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Ryan Day supplements high-level recruiting with transfer portal mastery

The Buckeyes have benefited mightily from transfers the past two offseasons

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Texas Tech at Oklahoma Photo by David Stacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“As Ohio State has shown the past two offseasons, the program can – at just about the last minute – recover from even what seem like most harmful of recruiting misses. The past couple seasons, the transfer portal has become a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card for the Buckeyes.”

- Colin Hass-Hill, Eleven Warriors

Regardless of how good of a recruiter you are in college football, you won’t always get every single player you want. At times, the over-pursuit of one player at a certain position can cause you to miss out on others. If you wind up missing out on your top guy, the end result is a glaring hole at a position of need. Ohio State rarely comes up with huge misses in the recruiting game, but it does happen, and last cycle’s running back fiasco is a great example.

In the 2020 class, the Buckeyes were seemingly destined to pick up a pair of high-tier running backs in five-star Bijan Robinson and four-star Jaylan Knighton. OSU was all in on this duo, and at times in the offseason it looked to be a near guarantee that they would both end up in Scarlet and Gray. However, plans changed. Robinson would wind up with Tom Herman in Texas, and Knighton would commit to Florida State before de-committing and landing at Miami.

These decisions left Ohio State in a bit of a scramble, and they were lucky to pull in a three-star RB in Miyan Williams. However, Williams won’t be on campus until summer, and with injuries to both Master Teague and Marcus Crowley, the Bucks were left with a massive question mark at running back. The answer? The transfer portal.

In comes Trey Sermon, who announced on Sunday he would be transferring to Ohio State. Amassing over 2,000 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns at Oklahoma, Sermon is not going to be a season-changing RB in Columbus, especially coming off an ACL injury. However, he is a very solid option, and is expected to be healthy by the start of the season, bringing much-needed depth and experience to the Buckeyes’ running back room.

This isn’t the first time head coach Ryan Day has been able to dip into the transfer portal for a big need. Last season, he was able to completely change the complexion of Ohio State’s offense when he hauled in quarterback Justin Fields from Georgia after Dwayne Haskins’ early exit to the NFL. He was also able to fill a big hole along the offensive line, created by some recruiting misses and transfers, with the addition of grad transfer guard Jonah Jackson.

As previously mentioned, Ohio State’s recruiting misses are rare. They are never going to be a program that relies heavily on the transfer portal to fill some of the most important positions. However, Ryan Day has already shown in his first two offseasons as the Buckeyes’ head coach that he is able to effectively navigate the market to find necessary pieces when the situation arises. Sometimes, that even results in a Heisman-favorite starting QB.

“[K.J.] Hill’s presence across the middle and in the slot can’t be overstated, so if [Garrett] Wilson is willing and able to move there to help the offense, it will give Justin Fields a better chance of finding the sophomore while also spreading the ball around to a bevy of talented weapons. Wilson isn’t the only option in the slot, but he might be the answer.”

- Spencer Holbrook, Lettermen Row

It’s no secret that Ohio State is absolutely loaded at wide receiver this upcoming season. Between returning stars in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, and an incoming freshman class filled to the brim with unbelievable talent, the only hard part for Brian Hartline and his unit will be deciding who to put where.

The only easy decision is what to do with Olave. Coming off a year in which he caught 48 passes for a team-high 840 yards and 12 touchdowns, the junior is guaranteed a starting spot on the outside. Wilson, off a freshman campaign that saw him rack up 432 receiving yards and five TDs, is a bit more intriguing. While he is certainly deserving of a starting role, the question is in which spot he would best fit.

One of Ohio State’s biggest losses this offseason on the offensive side of the ball is slot receiver K.J. Hill. His 201 career receptions were enough to break the school’s all-time career receptions record set by David Boston in 1998. Hill was a perfect option in the slot, as his great route-running and incredibly dependable set of hands made him an easy target for guys like Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields. Now, the Buckeyes are left looking for his replacement.

There is no shortage of options, but there is definitely the question of best fit, and it really depends on the mold for which Day and his offensive staff see the slot position. There are the guys already on the roster like Jameson Williams, who would fit the burner style like that of Parris Campbell, or even Demario McCall, who is still searching for his role in the OSU offense in year five. Then there's the four highly-touted wide outs in the 2020 class, of which five-star Jaxon-Smith Njigba seems the most well-suited for the role.

However, the best option may be Wilson. While he was almost exclusively on the outside during his freshman campaign, he possesses a lot of the same route-running and pass-catching abilities as Hill. If the talented sophomore mans down the slot, it would open up the outside for guys like Williams and freshmen Julian Fleming and Gee Scott Jr. to all rotate in with Olave to give Ohio State its most skilled guys on the field all at once and keep everyone fresh.

Regardless of who winds up where, look for the Buckeyes’ passing attack to be absolutely lethal in 2020.

Forward Seth Towns’ journey may not have started at Ohio State, but it looks like it was always destined to end up there. After spending his first two seasons of collegiate ball at Harvard, the 2017-18 Ivy League Player of the Year announced on Saturday that he would be taking his talents to Columbus, where he will be immediately eligible with two years eligibility remaining.

Towns is originally from Northland High School in Ohio, just a quick 15 minute drive North of campus. Despite making multiple visits to Ohio State during his initial recruitment, it was the Crimson that were able to win him over. A knee injury against Penn in 2018 would sideline Towns for two seasons, and in January the forward announced his intent to transfer. Choosing between Duke and OSU, Towns chose to continue his playing career with Chris Holtmann and the hometown Buckeyes.

Former Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple has found a new home in Las Vegas, as the Raiders have inked the DB to a one year, $6 million deal. Apple has not exactly showed out in the pros, and after being selected 10th overall by the New York Giants in the 2016 NFL Draft, he spent most of the last two seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

The 24-year-old has started 48 games in the NFL, collecting three interceptions, 33 pass breakups, and three forced fumbles. While it has been a struggle to find much consistency at the next level, hopefully this change of scenery will be what he needs to step his game up a notch.

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