For Ryan Day, it did not feel like his first spring practice as the Ohio State head coach. For him, it felt like this past preseason, running the show in the absence of the suspended head coach Urban Meyer through the first three games of the regular season.
There was a level of comfort there, a natural feeling attached to overseeing his first program at any level, watching as assistant athletic director in football sport performance Mickey Marotti ran the show.
“That was just kind of the way it was: got into a rhythm there those first two months, so jumping right back into that,” Day said.
But in the first spring practice ahead of the 2019 season, things were different. Five new coaches were roaming around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, putting their first stamp on the players assigned to them. A new quarterback was running with the first-team offense, one that was not on the roster prior.
And Day had more of a responsibility over all of it, something he is not necessarily used to yet.
“I do have to force myself to walk over to the defensive side every now and again just to make sure I am keeping an eye on all that because my natural reaction is to go right ot the quarterbacks and get those guys going,” Day said.
The infrastructure surrounding the program and the culture Meyer had built in his tenure at Ohio State had not changed much, as Day said would happen when it was announced he would take over as the head coach. He said there will be changes to the program periodically, but that he believes in the the culture the previous head coach set in stone.
Day said he has a group that believes in the culture as well, calling the energy excellent in the first spring practice. He said the Ohio State roster is filled with mature players who know their purpose on the field and are establishing leadership roles within the program.
“During the offseason, i think a lot of guys stepped up as leaders,” Day said. “But now we are kind of going into a new phase here, which is spring practice, and during that, we have to find out who the guys are that we can count on.”
But Day’s role on the offense will not change in his new role as the head coach. He said, come fall, he will be calling the offensive plays for the Buckeyes. However, Day said he will leave that to offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and passing game coordinator Mike Yurcich in the spring.
However, there are some new decisions that need to be made.
With the transfer of former Rutgers redshirt senior guard Jonah Jackson and putting senior offensive lineman Kevin Woidke on scholarship for the spring, Ohio State is two players over the scholarship limit. Day said there has been no update on roster moves at this point.
New-look offensive line
Even with the loss of junior offensive tackle Thayer Munford for the spring with what Day called a back injury, the Ohio State offensive line will look very different from last season.
The Buckeyes lost four of five starting offensive linemen from the past season, with redshirt sophomore Wyatt Davis gaining some playing time late in the season, which Day called huge for the line as a whole.
With this, Day said the offensive line will be a major point of emphasis during spring camp.
“When you look at what we have coming back, guys have played, but we don’t have a lot of guys that have a lot of starting experience,” Day said. “We do have some guys with experience, but solidifying up front is going to be very important for us.”
Jackson, a former three-star guard in the 2015 class, is expected to make an impact in terms of depth on the line when he arrives at Ohio State. Day said Jackson will provide the depth that the line needs moving forward.
With Jackson not in Columbus and with Munford sidelined, the Ohio State offensive line had redshirt senior Josh Alabi at left tackle, redshirt junior Gavin Cupp at left guard, redshirt sophomore Josh Myers at center, Davis at right guard and redshirt senior Branden Bowen at right tackle.
Along with Munford, senior safety Jordan Fuller will be sidelined for spring practice. Day said it’s a lower extremity issue he had surgery on in the offseason.
Day also said sophomore defensive tackle Taron Vincent, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jerron Cage and junior running back Demario McCall were each sidelined during the first spring practice with nagging injuries. Each of these players are expected to be back at practice after their spring break next week.
Junior cornerback Marcus Williamson and redshirt freshman safety Marcus Hooker both participated in practice with orange non-contact jerseys on.
After suffering a foot injury in the second half of the loss to Purdue on Oct. 20, keeping him out for the remainder of the season, senior wide receiver Austin Mack did not seem to have many setbacks in practice, running full speed and cutting, catching passes from sophomore quarterback Justin Fields.