There’s a changing of the guard at Ohio State, as Urban Meyer announced his retirement on Tuesday, with offensive coordinator Ryan Day set to take over as the program’s next head coach.
It’s stating the obvious, but it’s no secret Day inherits big shoes to fill in Columbus. Meyer went 82-9 as the head coach at Ohio State and never lost more than two games in a season. Additionally, Meyer won the 2014 national title and went 54-4 in Big Ten play.
Stepping into Meyer’s shoes and leading Ohio State to similar levels of success won’t be easy for Day. He’ll be judged against his record versus Michigan, Big Ten conference titles and trips to the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes have lost only one matchup to the Wolverines in their last 15 battles and have not finished below No. 6 in the final Associated Press ranking since 2014. And there’s also the recruiting element to consider. Ohio State’s recruiting classes have not ranked below No. 7 nationally since 2014.
However, even though this is his first time as a FBS head coach (and at one of college football’s elite jobs), there are plenty of signs Day will keep this program performing at a high level.
For starters, he’s already had a three-game stint as the head coach in 2018. Even though the schedule was favorable, Ohio State went 3-0 while Meyer was suspended. The team certainly responded to Day at the start of the season and gave athletic director Gene Smith plenty of insight into how he would run the program on a full-time basis.
Day joined the staff prior to the 2017 season and was regarded as one of the top assistant hires during the coaching carousel. The New Hampshire native spent time as an assistant at Boston College and Temple prior to being a part of Chip Kelly's staff with the Eagles (2015) and 49ers (2016). Day has a good track record of success as an assistant, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have experience working under two of the top coaches in the nation.
Day assumed the play-calling duties prior to the 2018 season, and had a noticeable impact on the offense and the development of quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Ohio State’s offense averaged 39.4 points a game in 2016 but increased that total to 41.1 in ’17 and 43.5 in ’18. After averaging 6.02 yards a play in ’16, the Buckeyes improved to 6.8 in ’17 and 6.72 in ’18. Additionally, Haskins earned a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation after tossing 47 touchdowns and throwing for 4,580 yards this year.
Hiring someone with no previous full-time experience as a head coach is always risky for a program. Ohio State is easily one of the top jobs in the nation and could have conducted a national search with plenty of interest. However, Day has already proven he’s one of the best in college football at being an offensive coordinator and gained valuable experience within the program over the last two years. Promoting him to head coach and ensuring he has all of the resources necessary to build a staff should ensure the Buckeyes won’t miss a beat in 2019 and beyond. Replicating Meyer’s record will be impossible, but Day seems poised to keep Ohio State among the best in college football.