COLUMBUS — The story of how 4-star cornerback Ryan Watts got to Ohio State might be called The Anatomy of a Flip.
Watts, from the Dallas suburb of Little Elm, Texas, was committed to Oklahoma and wasn’t thinking of going anywhere else for several months last year.
But, little by little, that began to change.
He made an unofficial visit to Ohio State last June. OSU head coach Ryan Day and Jeff Hafley, the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach last season, kept talking to him. Then he took an official visit to Ohio State on Sept. 21, the weekend of the Miami game.
A week and a half later, he de-committed from Oklahoma and, 11 days after that, he committed to Ohio State.
Two of the big selling points OSU had with Watts, ranked the No. 17 cornerback recruit in the country, were its tradition of sending defensive backs to the NFL and the possibility at least three positions in the defensive backfield were going to be open in 2020.
Asked in a recent interview what convinced him that Ohio State, not Oklahoma, was the place for him, Watts said, “First, just the defensive backs tradition they have here. I already knew about that. and then Coach Hafley reaching out to me and then Coach Day. I built a relationship with them.
“Coach Day and Coach Hafley, they talked to me a lot. They just used to talk to me about the tradition they have at Ohio State and the difference that I’d make if I was at Ohio State rather than Oklahoma. No disrespect to Oklahoma, but it was Ohio State. That’s DBU (Defensive Backs University).
“So I had to take the chance, especially with the depth and the opportunity to compete and play,” he said.
There was some concern Watts might reconsider his commitment to Ohio State when Hafley became Boston College’s head coach on Dec. 14, four days before the beginning of the early signing period for college football.
Four of the five defensive back recruits Hafley had gotten commitments from — Lathan Ransom, of Tucson, Arizona; Lejond Cavazos, of IMG Academy; Cameron Martinez, of Muskegon, Mich.; and Watts — ended up signing with OSU and the other one signed with Utah.
“At first, I was kind of shook,” Watts said about Hafley’s sudden departure. “But then I realized I really wanted to be here because I felt at home in Columbus. After that, Coach Day and Coach (Tony) Alford really made me feel even more comfortable here.”
Watts says he likes what he has seen from Hafley’s replacement, Kerry Coombs.
“Even before I got here, he had been talking with me and making me feel comfortable with him. I’ve been building a great relationship with him,” he said.
And, after all, communication and relationships are a big part of how Watts got to Ohio State.
Jim Naveau covers the Ohio State Buckeyes football program for Aim Media Midwest affiliate The Lima News.