replaceable? Sure. Will it be easy? Probably not.

Good recruiters don’t just grow on trees, and the coaching carousel is mostly at rest, seeing as it’s currently late July. However, this is Ohio State football, which means if they want to pick off an up and comer from a G5 school (like Kenny Guiton from Houston), it probably wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

While it shouldn’t be an issue in the long run, this may have an impact on the 2019 and 2020 classes, because Ohio State has been looking to add quite a few receivers in both classes. We’ll start with 2019, and the one receiver already committed to Ohio State, Texas five-star Garrett Wilson.

Wilson has stated several times since the firing that he’s solid to Ohio State, and there’s no reason to think that isn’t true. Wilson loves Ohio State, and committed for the program, not the coach.

A hot topic of discussion after, and leading up to, this firing has been the St. Louis receiver duo of Marcus Washington and Jameson Williams. While Smith was Washington’s primary recruiter, I don’t think this impacts him either. Ohio State has plenty of coaches capable of recruiting Missouri, and Washington already has a relationship with expected interim receivers coach Brian Hartline. He’s set to commit August 7th, and I expect Ohio State will still be the pick.

Williams is a bit more of a question mark. I don’t think his recruitment is ending any time soon, and this may (not saying it will for sure) allow other schools to get back in. However, like Washington, Williams knows and likes Hartline, so the connection is still there. This wasn’t a sure thing with Smith, and it isn’t a lost cause without him. My pick is still on Ohio State.

Elijah Higgins is the last 2019 receiver worth talking about here, and I think his recruitment remains the same. He’s friends with Garrett Wilson, and his primary recruiter is Ryan Day. If he comes to Ohio State, it’ll be due in large part to those relationships. He certainly talked to and knew Smith, but I think he likes Ohio State just fine with or without him.

2020 may see a bit more blowback from this. Rakim Jarrett is set to visit this weekend, and most of his contact had been with Smith. He’s not committing any time soon, so Ohio State will have a chance to build a new connection, but this certainly isn’t good news on the Jarrett front.

Ultimately, while football is important, and recruiting is certainly important, this firing was necessary, from whatever perspective you look at it from. Smith was accused of some pretty upsetting stuff (on multiple occasions), and having him on staff moving forward would’ve been a black eye for a program that has been extremely clean under Urban Meyer.