Football is a team sport, but so is football recruiting.
Sure, some teams have superstar players, just like some teams have superstar recruiters. But no recruiter or player can win alone. Coaches rely on each other to help in recruiting a player in order to give a more complete picture of what they are “selling.”
Normally, assistant coaches have regions of the country that they handle, as well as their individual position groups. Over the last year, however, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day dialed back the regionality in favor of more positional recruiting because there was no traveling.
Through it all, however, the lines of communication between recruits and the OSU coaching staff were kept open, but it was always via a phone or a computer. That has finally changed now that in-person recruiting is once again allowed.
Ohio State is wrapping up their first official visit weekend of the year. Well-known recruiters like Larry Johnson and Kerry Coombs are finally getting to spend time in the same room as the players they are recruiting. This is also a huge weekend for secondary coach Matt Barnes, who has two of the nation’s top safeties visiting in Nevada’s Zion Branch and Iowa’s Xavier Nwankpa.
But Barnes won’t be going it alone.
“You know one thing I think we do a great job of here is sort of recruiting as a team, as a program,” Barnes said this spring. “So, for me to sit here and say I recruited [freshman safety] Jantzen Dunn, I mean I’d love to sit here and say I did this, I did that. I didn’t. I played a role in it.”
This is an all-hands-on-deck weekend for the Ohio State coaches, and it’s going to be that way until the end of the month. Visitors will be in and out of the doors of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center nearly every day this month. And since coaches aren’t out on the road scouting or recruiting and they’re not busy on the field coaching, they’re all available to help secure the best players in the nation.
For Barnes, that can mean reaching out to Coombs or Johnson or whomever might help the situation best.
“Coach Coombs is arguably one of the greatest recruiters in college football history,” Barnes said. “So I think one of the things that I do well is I realized who I am and I’m not super well-known and those types of things, and I’m okay with that. And so what I try to do is facilitate a lot of conversation with people who are a little bit more brand recognizable and those types of things. And I make emphasis where I can make emphasis.
“But if I’m involved in recruiting a defensive lineman, I’m going to Larry Johnson. I could care less if I get a checkmark on the internet for it or not. I just, if it’s a guy think it helps our program, I’m gonna do whatever I can do to get them in. Frequently for me that entails involving other members of our program.”
Don’t let Matt Barnes undersell it, however, as he connects with recruits just fine. Eventually he will be a little more “super well-known” than he is now, but his approach isn’t likely to change. Why? Because the conversation won’t be changing.
Barnes and the rest of the Ohio State coaches have had conversations with recruits and parents and coaches all week long. And the official visits that are wrapping up today have been a long time coming. The message, however, has never been more consistent. Which is why the Buckeyes can have several coaches recruiting one player. Nothing gets lost in translation.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a solid closer in the bullpen.
“One, the program sells itself,” Barnes said. “Two, if you sit down on the couch with Coach Day and have a conversation, you would want to be a Buckeye as well. He’s an unbelievable human being. Again, the place sells itself.”