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Lejond Cavazos, his father and putting out fires behind the scenes after Jeff Hafley’s departure

Ari Wasserman

Dec 14, 2019

Julian Fleming sent one of the hundred texts that lit up Lejond Cavazos’ phone Friday night. Fleming, a five-star wide receiver, was panicked that Cavazos wasn’t going to sign with Ohio State on Wednesday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — That’s the type of text Cavazos, a four-star cornerback from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, was receiving after the news broke late Friday that Ohio State defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley was leaving the Buckeyes to become coach at Boston College. Hafley was responsible for the dramatic turnaround of Ohio State’s defense this season, but with five defensive backs committed in the Buckeyes’ 2020 recruiting class, there was plenty of reason to panic. Recruiting is wild and prospects change commitments when coaches leave. That’s real life.

But Cavazos isn’t panicking. He’s still signing with Ohio State on Wednesday.

Cavazos has a mature temperament because his father, C.J. Cavazos, is well-connected to the coaching industry and has a lot of friends in high places. C.J. has a relationship with Urban Meyer that goes back two decades, so he understands the volatility in the coaching world. People leave for better jobs. A teenager may have a harder time understanding that turnover in the coaching profession is rampant, but C.J. knew this was going to happen eventually.

Was the timing bad for Ohio State’s recruiting efforts? Absolutely. But that’s just the month of December in the coaching world.

“It’s a great opportunity for Hafley,” C.J. told The Athletic on Saturday. “I am happy for him and his wife. He deserves a job like that and making that kind of money. You don’t say ‘no’ to job opportunities like that. I don’t blame him. I am happy for him and his family and I wish him nothing but great success. He’s a great man and I like him. … As for Lejond, we’re good. Lejond was not signing a letter of intent with ‘Jeff Hafley University’ on it. He was signing with The Ohio State University.”

In the past 18 or so hours, C.J. has had five phone calls with Ryan Day and he’s also had calls with other recruits’ parents, such as four-star cornerback Ryan Watts III’s mother. Cavazos is doing everything in his power to settle people down, to bring them up to speed with how things work in this profession in an effort to try to deter people from scrambling at the last minute to figure out what they want to do.

Ohio State is likely losing every member of its starting secondary after this season, so the four-star defensive backs wjho are committed in this class — Cavazos, Watts, Clark Phillips, Cameron Martinez and Lathan Ransom – are crucial to the Buckeyes’ ongoing defensive success. Phillips, Cavazos and Watts were planning to sign Wednesday and enroll early.

There was some concern that Watts, who flipped from Oklahoma to Ohio State in October, again could look at the Sooners. He had a vague social media post once the news of Hafley’s departure hit the internet.

But C.J. feels as if Ohio State is in a good spot with its defensive back commitments, that the storm will blow over and Day will make another fantastic hire. C.J. expects the hire will be someone from the NFL, though he wasn’t specific about who.

“I talked to parents last night and I expressed to them the way that Lejond feels and how I feel and this is all just part of the process when you go to a place like Ohio State,” C.J. said. “When you win, everyone wants a winner, and Jeff Hafley is a winner. But Hafley didn’t coach Marshon Lattimore or Gareon Conley. This program is so much bigger than one guy. The program, the education and the history of that position is the reason we are going to The Ohio State.

“And whoever Ryan Day brings in, I’m 100 percent positive is going to be a buy with great qualities, great character and somebody who is going to help my son be great.”

For his part, Ransom said he is undecided about signing Wednesday. Ransom is a four-star safety from Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic who is a national top-100 prospect.

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