After rough weekend, where do Buckeyes turn now at running back?

Jeremy Birminghamabout 2 years
Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham



Have a question about Ohio State recruiting? This is the place for you, five days a week. Submit your questions on Twitter or on the Lettermen Row forums. Check in daily to see what’s on the mind of Buckeyes fans all over the country. Today we try and get to the heart of what happened with a pair of the top running back targets for Ohio State.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

Yes, just last week I wrote a column here about what was setting up to be a very important, very productive 10-day stretch for Ohio State and its recruiting class of 2020.

We touched on three upcoming recruiting decisions in which all three prospects were, at the time, expected to commit to the Buckeyes. Hybrid athlete Kourt Williams was first and went off without a hitch, and all appeared well with the other two, running backs Bijan Robinson and Jaylan Knighton.

The June/July recruiting dead period came to an end, and there was no concern from Ohio State sources about either player changing his mind ahead of their scheduled announcements this week (Knighton is Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, Robinson is set for some time on Aug. 2).

Then, in the blink of an eye, things changed.

In the course of about 24 hours, Ohio State went from feeling comfortable that its running back recruiting in 2020 was locked up to a complete system shock as the board was upended.

“It’s shaken some guys to their core,” one source said about the 180-degree turn of events.

Recruiting is a business, and at times, it’s an ugly one. There are coaches who lie to kids about this, that or the other thing in order to secure a commitment. There are kids who commit to schools and then lie about visiting other places as often as coaches lie. There are parents who shake hands and trade hugs on a commitment only to work against their child’s decision and undermine the confidence their child had in his choice.

Like every other business, recruiting is about people. And just like everything else that involves people, there are selfish motives to consider.

“How do I keep my job? How do I get to the NFL? How do I keep my kid close to home? What school is willing to promise this, that or the other thing?”

It’s also important to keep in mind that each of these running backs visited Ohio State only once. Yes, momentum had been in the Buckeyes favor, but it’s not as though these are recruiting relationships built on years of a solid foundation. It was reasonable to expect some turmoil.

That doesn’t make it easier to swallow for Ohio State.

Until December, there’s no need for the Buckeyes to panic about any recruit. But after all the signs pointing toward Bijan Robinson and Jaylan Knighton committing to Ohio State for the past month, things have changed and there is no longer any expectation of that happening. Why? It might take a far-and-wide search to find the real answer to that, but in both cases there appeared to be at least one important, decision-making family member who was pushing for the prospect to stay closer to home.

Ryan Day-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ryan Day and Tony Alford may need to go back to the running back drawing board in the 2020 class. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

Closer to home is, of course, open to interpretation when dealing with flights and cars and miles and all the things in between.

Knighton may pick Florida State on Tuesday, but his recruitment is far from over at that point if he does. The Seminoles program is in flux, so the Buckeyes, along with the Miami Hurricanes and others, will remain in the conversation as the season unfolds. Ohio State will just have to wait and see what happens from here, moving on to the next man up* and keeping an eye on what happens in Florida over the next two or three months.

*A full breakdown of updated targets will follow this week* 

With Robinson, again, this has taken the Buckeyes completely by surprise. To this point, there’s been no concrete explanation offered up by the family. Ohio State was confident that his choice was made and is working to bring it back around. There’s still time for Ohio State to change minds before Robinson’s announcement, but there’s not much reason for optimism as of now. We’ll see what happens in the next four days.

There is plenty of time for Ohio State, running backs coach Tony Alford and Ryan Day to find other running backs. There are a number of names still out there if these two players pick other programs.

Is it upsetting to the Buckeyes program? Yes. Is it time to panic? Absolutely not.

The best way to stay on top of all that recruiting #stuff? Subscribe to Lettermen Row’s Recruiting with Birm newsletter.