Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Which new OSU assistant will have the greatest impact on the recruiting trail?
Josh’s Take: Perry Eliano
With so many new coaches entering the fold (all at once) for Ohio State, Ryan Day and his staff now have a recruiting problem. Okay, well “problem” is probably the wrong way to look at it. However, I do think OSU’s new staff has a few questions to answer. Can the new guys recruit at this level? Will the Buckeyes maintain the same level of recruiting success they have enjoyed since Urban Meyer made the move to Columbus? Matt Barnes, Greg Studrawa, Al Washington, and Kerry Coombs had their issues (coaching), but we know that, collectively, they were able to help bring in talent. Was it developed properly? Eh, debatable. But we now have to wonder whether Jim Knowles, Justin Frye, Perry Eliano, and Tim Walton can bring in the same talented players, while also maximizing their potential.
Of all the incoming coaches, I believe that Jim Knowles will have the biggest impact on recruiting, but that is almost by default, and Gene and I are particularly interested in the new position-only coaches. Knowles is the primary face of the defense, so he will likely interact with any and all potential recruits on his side of the ball. He may or may not sign off on each recruit’s pursuit, but he will (or should) entrust the men underneath him to find the best players for their respective position groups.
With Knowles off the table, that leaves Frye, Eliano, and Walton. Justin Frye should be a great addition to this staff, and I like that he is a young guy who has a pre-existing relationship with Ryan Day, but I think that he will have the “easiest” path to landing recruits. He will be tied to Day, which means he will likely be associated with an elite offense. If Ohio State continues to have success on that side of the ball, players will continue to want to play for the Buckeyes. You could argue that Studrawa failed with the same advantages in place, but he was still coaching four and five-star talent. Hopefully Frye is an upgrade, but he’s not exactly replacing a legend on the recruiting trail.
Tim Walton is leaving the NFL to come back and coach cornerbacks for OSU, and we are happy to have the former captain back in Columbus. Great story, great experience, great respect for Walton... also great skepticism from me. This former Buckeye has been in the NFL for over a decade now, and recruiting is an entirely different ballgame than it was when Walton was last in the college ranks. I don’t know how I can possibly be excited for the recruiting impact he is going to make, if I’m not sure he will make one at all. I believe Walton is going to motivate guys and teach great technique, but I wish I was more confident in his ability to reel in talent.
That brings me (in a long-winded manner) to Perry Eliano. He is the new addition whose recruiting impact I am most excited about — but it is a very nervous excitement. That is because I think he will be asked to dominate the DB recruiting, at least in the beginning. As a secondary combo, I think he and Walton will be a coaching upgrade over Barnes and Coombs. But when it comes to recruiting? I’m not so sure. I’ve already expressed my concerns about Walton, so I guess I view him as the Barnes-level recruiter, which is not saying much. That means Eliano needs to replace the prowess of Coombs. And Gene, that is no easy task.
During Coombs’ first tenure with Ohio State, he was one of the best recruiters in the country. Once those blue chips were on campus, he developed the heck out of guys like Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward. His two seasons as a defensive coordinator did not go so well, but it was only last year that he brought in Jordan Hancock, Jakailin Johnson, and some guy named Denzel Burke. Coombs’ ability to recruit was still top-notch, and players loved him. If Eliano is going to pick up that slack, he is going to have to do something he has never done before.
Yes, Eliano has experienced success at a high level. After all, the Cincinnati Bearcats were in the CFP this season, but OSU is just different. The pressure of coaching is different. The expectations for recruiting are different. This is going to be a whole new world for the veteran coach, and one that he is not necessarily accustomed to. Eliano has been at places like UTSA, Bowling Green, and New Mexico. It was only recently that he started coaching in “the big leagues”. I don’t know if he has ever even had a one-on-one with a five-star recruit, but at Ohio State, he will be expected to bring in and develop the best of the best. And I think he can!
That is because the proof is in the pudding. Eliano just spent the last two years coaching Coby Bryant and Sauce Gardner — AKA, two of the best corners in college football. They were both ranked outside the top-150 at their position coming out of high school, and Eliano helped develop them into a Thorpe Award winner and a likely first-round NFL Draft pick. Prior to Cincinnati, he had two defensive backs drafted from New Mexico — yes, the New Mexico football team. Eliano has shown the ability to maximize players’ potential, and that will attract talent. The Ohio State University, the Buckeyes, and the football team’s success will help with the rest.
On top of his recent success in developing players, Eliano has a ton of experience. He has been coaching for 20+ years, and that means something, regardless of where he’s been. He has coached corners, safeties, and special teams, and held various titles throughout his career. This is not his first rodeo. Eliano is simply being asked to come in and coach safeties, not coordinate the defense. That should make his transition to Columbus a little bit easier. And did you see the safety play last year? He might even feel as if he has no expectations all!
Obviously that is a joke, but Eliano should not have the weight of the world on his shoulders — which should hopefully make him more comfortable in a recruiting role. He can lean on his experience and recent success, and use those as selling points. That is what excites me about Perry Eliano. I’m all in!
Gene’s Take: Justin Frye
The same reasons Josh laid out for why Justin Frye’s job on the recruiting trail won't be all that difficult are the same reasons why I am in on him making a big impact in that area. When it comes to his predecessor, Greg Studrawa had this tendency to only recruit guards but only develop tackles — certainly an odd way of doing business. His struggles in the recruiting game of being unable to land those top national offensive tackles have been well documented, and as long as Frye doesn’t trot out four starting tackles on the offensive line in 2022, then I think he’ll be off to a good start in terms of his on-field coaching.
Frye spent the last four seasons at UCLA, where the expectations for recruiting are obviously much different than they are at Ohio State. However, the results were still solid. In his first offseason on the trail for the Bruins in 2019, he was able to land the program’s top recruit in the cycle in four-star Sean Rhyan — the nation’s No. 2 guard prospect in the class. There hasn’t been much else noteworthy on the trail in his time at UCLA, but he still managed to coach up the Bruins’ offensive line this past season to rank in the top-10 in average line yards and stuff rate without the same level of elite talent he’ll have in Columbus.
Like previously mentioned, for what its worth coach Stud was able to recruit along the interior. Outside of the in-state guys, he was able to land names like Wyatt Davis (California), Luke Wypler (New Jersey) and Donovan Jackson (Texas) to name a few, but the tackles were lacking, with Nicholas Petit-Frere (Florida) being the lone outlier. Besides NPF, all of Ohio State’s premier tackle talent under Studrawa — Thayer Munford, Paris Johnson Jr., Tegra Tshabola — have come from in-state. To his credit, he has been able to turn project players like Dawand Jones into starting players, but that is not a sustainable way to build an offensive line.
At 38 years old, Frye is much younger than the 57-year-old Studrawa, which will hopefully help him connect with recruits a bit better than his predecessor. Like Josh alluded to, playing in Ohio State’s high-powered offense comes with more than its fair share of perks, and any offensive lineman looking to improve his draft stock while playing all of his games on national TV will certainly at least take a look at the Buckeyes. Frye did a great job of coaching up the offensive line at UCLA, and if he can bring those skills to Columbus to help improve the run game, it just makes Ohio State an even more enticing destination. Parlay that with Frye’s connections to the West Coast — which has been kind to OSU in the recruiting game — and it’s tough to not see him making an impact in that realm.
I don’t think Frye is going to get out there and start landing five-star offensive tackles right out of the gates. However, given everything he brings to the table I think he will be able to win the seemingly easy battles that Studrawa couldn’t. In just the last few classes, five-star guys like JC Latham and Kiyaunta Goodwin both seemed incredibly interested in Ohio State, but wound up committing elsewhere. The Buckeyes have been lucky to have enough in-state talent to keep things afloat for a bit, but those are the types of players you simply must land to reach that next level. Especially if Frye is able to improve Ohio State’s offensive line play in 2022 — which shouldn’t be all that hard if you simply play guys at their actual positions — I think he will do quite well for himself out on the trail.