COLUMBUS, Ohio — How is it that one of Ohio State’s top assets on the recruiting trail has flown under the radar?
As he enters his second season as the Buckeyes defensive coordinator, that’s the perception under which Greg Schiano is operating.
For the better part of the past two seasons, Ohio State’s primary sales pitch to prospects has centered around the program’s ability to send players to the pros. And with a total of 19 players selected in the past two drafts — with more to come a year from now — there’s no arguing with the results.
But while former stars Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa and Michael Thomas help bring the Buckeyes all the attention they need when it comes to recruiting top targets, the reality is those players are only byproducts of Ohio State’s pipeline to the pros. And while the Buckeyes staff is full of strong recruiters who possess impressive resumés, not one possesses an NFL pedigree like Schiano’s.
“If you’re recruiting the right players, they want to play in the NFL, right? That’s the talent level that we recruit here at Ohio State,” Schiano said shortly after his hiring in December 2015. “Hopefully I can help the players, right?”
In just more than a year’s time, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach has done just that.
Consider the development of Malik Hooker, who had yet to play a significant snap in college when Schiano arrived last winter. In the span of just one season, the former 3-star prospect went from special-teamer to the No. 15 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. That’s the Schiano difference — and recruits have taken notice.
After helping land 5-star prospects Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade in Ohio State’s 2017 class, the Buckeyes second-year defensive coordinator is off to a fast start for 2018. Of Ohio State’s nine commitments in its 2018 class, two are safeties: 4-star prospects Jaiden Woodbey and Josh Proctor.
Thanks to his presence in the talent-rich New Jersey area, Schiano’s recruiting responsibilities are hardly limited to the defensive backfield. Per his 247Sports profile, the former Rutgers head coach is leading the charge in Ohio State’s pursuit of 4-star defensive tackle Matthew Jones, tight end Jeremy Ruckert and wide receiver Jahan Dotson.
Land of 10’s Tyler Donohue worked in Schiano’s recruiting department at Rutgers in the mid-2000s and witnessed first-hand the impact he made in the Garden State — as well as the presence he still possesses.
“It’s huge,” Donohue said on Friday’s ‘Inside the Shoe’ Ohio State podcast. “He has experience as an NFL defensive assistant and as an NFL head coach. And let’s be honest, many (recruits) are extremely grateful for the academic opportunity that comes with a college football career. But also, many of them are really, really, really focused on becoming millionaires after high school graduation.
“And Greg Schiano has that experience at the NFL level and has produced the talent.”
When you consider all that Schiano is capable of bringing to the Buckeyes — and that Urban Meyer is running the show in Columbus — it truly is an embarrassment of riches that exists on Ohio State’s staff.
“To have somebody with that kind of track record, as a coordinator — that is a distinct advantage,” Donohue said.