The first-time Ohio State head coach will be under scrutiny well before the season begins
"You've got 55,000 students, average ACT 31. You've got 36 sports. Over half our student-athletes have over a 3.0. And the expectation, like I told Ryan Day, here at Ohio State is win every game — you forgot a couple things; win every game, graduate. With Gene Smith, have them over a 3.0. Every player stay out of trouble and every player be a high draft pick. And as I usually follow up with it, 'Go get it, tiger' ..." Such were the words of encouragement from outgoing Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer to his successor, current offensive coordinator Ryan Day, on Dec. 4. Meyer will conclude his successful tenure as Ohio State's head coach after The 2019 Rose Bowl game against Washington, and Day will officially become Ohio State's head coach on Jan. 2, 2019.
While Day has earned the praise and respect of Ohio State fans for his management of the offense, as well as how he piloted the team during Meyer's three-game suspension to open the season, there is understandably some concern about how prepared the 39-year-old is to take over the program.
Day has never been a head coach, and Ohio State is one of the top jobs in the entire country, but one that comes with high demands and expectations. The last time Ohio State hired a head coach with no head coaching experience was Paul Bixler in 1946. Bixler resigned after one season, leaving Columbus for Colgate after going 4-3-2.
Ohio State fans recognize that the performances of Jim Tressel and Meyer have provided the football program years of tremendous results, with multiple Big Ten championships, two national championships, and a dominating 16-2 record against "That Team Up North," the Michigan Wolverines, from 2001-18. Day seems prepared and confident for maintaining the high level of standards that Ohio State football has become used to over the years.
Below are five areas to keep an eye on, as the Meyer era comes to an end and Day's tenure begins.
1. 2019 recruiting class
The continuity of recruiting was paramount in this decision to promote from within versus conducting a national search. The early signing period for next year's class takes place on Dec. 19, and Ohio State did not want to lose any of their current verbal commitments. Even Urban Meyer recognized the importance of recruiting in this decision, stating, "if you sign a scholarship and the coach decides to leave after that they’re free to go. So this was — and people will say, why would you let recruiting get in the way. That’s a silly question. That’s the blood — you want to have a good team you recruit. And you recruit very hard."
With only a little more than a week before the early signing period, Ryan Day's focus has been geared towards keeping the current verbal commitments in place, trying to ensure that his debut season goes as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.
2. Defensive adjustments
During his introductory press conference on Dec. 4, Day stated, "On defense, we’ll be aggressive, with multiple fronts, sound and simple for the players so that they will have the ability to play fast." While that may sound like stereotypical coachspeak for most fans, Ohio State fans are left wondering what that could possibly mean for the current defensive coaches on the staff. The Buckeyes have been terribly inconsistent on defense this season in many areas, so all eyes will be on Day to see if he makes any changes to that part of his staff after the bowl game.
3. Offensive philosophy
Meyer's love of the quarterback zone-read is legendary, as he was among the innovators of the spread offense in college football. Day's influence upon the offense has been profound, as Dwayne Haskins has had the greatest statistical season in Ohio State football history, earning Haskins a trip to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist. While many people believe Haskins is going to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, it bears watching to see what changes, if any, Day makes on offense now that he's the man in complete charge.
4. Learn from Clemson and Oklahoma
Very simply, these programs are textbook examples of how previous assistants with no head coaching experience were elevated to the top spot, and the programs were able to thrive under the new leadership. Both Clemson (Dabo Swinney) and Oklahoma (Lincoln Riley) are in the College Football Playoff and the hope is that Day will be able to emulate what has worked at those programs. On the other hand...
5. "To thine own self be true"
William Shakespeare wrote those words in Hamlet, and Meyer expressed a similar sentiment in the Dec. 4 press conference. "First, he’s got to be him. And that was great advice to me as a young coach from Lou Holtz and Coach Bruce, you can’t try to be someone else."
While Day has served under Meyer for the past two seasons and will keep several aspects of his former mentor's program in place, it will be essential for Day to show the players that he is his own man. To try to run the program in the exact same manner that Meyer will not work, and the program will suffer as a result.