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What makes Ryan Day different than other coaches on the recruiting trail?

The new head coach’s openness is proving compelling to recruits.

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

Back in December of 2018 the Ohio State athletic department was faced with the task of replacing one of the best college football coaches and recruiters in recent college football history. While some fans wanted Ohio State to do a national coaching search, they chose a different route and hired then-offensive coordinator Ryan Day.

Obviously Day has yet to begin his first full season coaching the Ohio State Buckeyes, so the jury is still out on his head coaching abilities, But, while Ryan Day is a first-time head coach at a powerhouse college football program, he has already recruited at an impressive rate for his first full cycle as a head coach. How has he done that?

One word: transparency.

College coaches and recruiters are salesmen. They search across the country for the best high school football players and try to sell them on their university. While some coaches are straightforward and honest with recruits, this is not always the case. There are countless stories about college coaches telling half, partial, or un-truths to players about how quickly they will play or how much they will play, just to get them to sign a Letter of Intent.

There are just as many stories of college coaches pulling a scholarship offer that had long been accepted from a committed player so that the team can instead give it to a different player that they eventually decided that they want more.

Obviously this is not standard operating procedure for all college coaches, as eventually if this happened regularly it could hurt future recruiting. But, recruiting is about relationships. Players want to be able to trust the coaches recruiting them. And in my experience of talking to recruits, the coaches that form bonds with prospects and their families, and follow through on what they promise, are the ones that players love and trust the most.

In his eight months as Ohio State’s head coach, this has quickly become Day’s reputation. On the LGHL podcast earlier this month, Banner Society recruiting lead Bud Elliott discussed the genuine and honest perception that Day has given off to recruits since taking over the OSU program.

Reports from Elliott and recruits seem to say that Day is not one to beat around the bush when it comes to telling recruits how he feels about them. If he wants a player to come to Ohio State, he will tell the player that he wants him to come to Ohio State.

There is a fairly unique level of transparency and openness that Day brings to recruiting. The first-time head coach has developed a somewhat unusual and direct approach when it comes to the message that he gives to recruits. When visiting with five-star 2020 commit Paris Johnson Jr. earlier this month, he said, “I get the same answer every time when I ask a guy about coach Day: just that he is cool, a great guy, and it was a great conversation.”

Johnson Jr. was not the only recruit to say something along these lines. Just about every other recruit that I talked to during my Cincinnati trip said the same thing. Jakob James, Monica Johnson (Paris’s Mother), and Darrion Henry all mentioned the family atmosphere that Coach Day has brought to Ohio State, and how his directness and openness has made them feel at home in the program. Day has decided to run a very open and family-oriented program as the head coach at Ohio State.

How Day’s transparency works in practice was on display this summer when it came to settling on a 2020 tight end prospect to which to give an offer. Ohio State liked both Cincinnati Elder’s Joe Royer and Ohio State legacy Luke Lachey from Grandview Heights.

Day could have easily offered both players and then waited to see who performed better at OSU’s summer camp or even into the fall season, but the Day was open about the process and told both guys that they would have to come in and earn it.

Due to how Day handled this situation, he did not have to make the hard conversation of telling a either player that he had an offer, but that he could not commit yet, or that they were eventually rescinding the offer. Instead, he was honest, and after making a decision, was able to tell Lachey that the offer was going to Royer instead.

Now, there is a common recruiting practice that should be addressed, which relates to Day’s ideals of transparency and openness, but can often get confused with some more underhanded recruiting practices, a non-committal offer.

These offers are are given to players with the express knowledge that the player cannot yet commit. The ability to do so is often contingent on meeting some future goal or requirement.

Colleges will often issue non-committal offers to a recruit on the expectation that he must show improvement the following season or while performing at the school’s next camp. These types of offers can also come with physical development stipulations. Perhaps a running back needs to cut weight and add some muscle for durability; or a lineman needs to add wait to withstand the wear and tear of a Big Ten season. This is a way of telling the player that a school is interested in your potential, but that they need to see development.

While I would not anticipate Day issuing a ton of non-committal offers, it is bound to happen and already has; mainly with lower ranked in-state recruits that Ohio State is slow playing.

In a world in which schools make dozens of offers, but can only accept 20-some players a year, it is inevitable that eventually they will not be able to accept every player’s commitment; that is where non-committals come in to play. In this scenario, everyone knows where they stand, rather than in the cases where players find out at the last minute that they are being pushed to grayshirt, or worse, being bumped from a class all together.

No matter what the scenario, Ryan Day is making a name for himself as a coach who will be upfront with recruits, and in the world of slick, high-pressure recruiting, his approaching is seemingly being accepted as a breath of fresh air.