Ohio State’s defensive staff looks quite a bit different right now than it did last week at this time. Following the end of the 2018 season, and the passing of power from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day, we’ve seen Alex Grinch, Greg Schiano and Bill Davis all depart Ohio State’s staff, and I expect Taver Johnson to join that group before the week ends.
In their place stand Greg Mattison, Jeff Hafley and Al Washington, for now. All three of those guys are yet to be seen in action at Ohio State obviously, but on paper, they seem like awesome hires. While we can’t quite say what they’ll be able to do with in game coaching and development, we can take a pretty good guess at what their recruiting may look like in Columbus, based on their history.
The main knock in Greg Mattison’s ability as both a coach and as a recruiter is his age. Mattison is nearly 70, and there have been questions recently about his recruiting ability, as he’s credited as either the primary or secondary recruiter by 247Sports for just three commits in Michigan’s 2019 class. Those three: Gabe Newburg, Mike Morris and four-star tackle Mazi Smith all seem to be quality players, especially the latter of the bunch, but there are concerns about that lack of production.
However, Mattison won’t be alone in recruiting at Ohio State. He’s surrounded by ace recruiters, at a university with more built-in advantages than almost any school in the country. Mattison is extremely well respected in Ohio high school circles, and will likely serve, along with Al Washington, as the primary Ohio recruiter for the Buckeyes.
With a coach like Ryan Day, who, despite his many awesome qualities, simply doesn’t have the connections to Ohio yet, Mattison is a necessary guy to have on staff. To spin this with a bit of positivity before moving on, Greg Mattison used to be a stellar recruiter, landing Rashan Gary and Jabrill Peppers just a few years ago, and with those Ohio connections he has, he should be just fine, if not still very good as a recruiter at Ohio State. Even without his fastball, so to speak.
Easily the biggest recruiting question mark of the three new additions, Hafley has only spent four seasons as a P5 college football recruiter, and it’s been eight years since his last stint in the college game, when he spent a year as Rutgers’ defensive backs coach. However, in his three years at Pitt, and one at Rutgers, Hafley was reportedly a tireless recruiter, and considered to be an ace of sorts on both staffs.
Unfortunately, it’s a little difficult to glean too much statistically from his time in either school on the recruiting front, because online recruiting coverage was still rather limited back then. From what we do have, we know Hafley was part of a Pitt staff that landed the 20th, 43rd and 31st best classes, and given his reputation as a New Jersey recruiting expert, it’s fair to assume he was responsible for Pitt landing nine New Jersey natives in those three years.
Even more impressively, Hafley was at Rutgers in 2011 when the Scarlet Knights landed the 29th best class in the country, while landing 13 New Jersey products, including five-star halfback Savon Huggins, four-star receiver Miles Shuler, four-star defensive tackle Marquise Wright, and four-star offensive tackle Keith Lumpkin.
With that track record, I would put money down on Hafley serving as the de facto New Jersey recruiter on staff that Ohio State has wanted for a while now. The New Jersey area has been dominated by Michigan recently, but with Hafley, and Day’s experience in the northeast, that may be about to change.
Al Washington is the best recruiter of the new bunch and it’s not super close. Washington was probably the most active recruiter outside of Chris Partridge on Michigan’s staff this past year, and played a big part in landing four-star tight end Erick All, four-star lineman Trente Jones, and a large chunk of the rest of the class.
His most impressive feat in the maize and blue may have come in a battle he didn’t win, however, in traditional Michigan fashion. Washington was the lead man in Zach Harrison’s recruitment, and it was his relationship with the Columbus native that single-handedly kept the Wolverines in the recruitment so long. While Ohio State ultimately won out, Washington proved that he’s excellent at relating to recruits, and with his ties in Ohio, he should be able to rebuild the blockade around the state that fell a bit under Urban Meyer. That’s a huge deal for Ohio State.