Indianapolis welcomed a host of NFL Draft prospects last week for the annual combine event where players put their skills on display for coaches and front offices around the league. For Ohio State fans, eyes were surely focused on the likes of Haskell Garrett, Thayer Munford, Chris Olave, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Jeremy Ruckert, Tyreke Smith, and Garrett Wilson.
However, two non-Buckeye prospects delivered an enlightening message when asked about one of the newest Ohio State defensive coaches.
Coby Bryant and Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner were both pivotal pieces in the defensive secondary for Cincinnati in recent years and the two standout cornerbacks briefly discussed their now former defensive coach Perry Eliano when answering questions from the media. The responses of Bryant and Gardner, courtesy of Eleven Warriors' Dan Hope, should cause for optimism when wondering what Eliano brings to the table in Columbus and perhaps it's the person that he is without the clipboard and headset that can set him apart on the recruiting trail.
"He's a great guy. I don't even look at him like a coach. I look at him more like a mentor," Gardner said on Saturday when asked about his former position coach. "He don't just talk to me about football. He talks to me about life in general. He always wanted the most out of me."
Gardner, who is widely projected to be a first round draft pick and potentially the first cornerback drafted, continued by saying that he appreciates everything that Eliano did for him while a member of the Bearcats.
It was a similar sentiment delivered by the highly-productive cornerback opposite of Gardner. "(Eliano) helped me not only become a better football player but a better man as well," Bryant, the 2021 Thorpe award winner, added.
The rave reviews of Eliano, as a person, should make for a smooth transition to the Buckeyes safety room and also could aid their efforts in recruiting. Outside of the obvious immense development that the aforementioned cornerbacks received in Clifton, Eliano sure looks to be an assistant coach that connects personally with the players in his position room and their admiration of him and what he had done for their growth off of the field speaks volumes.
Eliano's character could be a tipping point as he aims to bring the Buckeyes the best of the best at the safety spot in specific. You've heard time and time again how important relationships between prospects and coaches can be as high school kids attempt to make the biggest decision of their lives.
Now, the Texas native and former graduate from Stephen F. Austin has a chance to make some major noise for Ohio State on the recruiting trail and the early returns in this cycle are unsurprising thus far.
While 2023 four-star safety Cedrick Hawkins of Cocoa (FL) committed to Ohio State prior to the hiring of Eliano, there haven't been any known doubts or second thoughts regarding his pledge since the announcement was made official. Hawkins, the No. 22 safety in the class, is even set to make a stop in Columbus for a visit next month.
We've also seen highly-touted five-star safety Caleb Downs of Mill Creek (GA) set up an April visit to see what the Buckeyes have to offer. While a four-star trio of safeties in Joenel Aguero of St. John's Prep (MA), Daemon Fagan of American Heritage (FL), and Malik Hartford of Lakota West (OH) have all already listed the Buckeyes as a finalist in their respective recruitments.
So, while it's well too early in his Ohio State stint to know exactly how Eliano will do as a recruiter, it's hard not to be excited about what he could become in that area.