When the clock strikes noon on August 31st, Ryan Day coach his first game as the 25th Head Coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Yet, thanks to last year’s ugliness, this will be the second time we’ve seen Day calling the shots on the opening Saturday. To say this all has a familiar ring to it would be understatement. The last 12 months have seen—to use the language of yesteryear—many a “bad humour” swirl through the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. At times it has felt not unlike our current political climate, with fanatics on both sides and the inescapable rumors of a cover-up.
Thanks to TCU bailing on their home-and-home commitment, the young man filling the shoes of Urban Meyer will cut his teeth against the Fighting Lane Kiffins of FAU. Buckeye fans and Lane Kiffin haters everywhere (which accounts for about 99% of humanity in total) are hoping the game proves to be a snoozer.
Certainly, things will look quite different for OSU on both sides of the ball. Gone is Dwayne Haskins—arguably the greatest QB in Buckeye history—and his often unreal pocket production. Gone as well is Greg Schiano and his often unreal collapses against garbage B1GW competition.
Much has been made about Day’s background as a QB developer. After QB coaching stints at Boston College, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the San Francisco 49ers, Day arrived in Columbus to try his hand at turning Dwayne Haskins into all he was promised to be. At least according to the reports out of OSU, he was the man behind #7’s eye-popping stats.
In many ways, this feels like a trip into the unknown for Ohio State. There’s a sense that this is a bit like the arrival of Jim Tressel, who at the time was far from a household name. But Tressel was a known quantity as a head coach, having found great success at Youngstown State. But that was 1-AA, and to a degree the Man in the Red Vest was unproven in the eyes of 1-A football. Yet like Day, Tressel was a prior OSU assistant and knew his way around the Ohio State football program. Day’s knowledge of Ohio State is an order of magnitude greater.
Now, Buckeye fans rest their hopes on the shoulders this young, “unproven” head coach. The best outcome is a Lincoln Riley situation, where the program not only fails to miss a beat but cranks up the tempo. Perhaps an OSU coach could finally win COTY with Day at the helm (unless Mark Dantonio plans to reprise his award-winning scheme of getting out of his own way).
Fans have been assured that hiring Day was the plan all along—that he’s a hot commodity in the coaching world and this is all part of a beautiful succession scheme.
Forgive me if I’m not so sure.
I think there’s a fair chance that this was the easiest and cleanest way out of an undesirable change in the coaching situation. Day is a smart coach, sure. Yet I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a bit of ex post rationalizing of the quick hire by embattled AD Gene Smith.
Day has certainly passed his first test, landing the highest average recruiting class in the B1G (91.87). The haul included three 5-stars and seven 4-stars. A notable issue was the small overall size despite only 17 commits—only Illinois landed fewer recruits.
The question now is what he can do with it.