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An in-depth look at how Ohio State targets the family and not just the athlete in recruiting

Ryan Day and company have done a stellar job at landing top targets, in part thanks to the family atmosphere that surrounds the program

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State’s ability to recruit has tons of factors that make it the machine it is. Whether it’s the development and NFL Draft success, realistic championship goals, facilities, Real Life Wednesday program, or insert other category here, the Buckeyes have a ton going for their program that makes them so successful on the recruiting trail.

In reality, it’s probably not just one aspect, but all of the above that tie in together for how they land the elite players year after year, but one area that can’t be overlooked is how Ohio State recruits not only the athlete, but the family as well.

Since Ryan Day has been at the helm of the program, he’s helped create a welcoming atmosphere that stands out for recruits and their families. Sure, Ohio State football is a business at the end of the day, but more times than not, when a recruit reveals what the Buckeyes have going for them or what a visit experience is like, the theme of family is mentioned. While that certainly makes recruits themselves feel comfortable in Columbus, maybe more importantly, it also has the family comfortable with the potential for their child or brother/sister etc. to leave home and go to Ohio State.

Because of Day’s professional experience and how seasoned the rest of the coaching staff is in terms of their ability to develop players, families who have experience with college athletics and even professional athletics many times come away overly impressed with Ohio State because they trust what the staff will do for their high-profile athlete not only on the field, but in life after football too. Just another factor that gives the Buckeyes an edge when it comes to recruiting.

Simply put, while Ohio State recruits an athlete, they also recruit the family. Cliché sounding or not, the Buckeyes know that getting inside the minds and hearts of the family plays an important role in building relationships with the players they covet the most, and their successful track record speaks for itself.

In this instance, here’s an in-depth look at Ohio State this past weekend with the No. 21 player nationally and the second ranked edge rusher in the class, Matayo Uiagalelei, and his father Dave while the two were in Columbus for Matayo’s official visit.

Official visit festivities

Right off the bat, this is one of the more important official visits the Buckeyes will have this June. Obviously a position of major importance, Larry Johnson is looking to once again land elite level players along his defensive line, and none would be a bigger get that Uiagelelei. Talent, size, intangibles, and the speed check all of the boxes, but when you look at the prep program he’s coming from and his family lineage with the likes of his brother DJ at Clemson, you know Matayo isn’t just another highly-touted player, but as close to a sure thing as you can be.

This being his second trip to Columbus, the first time around really gave insight to how Ohio State has a real shot at landing Uiagalelei for their 2023 class. It was important seeing what that trip means to Matayo’s father, Dave, and more importantly how the family aspect played a role. Not only the family theme playing through in-person for Dave as a father of two high-profile stars, but his encounter with Day and how he portrayed himself not only as a head coach of a major college program, but just as a person in general.

It all goes back to Day being genuine on and off the field, and that aspect being a huge one when it comes to recruiting yes, but also running a program that consists of student-athletes aged 18-22 years old. That captures the attention of a parent.

More recently, take a look at Matayo’s father Dave and where he sat during dinner on the official visit. Of course, this shows how important the staff feels Matayo is to try and land for this current class, but again, Day making himself available to the parents of an athlete is all that’s needed to be seen here. Dave clearly has a relationship with Day, and the two being able to continue building that bond over their son shows that Ohio State isn’t interested in recruiting just the athlete, but knows that when you recruit the family, the bonds are much stronger and proves the staff is in it for the right reasons.

It’s clear that Matayo’s father is a bit more active on social media than Matayo himself, but the truth of the matter is pretty telling. Dave has had a plan for his sons and it’s well thought out. It’s a plan of action to see them be as successful as possible, and that definitely includes who his sons have surrounded themselves with. The two go hand in hand, and both parties know that who you surround yourself with many times determines how far you will go. For Ohio State, they’re taking it upon themselves to not only talk about it, but prove why they’re the best fit for Uiagelelei and others like him.

The outcomes

All in all, the Buckeyes may not land Uiagalelei in this current 2023 class, but because of their family atmosphere in addition to all of the other many aspects they provide, they stand as good of a chance as anyone else for the five-star stud.

With his talent, it’s easy to conclude that he’d be successful anywhere, and with official visits coming up to Oregon and USC who are much closer to home, it’s possible one of those two schools win out in the end. But if Uiagalelei chooses to come to Ohio State, it’s not going to solely be because of their successful on-field track record.

It’s a safe assumption that if the Buckeyes land him, it’s in large part because of the atmosphere they’ve provided and the trust they’ve given families that they’ll have the best interest in mind for that athlete in their care.

Nevertheless, this is just one instance and an example at how Ohio State’s family like program is appealing to many of the nation’s best players.