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Buckeye Blitz: Ohio State Strives to Stay Among Nation’s Elite

While some Ohio State fans continue to lament a heartbreaking loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals, the Buckeyes are taking aim at 2020 in spring football practice.   This session will conclude with the spring game on April 11.

And Fans of the Scarlet and Gray can take solace in knowing that Ohio State is taking significant strides toward staying alongside schools like Alabama and Clemson as elite college football programs.  What do these teams do to stay at the top year after year?  It starts with stability.  The Crimson Tide has that with Nick Saban as does Clemson with Dabo Swinney.

Many in Buckeye Nation were a bit on edge when the popular and highly successful Urban Meyer retired.  However, Ryan Day eased concerns in a resounding fashion during his first year as head coach.  Day’s squad rolled to an undefeated regular season, Big Ten Championship and Fiesta Bowl appearance where it fell short to Clemson. 

Also notable was Day’s development of quarterback Justin Fields, a Heisman Trophy Award finalist who will be a contender for the award again in 2020.  Some even began to speculate that Day, who won Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, may receive an opportunity to return to the NFL. 

So Ohio State wasted no time in making a commitment to its Coach.  The school recently announced that Day’s contract had been extended 3 years through 2026, making a long-term commitment to the innovative 40-year-old.

Additionally, Ohio State is making a stronger commitment to its assistant coaches. The school released salaries & terms for its 10 full-time, assistant coaches this week. Day’s assistant coaches will make a combined $8.0 million in 2020, about $800,000 more than this group made a year ago. According to USA Today’s database of assistant coach salaries, Ohio State’s collective salary of $720,000 ranked third nationally in 2019.

Four assistant coaches – including new defensive coordinator/secondary coach Kerry Coombs, offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Kevin Wilson, co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and Larry Johnson, defensive line coach and assistant head coach, are each making annual salaries in excess of $1 million. Eight of Day’s 10 assistant coaches return from 2019, a season in which the Buckeyes were the only team nationally to rank in the Top 5 in total offense and total defense.

Another thing Alabama and Clemson do is recruit at a high level.  Ohio State did the same under Meyer.  Some feared there could be a decline in talent after his departure.  However, Day and his coaching staff are continuing to bring ballers to Columbus.  Depending on which prognosticator you subscribe to, Ohio State’s 2020 recruiting class is ranked somewhere in the Top 5 alongside schools like Alabama, Clemson, defending national champion LSU and Georgia.

According to 247Sports composite rankings, Day’s first-class includes 4 five-star players in OL Paris Johnson, Jr., QB C.J. Stroud, WR Julian Fleming and WR Jaxon Smith Njigba.  A total of 15 new Buckeyes are either 4- or 5-star prospects.  Ohio State signed 24 players in December, and completed its 2020 class by officially inking Cameron Martinez, a 4-star talent from Muskegon, Mich., who is rated by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 7 overall athlete.  Martinez also received Player of the Year honors in Michigan (wink … wink!)

It’s particularly pertinent to note that Ohio State has added talented depth at quarterback and wide receiver.  With the offense Day likes to run, he needs playmakers at these positions.  Although replacing RB J.K. Dobbins’ productivity won’t be an easy task.   Early reviews of the 2021 class have been outstanding, as Ohio State’s athletes have been ranked as the best collective group in the country.

When you have playmakers, you want to take your shot at the nation’s best teams.  The Buckeyes travel to Oregon on Sept. 12 in a huge early-season heavyweight matchup.  Oregon makes a return trip to Columbus in 2021.  According to the Ohio State’s athletics website, future non-conference matchups against Notre Dame in 2022 and 2023, Washington in 2024 and 2025, and Tom Herman’s Texas squad in 2025 don Ohio State’s upcoming schedule.

By committing to Coach Ryan Day and his assistant coaches, recruiting high-level talent and plans to match up against other elite teams in the nation, Ohio State’s goals clearly go beyond maintaining its dominance in the Big Ten.  The Buckeyes are taking aim at being one of the country’s elite programs for years to come.

They appear to be on the right track.

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