In just one year as head coach, Ryan Day has already transformed his Ohio State football team into a consistent championship contender.
When he took over as head coach for the Buckeyes after a 28-23 Rose Bowl win over Washington on Jan. 1, 2019, Ryan Day inherited a team that was in the upper tier of college football, but hadn’t been playoff-caliber for the last two seasons.
In just a month of being in charge, he nabbed one of the best quarterbacks in college football, former 5-star recruit Justin Fields, from Georgia. However, the expectations were low for Ohio State, who would be lucky to get to a New Years’ Six bowl again.
With an unproven head coach and an inexperienced quarterback, the team looked like it might go through some growing pains in his first year at the helm. Day and Fields quickly put that to rest with a 12-0 regular season (only the win over No. 8 Penn State was by less than 24 points) and a 14-point comeback win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
A team that was pegged second in the Big Ten East in the preseason now steamrolled into the College Football Playoff ranked No. 2 in the country (had been No. 1 during the Michigan game and the Big Ten Championship Game). That made for a great matchup with the then-defending national champion Clemson Tigers, led by superstar QB and fellow Georgia kid Trevor Lawrence.
The Buckeyes put up more than just a tough fight, having a chance to win from the Tigers’ 23 down by six with 37 seconds remaining. Even with some questionable calls made against them, coach Day had put his team in a position to advance to the National Championship Game against LSU.
Fields threw an interception on a miscommunication with breakout star Chris Olave, but the quarterback and his head coach had proven they belonged at the top of college football. Now going through a dysfunctional off-season without spring ball or in-person recruiting, coach Day faces a new challenge: build this Ohio State team into one capable of becoming a dynasty.
Regardless of a turbulent off-season in sports, he has the Buckeyes’ future head-and-shoulders above the rest of college football, holding the No. 1 recruiting class for 2021. Ohio State leads the way with 14 recruits for 268.81 points in the 247Sports Composite, which is four more commits and nearly 48 points better than second-place Clemson.
In the more immediate future, coach Day will bring in the No. 5 class for 2020 whenever football action resumes. Members of the class include the No. 1 (Julian Fleming; No. 3 overall prospect at any position) and No. 5 (Jaxon Smith-Njigba) wide receivers, No. 1 offensive lineman (Paris Johnson, Jr.) and the No. 2 quarterback (C.J. Stroud) for 2020.
The Buckeyes are bringing in some of the most talented players in the entire country and currently have a similar caliber of recruits in the still-developing 2021 class.
Pickerington North standout DE Jack Sawyer is the No. 3 overall prospect for 2020 and has another season this fall to potentially move up even higher on the board (at .9988, Sawyer would be the third-best recruit for Ohio State since 2000, behind only Terrelle Pryor and Ted Ginn, Jr.).
No. 2 prospect J.T. Tuimoloau (DT) is a “50 percent” in 247’s Crystal Ball predictions to commit to Ohio State, which by itself would give Day one of the best recruiting classes in Ohio State history. The Class of 2017 — which included Chase Young, Jeffrey Okudah, J.K. Dobbins and Wyatt Davis — averaged 94.59 for a total of 312.14, second-best in college football that year but best in Ohio State history.
Even without Tuimoloau, the 2021 class sits at a 95.09 average and would rise considerably with a commitment from the Washington state native. At 99.93, Tuimoloau would be Ohio State’s second-best recruit ever and would be the diamond on top of the superb class coach Day has built.
Like a diamond, the future is bright for Ohio State. Ryan Day picked up where Urban Meyer left off and has now put Ohio State in a position to be a national championship contender year-after-year.