In his first press conference as Ohio State’s acting head coach, Ryan Day wanted to talk about football.
Day began by saying he was not a part of the investigation of head coach Urban Meyer: he was not interviewed and he had nothing to add.
“Today I would like to talk about football and this team,” Day said. “Out of respect for everybody involved, I’m not going to speak today on the independent investigation, the report, or any speculation regarding it.”
As Day takes over as acting head coach for the first three games of the 2018 season and Meyer serves his three-game suspension, the repercussions of his absence still loomed as the season opener neared.
Even though he did not want to talk about the investigation, Day made clear he was not there to replace Meyer.
He said his role in the first three games of the season will be to to empower the coaching staff and his players and just keep the program up and running.
Day has taken on increased responsibility, not only tasked with becoming acting head coach, but guiding redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins during his first snaps as the starter as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
“There’s been times where I felt like I’ve been drinking through a fire hose, to be honest,” Day said. “The expectation of Ohio State is you win every game and I understand that. So there’s that added pressure there that you feel.”
As he addressed Ohio State as interim head coach, Day used the phrase “win the moment” to define the transition he has gone through. Instead of focusing on the future and what was to come, Day got his players to focus on the present, encouraging them to use their energy on the moment.
That is exactly the focus Day has on his first career game as a head coach.
“I’ve been trying to focus on today, and then tomorrow we’ll focus on tomorrow and then we just go from there,” Day said. “Because there is no script, so we’ve just been working forward.”
When Meyer was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 1, Day was contacted by athletic director Gene Smith, telling him he was going to be the acting head coach at Ohio State until the investigation and subsequent punishment was complete.
Even with two former head coaches on Meyer’s coaching staff in defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, the message Day received from Smith after he was hired was to trust his instincts.
Day had never been a head coach before. Prior to being hired as a quarterbacks coach and, eventually, promoted to offensive coordinator at Ohio State, he was a quarterbacks coach with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers.
During this time of adjustment, he leaned on one of the former coaches that mean the most to him.
“I got a text message and I get it just about every other day from one of my mentors, Chip Kelly, and he says, ‘you’re built for this,’” Day said. “That’s what he told me. And that’s the thing I keep going to every morning when I wake up, is that I’m built for this.”
As a head coach, Day said he has to watch the game a bit differently, noticing the whole picture as opposed to just the quarterbacks or the offense as a whole. He said his perspective has widened over the past month by watching players on and off the field, their attitude and mentality as they go through each aspect of a specific practice.
Being on staff with him for one season, Schiano, as a defensive coordinator, said he has not directly seen the work Day has done on the field.
But, in Day’s time as head coach, Schiano said he’s very impressed.
“I mean, he’s got the ‘it,’” Schiano said. “When you work on the other side of the ball, you really don’t get to sit in the room with him very much and game plan and do all that stuff. So our relationship was more friends than professional, we don’t do a lot together professionally. Observing him over the last whatever it is, 25 days, he’s got the ‘it.’”
Day said he does not think Ohio State has missed a beat since Meyer was placed on administrative leave. He said that is due to the culture of the team, the leadership and example that the newly named captains have shown through preseason camp.
That was his goal all along.
When he runs onto the field on Sept. 1, in front of his Ohio State team, Day said he will not view it as his head coaching debut. Yes, his family will be in attendance, but he views himself as just a placeholder until Meyer returns.
“This isn’t one of those things where I’m becoming the head coach,” Day said. “This is just something that I’m holding the place for coach until he gets back and the goal is to win the game against Oregon State.”