After a strong first season together, Ryan Day and Justin Fields’ strengthened relationship could pay dividends on the field come Oct. 24.
During an extended offseason, the Buckeye head coach and junior quarterback used the time to develop their relationship with one another. Day said the increased time they’ve had together has given him a better understanding of Fields’ tendencies.
“This time has allowed us to spend a little more time together. I have the chance to learn more about what makes him tick,” Day said. “He’s a special young man that I’ve really grown very close to. I think the world of him and I’m just so happy he has the opportunity to play this season.”
The Buckeye passing attack had a strong outing in the first season of the Day and Fields connection as Fields threw for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns while completing 67.2 percent of his passes.
Fields is the first quarterback that Day will get a second year to develop since arriving at Ohio State in 2017 as the quarterbacks coach.
Day said that Fields has become much more involved in the offense and he has begun to understand why Day makes specific play calls.
“When you have somebody here multiple years, the first year they’re trying to learn the offense. They’re trying to figure out how to make it work, the ins and the outs. Then, when they become fluent in the language, they start to learn the ‘whys,’” Day said. “We’re getting to the point now when he hears a call, he knows what I’m thinking, he knows what (offensive coordinator) Kevin Wilson is thinking and that’s really important and that’s when you can take it to the next level.”
Fields said the need to gain a better grasp of the offense stems from his desire to be one of the nation’s top players this season.
Having already been in the system for a season, Fields said that having a second year to develop under Day has made him more confident and more in control of the offense.
“I think the amount of confidence I have now and the control I have over the offense and just our players and our coaches, the tools around me. I feel more confident now,” Fields said. “This year, this offseason, I’m definitely more comfortable.”
During the extended offseason, Fields said he and Day worked with one another extensively by watching film and putting in work on the field.
“Instead of practicing, I would go in and lift and then I would meet with coach Day,” Fields said. “I think that helped me a lot and it helped me just pick his brain, kinda seeing what he wants and seeing what he thinks is more efficient.”
Prior to his arrival at Ohio State, Day worked as the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers under his mentor Chip Kelly, who served as head coach.
Looking ahead to his professional career, which could potentially follow this season, Fields said he has relied on Day’s NFL experience and expertise to point him in the right direction in terms of the NFL process.
“Having coach Day’s experience in the NFL, he’s a guy that’s been there before so he knows what they’re looking for and how that system works,” Fields said. “I think me just being by him and me learning from him daily, I think that’ll prepare me enough to make me the best football player I need to be at the end of the day.”
Day also played quarterback in college, starting three seasons for New Hampshire.
Quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis said that Day’s quarterback playing and coaching background has helped in developing the quarterback friendly system at Ohio State.
“Coach Day is arguably one of the best quarterbacks coaches in the United States of America, what he does with his offense is unbelievable,” Dennis said. “When you have a play caller who is also the head coach and who also has a quarterback background, that is unbelievably valuable for a quarterback.”
Fields echoed Dennis’ sentiment on Day’s standing as a quarterback mentor, calling him the “best quarterback coach in the country.”
In an offseason that began following a devastating interception and a 29-23 loss at the hands of the Clemson Tigers at the Fiesta Bowl Dec. 28, Day said that Fields has used the loss as motivation ahead of the upcoming season.
“One thing about Justin is he doesn’t get rattled, he’s very composed. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low but he’s driven and his fire runs really hot inside,” Day said. “I know leaving that field last year just fueled his fire and that’s really what’s motivated him this whole offseason.”