COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohio State fans likely noticed, earlier this week the NCAA officially approved an early signing period for college football.
For 72 hours, starting on Dec. 20, recruits will be allowed to sign national letters of intent. Should a recruit opt not to sign during that time frame, he will be permitted to do so beginning on the first Wednesday of February — college football’s traditional signing day.
So how does this affect Ohio State? That remains to be seen. But it’s worth noting that Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has long opposed the implementation of an early signing period.
Given his reputation for flipping committed players late in the recruiting process, that certainly makes sense. While other schools might prefer to have more of their classes in place sooner, Meyer favors stretching out the recruiting calendar — not shortening it.
Suffice to say, the Buckeyes roster would look different today had the early signing period already been in place. How so? Here are five current Ohio State players whose recruitments could have been affected by a December signing day.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Brady Taylor would likely be somewhere else right now had the early signing period come along sooner. A 3-star prospect, Taylor originally committed to Virginia Tech in the summer of 2013.
The Buckeyes had maintained interest in the local product — just not enough to offer the offensive lineman a scholarship. That, however, changed on Jan. 12, 2014, and one week later — two weeks before signing day — Taylor flipped his commitment to Ohio State.
Had an early signing day been in place, it’s possible the Hokies would have applied pressure to Taylor to sign in December — perhaps even threatening his spot in their class if he didn’t. That would have left Taylor — then without an Ohio State offer — in limbo without much leverage, potentially altering his career path from his hometown to Blacksburg, Va.
One of the early success stories of the much-maligned Ohio State 2015 class, Robert Landers burst onto the scene in his redshirt freshman season, totaling 7.5 tackles for loss.
The Huber Heights, Ohio, native’s contributions to the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff team in 2016 may have never happened, however, had an early signing period been in place during his recruitment.
A 3-star prospect, Landers had originally committed to West Virginia, as it appeared an offer from Ohio State wasn’t in the cards. But a strong run during the high school state playoffs put Landers on the Buckeyes’ radar, with Ohio State offering the defensive tackle a scholarship in mid-December.
As Landers emerged as a contributor last fall, the Buckeyes staff cited him as an example of why they’re against shortening the recruiting calendar.
“It’s a great example of why we shouldn’t rush things in recruiting,” said former OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who recruited Landers. “I think with some of those people outside of Ohio State, they’d rather have an early signing day because they don’t want the Ohio States of the world to come in late. But the reality is, what’s best for the kid is what we ultimately have to keep in mind.”
More than a month after adding Landers, Meyer flipped another nearby defensive tackle in the 2015 class in Pickerington, Ohio, native Davon Hamilton. Previously committed to Kentucky, the 3-star prospect likely would have been asked to make his commitment official during the early signing period.
Like Taylor and Landers, Hamilton was hoping for an Ohio State offer but unsure if one would come. As a result, it’s possible — perhaps likely — an early signing period would have led him to Lexington instead of staying home.
Ohio State’s (potential) quarterback of the future may not have become just that had an early signing period been in place in the winter of 2015.
With Tristen Wallace having committed to the Buckeyes nearly a year earlier, Ohio State seemed to be set at signal caller in its 2016 class. But when Wallace de-committed in December, opting instead to play receiver at Oregon, the Buckeyes were sent scrambling before eventually keying in on Dwayne Haskins.
The interest was mutual, although at that point the 4-star prospect was committed to Maryland. Haskins took a mid-December visit to Columbus before committing to Ohio State on Jan. 18.
Given his late change of heart, it’s fair to wonder how an early signing period would have affected Haskins’ monumental decision.
Perhaps the most obvious example of how an early signing period could affect Ohio State is the recruitment of Ellijah Gardiner, one of the final members to join the Buckeyes’ 2017 class.
It wasn’t until mid-January that Ohio State became familiar with the then-Missouri commit. But when Tyjon Lindsey flipped to Nebraska, the Buckeyes wanted to add another receiver and eventually targeted the 3-star prospect, who flipped his commitment two days before signing day.
Had he been allowed to sign with the Tigers a month earlier, Ohio State may have had to settle on another target. Then again, by that point Lindsey may have already become part of the Buckeyes’ class.