LOS ANGELES — When Ryan Day started his coaching career, he wanted to make himself stand out.
That was his main focus when starting out at New Hampshire, and it was the driving force behind his decision to follow Chip Kelly into the NFL as a quarterbacks coach.
Day knew he needed to work to be different to make it, and now, less than a week until he officially moves from Ohio State offensive coordinator to Ohio State head coach, he has an opportunity to use his past to differentiate himself from the coaches before him.
“A few years ago, I had to make a decision kind of where my career was going. I made a hard decision to coach in NFL and focus all my time on the quarterback play and the pro-passing game. I thought that would differentiate myself in the coaching profession,” Day said. “That’s what I did for two years, and I felt that gave me a little bit of edge in coaching.”
Ohio State takes on Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, the last game of Urban Meyer’s head coaching career as he steps into a new role as assistant athletic director. Day is set to take over the next day, his first time as a head coach at any level in his coaching career.
Day said the change feels a little more real every single day, and the transition has not been a drastic one in his final week as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“It’s actually been even smoother than I thought it would be,” Day said. “It’s been really good and things have been kind of business as usual, and then on the second we go from there.”
On Jan. 2, Day goes from there, goes on to a head coaching job of a team that never finished outside the top 12 in the Associated Press Top 25 in Meyer’s tenure.
Now, the focus remains on the Rose Bowl. Day appears to not want it all to set in until after the matchup with the Huskies is over.
But it’s no secret Day’s future position is the ultimate dream achieved for the 39-year-old offensive coordinator.
“It’s something I’ve been working for my whole career,” Day said. “My philosophy and values are so much in line with what’s here right now, and I want to keep that culture going and the infrastructure this year going right now.”
For four more days, Day said it will be business as usual for Ohio State.
For the next four days, the practices will remain the same, Day’s position remains the same and Meyer’s position as head coach will remain the same.
On the surface, Ohio State will remain the same team that finished 12-1.
It will remain the same team that both lost brutally to Purdue and won handedly against Michigan. It is the same team that won the Big Ten, missed the College Football Playoff and found itself in the Rose Bowl.
It is the same team that was led by Day for the first three games before Meyer came and returned for the next 10.
But as much as Day said the outlook of the team remains the same up through Jan. 1, the change is on its way.
For Day, it is not any individual thing he is preparing for when that day comes: It’s a little bit of everything.
“I don’t know if it’s one thing,” Day said. “You understand you have a list of things you need to get done. You go about the business of starting it up and ready to roll.”
Many coaches dream of earning a college head coaching job, especially at a program with a history like Ohio State.
But Day has been preparing for it. He has had a head coaching book for most of his coaching career, something he has taken notes in for when his time came to take the reigns of a program.
On Jan. 2, Day will have his opportunity to implement the book in the way he’s always hoped of doing.
“[The book] probably goes back a decade,” Day said. “I wanted to be a head coach ever since I started coaching. I started taking notes a long time ago.”