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Jeff Hafley’s exit was a wrinkle, but did not wreck Ohio State’s recruiting class

In the end, the Buckeyes got everything they wanted

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

“Ohio State football coach Ryan Day originally tried to downplay the effect of co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley’s pending departure on the 2020 signing class. By Wednesday, with 24 of 26 commitments signed and another possibly following on Thursday, Day admitted Hafley’s hire as Boston College’s coach introduced a wrinkle into the Buckeyes’ plans.”

- Nathan Baird,

The news of Jeff Hafley taking the job at Boston College certainly came at an inopportune time for Ohio State, which continues to prepare for a College Football Playoff game while also maintaining the highest level of recruiting. With Hafley being one of the nation’s top assistant coaches in regards to recruiting — not to mention his on-field product — his departure was a little worrisome when it came to the 2020 class.

With the Early Signing Period on Wednesday, any worries head coach Ryan Day had about retaining guys with the loss of his co-defensive coordinator were squashed when 24 of the 26 guys who verbally committed to Ohio State signed their Letters of Intent to officially become Buckeyes. As of late Wednesday afternoon, OSU has put together the No. 3 class in the country, behind only Clemson and Alabama. The now-official 24 commits are comprised of two five-stars, 13 four-stars and nine three-star recruits — with another two four stars waiting in the wings.

The only guys who remain unsigned are athlete Cameron Martinez, who announced he will be holding off on signing his LOI until February, and corner Clark Phillips III, who will be announcing his decision on Thursday.

“Goes to show you how much these guys love Ohio State and how much they want to be here and how much they believe in the development that goes on here,” Day said. Even after the guy who recruited them moved to another school, almost every single commit in Ohio State’s class still chose to become a Buckeye. In the end, these recruits had developed relationships with the entire coaching staff, and their commitment was linked to the entire school itself rather than just one person involved in the process.

“The tight ends’ individual share of targets remains relatively low, but their frequency of turning in memorable, acrobatic catches remains high.”

- Nathan Baird,

Every single year, we go into the new Ohio State season hearing the same old story: this is the year the Buckeyes finally put more of an emphasis on the tight ends. Every season this story is told, and every season it does not come to fruition. OSU has far too much talent on the field to focus on one player as it is, let alone focus on the receiving option with likely the least speed on a field. However, what Ohio State’s tight ends have lacked in quantity this year, they have made up for it quality.

In total, OSU tight ends caught 25 passes for 279 total yards this season. That may sound like almost nothing over the course of 13 games, but seven of those 25 receptions were in the end zone for touchdowns.

The big reason for this year’s tight end utilization promise was centered around the talented freshman TE Jeremy Ruckert. The 6-foot-5.5, 238 pounder out of Long Island came in as the No. 1 player in New York, and the four-star prospect was the No. 2 tight end in the entire class. We saw flashes of what the extremely athletic freshman was able to do this season, culminating in his one-handed TD reception in the Big Ten Championship game, but overall Ruckert did not see the field enough to make a huge impact, splitting snaps with both Luke Farrell and Rashod Berry.

We will hear it until the end of time, but with all the speedy playmakers Ohio State keeps bringing in between the running back and wide receiver positions, there will likely never be a season where the Buckeyes’ tight end is a focal point of the offense. However, that does not mean those guys will not continue to be very important parts of the offense as a whole, and continue to make big plays when their name is called.

“I have a strong passion for Ohio State,” Hartline said in a Wednesday press conference. ”I don’t know what would get me out of the city, frankly, unless I’m just not good.”

- Kevin Harrish, Eleven Warriors

While Ohio State has lost one of its best assistant coaches already in Hafley, Buckeye Nation can sleep soundly knowing its most important assistant on the other side of the ball plans to stay in Columbus for quite some time. At a press conference on Wednesday, wide receivers coach Brian Hartline was emphatic about his role at OSU, and told the media, “I don’t see a situation where I’m out of here any time soon.”

Hartline has been a ridiculously good recruiter, coming in at the No. 1 spot on 247sports football recruiter rankings for 2020. From his very first day on the job, he has been instrumental in making Ohio State’s receiver room one of the best in the country. After turning both Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell into NFL Draft picks, Hartline casually followed up on the recruiter trail picking up two top-100 players last season before adding a monumental four top-100 players to his unit in the 2020 class.

In addition to five-star wideout Julian Fleming, the No. 1 player at the position in the country, Hartline also managed to reel in four-stars Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr. and Mookie Cooper as he put together maybe one of the best wide receiver classes of all time. It will be tough to do any better than he has already done moving forward, but at least one thing is for certain: he will be doing it for Ohio State for the foreseeable future.

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