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Ohio State signed a bunch of football players who want to be Buckeyes — and that’s a good thing

Five-stars, NIL, early signing day flips... All that should matter is that this talented 2023 recruiting class wants nothing more than to win games in Columbus. 

Lori Schmidt/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

As it currently stands, Ohio State has the 5th-ranked recruiting class in all of college football... for 2023, that is. I guess I felt the need to clarify because I know some of you are already bell-aching about the 2024 class as well, but I simply do not have the mental energy to deal with “fans” who choose to be preemptively pissed off about current high school juniors.

So back to the topic at hand: No. 5 isn’t so bad, is it?

Is it?

Well, according to many who voice their displeasure on social media, apparently having the 5th-ranked recruiting class is that bad. Like, possibly the worst thing imaginable and worthy of rolling heads. So I guess I was wrong. And I came to that realization on Wednesday, with the help of certain fans and media types who spent the day lamenting losses (not actually losses) and finding a reason to gripe about OSU’s class being ranked ahead of those belonging to LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Floria, Penn State, USC, Michigan.

Should I keep going? Because I can. I could list about 125 teams if I were so inclined, but I think I’ve made my point.

Ryan Day and his coaching staff inked playmakers galore, kept the best homegrown talent in Ohio... and people are mad!? Because Ohio State didn’t finish No. 1 and land every single target? Look, I get it. I am a competitive guy and I bleed scarlet and gray. I want my Buckeyes to sign the top class each and every year. But I also want to purchase a winning Powerball ticket, live in a cool RV, and look like Chris Hemsworth.

Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want. And that is especially true in sports. They are competitive in nature, to the point where nobody wins every game and/or recruiting battle. OSU won far more than it lost on National Signing Day, but the good did not outweigh the bad for some.

And what exactly was the “bad”? Sure, Ohio State missed out on Matayo Uiagalelei and Damon Wilson. That sucked; no more eloquent way to put it. But five-star edge defenders do not grow on trees. Yes, the Buckeyes do currently have a few in-house, but they – along with every other school – are going to shoot and miss more often than they connect and close.

It should also be pointed out that Uiagalelei and Wilson both stayed relatively close to home and chose to play for winning programs. If either had chosen Fresno State or Florida Atlantic, I would be a little more upset. But it is hard to argue with a kid wanting to play for a title contender in their own backyard.

It is also hard (more like impossible) to ignore the possibility that money and/or NIL incentives may have played a role here. I certainly have no details – nor am I convinced that financial gain was the end-all, be-all for either of the previously mentioned players – but one could at least jump to some sort of conclusion, right? And if NIL was the deciding factor, well then it was never meant to be. Because Buckeye fans may not want to hear this, but OSU does not appear to be interested in auction players. Even if they were, I think the deep pockets of Nike would be tough to beat.

Ohio State also saw cornerback Kayin Lee flip to Auburn, leaving the Buckeyes with just two true corner commits. And again, I can see why that would be perceived as a negative. Lee is heck of a player. But he chose to attend Auburn, coached by Hugh Freeze. Do with that what you will. He chose to play for Ron Roberts, Auburn’s new defensive coordinator — as of one whole week ago!

But he (Roberts) did at least help Baylor finish above .500 once in three seasons, while finishing No. 63, 40, and 65 nationally in points per game allowed. So who wouldn’t be impressed? I am sure Freeze’s sterling reputation and a 15-minute relationship with his new DC were the sole reasons Lee chose to flip his commitment and join a bottom half SEC juggernaut.

By now you probably think I am just another pissed off OSU fan similar to the ones I wrote about in the first paragraph. And you would be right... But I’m not pissed off at the coaches or the players — even though I think they have underachieved to a certain extent and need to fix some things. No, my frustration is with all the negativity coming from Buckeye Nation. Is anybody supportive anymore? Is anybody excited about the Buckeyes playing in a College Football Playoff? Or would we just prefer to be pissed off all the time? Because we’re not Wooden’s UCLA Bruins or Red f*cking Auerbach’s Boston Celtics.

Lastly, why are we not more excited about a hell of a recruiting haul? I hear pissing and moaning about a few guys Ohio State missed out on, but not enough about the players who want to chase greatness in Columbus. Players who have a collective average rating of 93.57 — good for second among all classes, behind only Alabama. Players who will join a roster loaded with 2020, 2021, and 2022 talent — all (also) from top-5 classes.

This 2023 recruiting class is something special. Unless it’s not, because recruiting is a crapshoot anyway. But we should not act as if OSU failed on Wednesday. And we should not act as if this program is not flourishing. The Buckeyes are preparing to play in a(nother) CFP, with a roster full of guys who are talented, want to be part of the brotherhood, and have been developed by current coaches.

I fully expect Brandon Inniss, Luke Montgomery, Carnell Tate, Noah Rogers, Jason Moore, Joshua Mickens, and the rest of the 2023 class to be great one day. And I hope that even the most cynical fans out there will put their full support behind this class – and program – while putting aside personal complaints long enough to appreciate what Ohio State and its fans truly have.

Go Bucks!