In a year unlike any other in his career, Frank Solich is on his way toward crafting another typical recruiting class with Ohio University.
The Bobcats added 14 players to the program on Wednesday during the first day of the early signing period for the 2021 recruiting class. And like most of his previous 16 recruiting classes at OU, this one is balanced, limited in scope toward the projected scholarship openings, and has a few players included that don’t show up much in the national recruiting databases.
In addition, Ohio avoided much in the way of drama. The Bobcats had 14 verbal commitments entering the day, and had 14 signed National Letters of Intent from those recruits in hand before 9 a.m.
“Smooth day,” said Ryan Bainbridge, Ohio’s Director of Recruiting and Player Personnel. “We believe this is going to be a really special group.
“And what really stands out about his group is their resiliency.”
The class, as a whole, is balanced with seven projected offensive players and seven defenders. Half the class (seven) came from schools inside the state of Ohio. Eight different position groups are represented. And all will come from the high school ranks. Ohio had no junior college, or transfer, players announced as part of the class.
Solich said Ohio’s scholarship situation is a bit unclear moving forward. He’s yet to receive final clearance from Ohio about the number of “Super Seniors” – 2020 senior eligible to return because of the NCAA’s one-year waiver due to the pandemic – the school will be willing to accommodate by expanding the scholarship limit of 85.
Previously, OU has limited the football roster – including walkons – to no more than 120 players. That number, as well, is up for review because of the circumstances of 2020.
With all that mind, Solich said the program was careful to offer to priority targets only this recruiting cycle.
“We’re not into offering guys and then not allowing them to enroll when they want to,” Solich said. “We feel like we have a good handle on things, but it’s a bit of a numbers game still and it’s a numbers game we’re still playing.”
For players in the 2021 class, it was a tough process. Some didn’t have senior seasons due to the pandemic. None were allowed official on-campus visits once the pandemic broke in March.
Ohio counts its scenic and bucolic campus as a real recruiting strength, and the Bobcats weren’t able to use it – in person – for most of the recruiting cycle.
“Several of (the new players) have never been able to step foot on campus,” Bainbridge said. “It speaks volumes about our coaches and the relationships they have developed that we were able to land this group.”
Instead of campus tours, Solich and his staff relied on FaceTime and a “virtual visit” experience to sell players and their parents on the look and feel of the Athens’ campus. Many of the techniques and tactics used this recruiting cycle, due to necessity, will likely stick around in some form or fashion.
“I became a little more tech savvy, I even got a fancy tripod to hold the phone,” joked offensive coordinator Tim Albin.
“But there were a lot of lessons to be learned. You don’t have to be guarding your desk the whole time,” he continued. “And the big thing…it was the same across the country. That’s what was fair about it. The things we were doing in Athens are the same things they had to do in Toledo.”
Ohio signed at least one player to every position group, except for the specialist positions, defensive tackle, and quarterback. Ohio brought in players for all of the specialist roles a year ago, and has hit DT heavily in the two previous recruiting classes.
As for quarterback, that spot may be addressed during February’s signing day, or later in the spring. Graduate transfer Armani Rogers is one of the ‘Super Seniors’ that has the option to stay and play another year, or simply move on.
Solich said he hoped to finish discussions with all those players before the holiday week and anticipates a firmed roster count heading into January. Ohio will add players to both sides of the ball in the February signing period.
Ohio addressed the perceived roster needs, did so while navigating a changed recruiting landscape due to the pandemic, and learned some things in the process that will apply to more normalized recruiting cycles in the future.
And at the end, landed more than a dozen players the program views as instrumental to the Bobcats’ prospects moving forward.
“I can’t say enough about the efforts of our whole staff during this,” Solich said. “Our team came through together and did a fantastic job.”
Here’s a look at the 14 players signed by Ohio on Dec. 16, 2020. Recruiting scores are all taken from 247sports.com. Players are listed in order of their grade by that platform, highest to lowest.
Sieh Bangura, RB, 6-0, 200, Bowie, Md. – 0.8438
A standout at DeMatha Catholic High School in the Washington D.C. area, Bangura had notable other offers from Appalachian State and Buffalo.
Bryce Butler, TE, 6-3, 245, Bowie, Md. – 0.8376
Butler had offers from App State, Arkansas and Buffalo, and finished his career at St. John’s College High School with 20 catches, 240 receiving yards and a touchdown. Earned All-WCAC First Team honors as a junior.
Davion Weatherspoon, OL, 6-1, 300, Harper Woods, Mich. – 0.8336
A three-time all-state selection, Weatherspoon could be slotted in as a center at Ohio. He had reported offers from Army and Kentucky, and both Bowling Green and Central Michigan in the MAC.
David Patterson, DE, 6-3, 230, Liburn, Ga. – 0.8248
Had 83 tackles, 15 sacks, and 28 quarterback hurries during his career at Parkview High School. Other offers included FAU, Georgia State, South Alabama and Kent State.
Kaden Rogers, OL, 6-3, 275, Hamilton, Ohio – 0.8227
At Ross High School, Rogers led the team in ‘pancake’ blocks in 2018, ’19 and ’20. Earned First Team All-Ohio honors in 2020. Had other offers from App State, Army and Air Force.
Miles Cross, WR, 6-1, 195, Bowie, Md. – 0.8194
The third of three players signed by Ohio from Bowie, Cross went to Rock Hill (S.C.) High School as a senior after finishing with 33 catches for 401 yards and three scores. Had other reported offers from Buffalo, East Carolina and FIU.
Giovonni Scales, S, 6-1, 200, Columbus, Ohio – 0.8106
An All-City and All-Central District selection at Marion-Franklin High school, Scales finished his prep career with 212 tackles and eight interceptions. Had reported offers from Western Michigan, Army and Air Force.
Quintell Quinn, LB, 6-1, 220, Columbus, Ohio – 0.8093
A two-way standout at St. Francis DeSales, Quinn finished as the storied program’s all-time leading rusher while also a two-time All-Ohio selection. Akron and Ball State were also in the mix, and OU plans to start him off as a linebacker.
Torrie Cox Jr., CB, 5-9, 175, Miami Gardens, Fla. – 0.8043
An all-state and all-county selection as a defensive back at Chaminade-Madonna Preparatory School, Cox finished his career with 126 tackles, 12 interceptions and four touchdowns. Had reported offers from FIU, Coastal Carolina, Alabama State and Alabama A&M.
John Motton, S, 5-11, 195, Groveport, Ohio – 0.7791
At Groveport-Madison HS, Motton tallied 101 tackles and seven interceptions, and was tabbed second team all-conference in 2020. Ohio is listed as his only official offer on his 247sports.com profile.
Shay Taylor, LB, 6-3, 210, Mount Perry, Ohio – 0.7752
Played at Sheridan High School in nearby Perry County, and finished 2020 with 71 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions on his way to being named the Muskingum Valley League Player of the year, Linebacker of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. His other reported offers were from non-DI programs in Lake Erie College and Tiffin University.
Jake Skelly, OL, 6-4, 250, Columbus, Ohio – 0.7641
Earned all-state and all-district honors as a junior at Bishop Hartley High School. Had other offers from across the MAC in Akron, Ball State and Eastern Michigan.
Bradley Weaver, DE, 6-4, 240, Hilliard, Ohio – not rated
Weaver notched 27 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in 2020 with Hilliard Darby HS on his way to all-league and second team all-district honors. Ohio was listed as his only official offer.
Isaiah Davis, WR, 6-3, 190, Apopka, Fla. – not rated
Had more than 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns in his last two seasons at Wekiva High School. Had reported offers from Eastern Kentucky, Garner-Webb and South Dakota State – all FCS level programs.