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Football: Ryan Day takes over Ohio State with high expectations

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, head-coach-in-waiting Ryan Day and athletic director Gene Smith listen to questions from the media during the press conference at the Fawcett Center on Dec. 4. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The expectations for any head coach at Ohio State remains the same: to beat Michigan and beat everyone else.

Ryan Day knows that, being on the staff as an offensive coordinator for the past two seasons and working as the interim head coach during head coach Urban Meyer’s suspension for the first three games of the season.

But this does not take away the oddities of promoting Day, a 39-year-old offensive coordinator with NFL and college experience, but without any long-term head coaching experience at any level. At a program like Ohio State, a program that brings in the top recruits in the country, a program that brought in two former head coaches as coordinators, Day is not the typical head coaching hire.

But this was something Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Meyer had been preparing from, molding Day into the head coach in-waiting and not wanting to make any drastic personnel changes.

“Our program does not need disruption,” Smith said. “It does not need to blow up and have people come in and try and adapt to our standards of operation and try and change the infrastructure that we’ve put in place for the student-athlete.”

Even without knowing that the 2018 season would be his final season as the head coach of the Buckeyes, Meyer knew that a succession plan had been put in place, granting Day increased responsibility within the program.

Day is cognizant of the work Meyer has done and the legacy he has left through the seven seasons he has been a head coach.

“The footprint that he’s left here and the infrastructure is strong,” Day said. “And knowing that and being here for two years and seeing exactly how it’s been done gives me great confidence.”

When Day officially takes over for Meyer on Jan. 2, he said people should expect to see a team that is tough, that has great energy and is creative, which are values he has lived by in his coaching career.

Day stems from the coaching tree of former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, serving as his offensive coordinator in his NFL stops with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

In his two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State, Day led both an offense that led the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 243.2 yards per game on the ground in 2017, and passing, averaging 373 yards per game through the air this season.

Day has shown an ability to adapt and create a unique offense, developing a scheme that best suits the personnel he has available. This is something he feels strongly about moving forward, saying his offense will have an ability to “modify and adapt” to the players he has.

There is no question that Day’s specialty is in the offense, and it shows in the ways the offensive players listen to him to create the Ohio State offense.

“I know their love and respect for Ryan Day is very clear,” Meyer said. “Defensive players don’t know him quite as well. The offensive players are over the top because I gauge that quite a bit, certainly last night but even before that, and witnessed it.”

Without much defensive experience, Day and Ohio State averaged 20.67 points per game in his three games as head coach at the start of the 2018 season, allowing only three points and 134 yards of offense to Rutgers in Week 2.

Day said Ohio State, defensively, will continue to be aggressive with multiple fronts, calling it “sound and simple” so that players will have the ability to play fast.

On special teams, Day said it will continue to do what Meyer has always done: incorporate the best players into the kickoff and punt return teams, calling it “the tip of the spear of the program.”

With Day working under Meyer, Smith is confident in him continuing the success even in the time of transition.

“Ryan has lived it. He’s seen it,” Smith said. “For us to have a person with his high IQ and EQ, with the understanding of what we’re all about to step into this leadership role, significant, significant.”

But Smith said that he does expect Day to win games, saying it is an expectation for him as the head coach. But this is something Meyer believes the new head coach can do.

“I believe in Buckeye Nation, because I lived it my entire life. I believe that this is a different place. And I want to help in any way I can,” Meyer said. “And I believe in our new head coach.”

This is something Day has been waiting for. It’s the job he has wanted ever since he was a kid, watching Ohio State play Michigan.

“I remember being on my grandfather’s couch and watching the game,” Day said. “And just the respect I had for this place, and it was always a dream of mine.”

The dream is now beginning.

The dream has now been fulfilled.

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