COLUMBUS — Ohio State assembled its usual elite football recruiting class in unusual times with the 21 high school players who signed to play for the Buckeyes on Wednesday.

Five of the signees are 5-star recruits, 13 are 4-stars and there are three 3-stars in OSU’s 2021 recruiting class.

With the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowing much of everyday life, including football recruiting, OSU had to devise new ways of evaluating talent and reaching out to recruits and their families.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day said there are some recruits he has not been able to talk with face to face yet. Others signed with OSU without ever being on campus.

Day called it “a very unique recruiting process and cycle” which produced a special recruiting class.

“It was a lot of hard work, it was a lot of ingenuity, just in terms of figuring out how to connect with these families with not being able to see them in person for, I guess, almost the last year. That’s been a challenge,” he said.

The 5-star players in the 2021 recruiting class are: Emeka Egbuka, ranked the No. 1 receiver in the county; TreVeyon Henderson, rated the No. 1 running back this year; Donovan Jackson, the top-rated offensive lineman nationally; Kyle McCord, ranked No. 3 nationally at quarterback; and Jack Sawyer, the No. 3 defensive end in the country.

Sawyer is one of six recruits from Ohio. Jayden Ballard (Massillon), a 4-star receiver; Reid Carrico (Ironton), a 4-star linebacker; Ben Christman (Richfield), a 4-star offensive lineman; Michael Hall (Streetsboro), a 4-star defensive tackle; and Jaylen Johnson (Cincinnati LaSalle) also chose OSU.

OSU’s recruiting reach extended into 10 other states – Arizona, Kentucky, Washington, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina and Tennessee – along with Australia, the home of punter Jesse Mirco.

Ohio State’s 2021 recruiting class is ranked No. 2 nationally and first in the Big Ten in’s composite rankings.

Day downplayed those rankings. “It’s the best class in the country for Ohio State. What’s the best class in the country for another school, maybe that’s not the best class for us,” he said.

OSU recruiting coordinator Mark Pantoni agreed with Day. “It (being No. 1 in recruiting rankings) is not a big deal. We’ve had classes in the past that were (No.) 4 or (No.) 5 and probably had more NFL draft picks in the top two rounds than some of these other classes,” he said.

“The way I grade classes is how they end up, with the NFL being a big part, but also key contributors and starters as well. We’ll look back in three or four years and see how it graded.”

Pantoni said players who were recruited remotely are like car buyers who see a television commerical for a vehicle but can’t take a test drive, a comparison he credited to receivers coach Brian Hartline.

“A lot of these kids didn’t get to test drive the vehicle. They just saw the commercial for it. It just shows the power of the brand of Ohio State,” Pantoni said.

“The brand of Ohio State is so powerful. The kids see that. Having the national exposure, they’re able to see us play on TV. We’ve had a lot of very talented players here in the last few years who have been successful in the NFL. The players see that and want to be a part of it.”

By Jim Naveau