How Urban Meyer's retirement, Ryan Day will impact Notre Dame recruiting

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

It took 24 hours for two 2020 recruits to decommit from Ohio State.

Safety Lejond Cavazos and offensive lineman Jake Wray, ESPN Junior 300 recruits, backed out of their verbal pledges after Buckeye coach Urban Meyer announced his retirement on Tuesday.

Neither are heavily considering the Irish, but Meyer’s decision should impact Notre Dame’s future classes. The No. 3 Irish likely won’t see benefits for the 2019 class, but Meyer’s news, combined with ND’s 12-0 season, should help in 2020 and beyond.

Ohio has produced the second-most ND signees (21) under head coach Brian Kelly. The Irish won head-to-head battles against the Buckeyes for five-star Tommy Kraemer and four-star Liam Eichenberg, both Ohio products, in the 2016 class. Cincinnati Anderson’s Zeke Correll, a 2019 offensive lineman, committed to ND over OSU.

Meyer enters his final game, the Rose Bowl, 82-9 at OSU. His classes from 2012-18 ranked No. 5, No. 2, No. 3, No. 7, No. 4, No. 2 and No. 2 on 247Sports.

Ryan Day, who became OSU’s offensive coordinator on Jan. 3, 2017, reportedly agreed to a five-year contract following Meyer’s announcement. He served as OSU’s head coach during Meyer’s three-game suspension, going 3-0.

“Urban was one of the premiere recruiters I have seen in the last 40 years — one of the great ones,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “(Recruiting) won’t get better, but Ryan Day is just hoping it stays the same, because they have been top three for the past five years talent-wise and recruiting-wise.”

Day, 39, begins his $4.5 million-per-year deal mostly unproven. He never has been a head coach, and prior to joining OSU, he spent two seasons in the NFL under Chip Kelly. Meyer told the media that he will visit with 2019 recruits, however, Day will be the “head coach out recruiting” going forward.

“The jury is still out for Ryan Day when you look at his career,” said Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting. “He’s a guy who played a part in some of Ohio State’s biggest recruiting wins in this cycle, but they were spearheaded by Urban Meyer.’’

OSU commit Garrett Wilson, a five-star receiver on 247Sports and four-star on Rivals, told TMZ Sports that ND receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander tried to poach him after the news. Wilson, along with fellow commit Jack Miller, reaffirmed their commitments on Twitter.

“Garrett Wilson is an Ohio kid, and (2019 commit) Harry Miller, Urban Meyer built that close relationship with him,’’ Wiltfong said. “The early returns on Ryan Day is that he’s a good guy, so that typically translates well on the recruiting trail. But he’s got big shoes to fill when you are talking about head coach recruiters. You could make the argument that Urban Meyer is the best head coach recruiter of all time.”

Roswell (Ga.) Blessed Trinity Catholic running back Steele Chambers, another 2019 OSU commit that ND targeted, is another poaching candidate. However, his high school teammate, Irish commit JD Bertrand, told ND Insider that Chambers is firm on his commitment.

“I expect (Meyer’s departure) to give them a boost on the trail in 2020,” said Wiltfong of the Irish. “They have a tremendous opportunity. The whole nation is going to watch their game against Clemson. Damn near every high school recruit in the country in 2020 is going to watch that Clemson-Notre Dame game.”

The difference between Meyer and Day — in terms of head-to-head battles with ND — could impact just one or two decisions per cycle. Harry Miller and Chambers were tailor-made for ND, but Meyer’s influence helped swing them to OSU, Wiltfong said.

“Urban Meyer could walk into my living room, and my wife would know who he is,” Wiltfong said. “Ryan Day walks into my living room, and my wife has no clue. But there was a time when Urban Meyer was not known, either.”

Lemming named Paris Johnson Jr., OSU’s top-rated 2020 commit, as one the Irish could poach. The Cincinnati St. Xavier offensive lineman visited ND for a junior day in March but committed to OSU in late June.

“Today was totally unexpected,” Paris’ mother, Monica Johnson, told WCPO in Cincinnati earlier this week. “It has been an overwhelming day for our family … We are disappointed in today’s announcement; we are continuing to process the news.”

The 247Sports crystal ball gives ND the third-highest chance to land the 6-foot-7, 285-pounder. Of the experts that predicted where the four-star will land, 67 percent chose Ohio State, 22 percent selected Michigan State and 11 percent had ND.

The Irish are expecting several 2020 recruits to visit for their Dec. 15 junior day. Not many will attend Friday’s awards banquet, although ND commit John Olmstead will be making an official visit. Below are the five most intriguing uncommitted ND and OSU targets beyond 2019.

2020 RB A.J. Henning, 5-10, 175; Frankfort (Ill.) Lincoln Way-East: The all-purpose running back is highly sought after by the Irish, who are looking to fill the position. ND quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees visited Henning’s school on Wednesday, Oct. 17, during the Irish bye week. He has visited ND on multiple occasions, too. Henning tweeted Wednesday night that he will release his top schools soon.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 3 WR, No. 25 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 3 APB, No. 68 overall

2020 DE Rylie Mills, 6-5, 250; Lake Forest (Ill.) High: ND’s coaching staff has visited Mills twice since the new contact period began on Nov. 25. Defensive line coach Mike Elston saw Mills on Monday, and Rees journeyed to his school on Wednesday last week. Mills has been to ND’s campus multiple times.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 8 SDE, No. 145 overall | Rivals: Four stars, No. 10 SDE, No. 152 overall

2020 WR Maliq Carr, 6-5, 215; Oak Park (Mich.) High: The Irish targeted Carr later than Henning and Mills, offering him after his Nov. 10 visit for the Florida State game. His teammate, 2020 defensive back Enzo Jennings, also garnered an offer. Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght visited the two last Friday, which ND Insider reported last week. 247Sports gives Carr a 50 percent chance to land at ND. The other 50 percent? OSU.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 85 WR, No. 445 overall | Rivals: Four stars

2020 DE Darrion Henry, 6-5, 260; Cincinnati Princeton: Henry has visited ND multiple times, including for the Sept. 1 Michigan game. However, 100 percent of 247Sports’ crystal ball pickers have him landing at OSU. Will Meyer’s announcement change that?

247Sports: Four stars, No. 6 SDE, No. 61 overall | Four stars, No. 3 SDE, No. 37 overall

2021 DE Jack Sawyer, 6-5, 220; Pickerington (Ohio) Central: Sawyer received an offer after visiting for the Sept. 1 Michigan game, making him ND’s sixth offer of the 2021 class. Sawyer told ND Insider that he intends to visit ND on Dec. 15.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 1 SDE, No. 3 overall

Notre Dame guard Tommy Kraemer is one of three Irish to earn Associated Press preseason All-American honors.