Ohio State lost long-time college coaches Ed Warinner and Luke Fickell after the 2016-17 season. While some fans cheered the departure of Warinner and wished Fickell well in Cincinnati, the pedigree of OSU coaches got a whole lot more impressive with the addition of Ryan Day and Bill Davis.
While Ryan Day will help guide redshirt senior J.T. Barrett through his last year in Columbus, Bill Davis will be tasked with leading the linebacker unit, arguably the pride and joy of the last few Buckeye football teams.
Also taking on co-offensive coordinator duties with newly hired Kevin Wilson, Day most likely will be the coach who is most closely observed by fans after the OSU passing game struggled for the second straight season. Still, his time spent as the quarterbacks coach under coach Chip Kelly with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers last season should help.
Just three days into practice, Day sees a close similarity between OSU and NFL programs.
“Real close,” he said on Tuesday. “First off, because the guys who are running around this field are like NFL players. From the skill guys to the guys up front, the guys here have done an unbelievable job recruiting. So, the talent level here is just like a lot of the NFL teams. And that’s what’s most impressive when you get out here for the first three days.”
While Day might feel at home, he still faces a tough task in morphing Barrett back into the passer he was during his redshirt freshman season, when he threw for 34 touchdowns and completed 64.7 percent of his passes. Day sees the potential in Barrett to return to the form that pushed him into Heisman consideration, and is using his NFL experience to help the Scarlet and Gray signal caller.
“I think that I was lucky enough to coach those guys for the last couple years in the NFL and focus on quarterback play and fundamentals,” Day said. “I really impart that to him every day and just kind of relaying some of that information to him. I think he really appreciates that. But he’s also been coached at a high level to this point too, so it’s just really building upon it at this point.”
Day was an offensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014 with Boston College. During those seasons, the Eagles averaged 27.7 and 26.2 points per game.
Davis brings in more “next level” coaching experience than Day, most notably as a coach under NFL defensive masterminds Bill Cowher, Dick LeBeau, Wade Phillips, Marvin Lewis and Dom Capers. Entering his 26th season of coaching, Davis has belonged to coaching staffs of nine different NFL teams.
Players have been feeling the differences in the way he coaches, and compare it to an authentic, NFL style.
“Definitely. The first day, the first meeting, you could tell,” junior linebacker Jerome Baker said. “This has to be a NFL meeting room because, the way he coach(es), his style especially, is geared toward pro athletes. You could tell that he’d been in the NFL for a few years.”
Davis has coached numerous notable NFL linebackers, such as D’Qwell Jackson, Connor Barwin and Kevin Greene. Like Day, Davis also sees similarities in the OSU program and the NFL.
“As much as it can be,” Davis said. “The difference is the classes that the young men have to go to, we don’t have in the NFL. So the structure of the work is a little bit different. But what separates the Ohio State guys is the total growing of the man. I really am in awe of how coach Meyer and his staff and the system grows a human being, not just a football player. So what we found in the NFL is when Ohio State guys come, their mental toughness, because they go through this system of the grind, of hard, they come in so mentally tough, it’s tough to trip up Ohio State guys. So that’s why you see the young guys succeeding in the NFL. Because the talent level is the same.”
There is still plenty of time for things to change, but the overall impression the new coaches have made on the staff has been positive. The impact of Day and Davis will be on display on April 15 in Ohio Stadium during the spring game, with kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m.