By Jim Naveau, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMBUS – Now is not the time to reflect, Ryan Day said when it was pointed out that Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of his hiring as Ohio State’s football coach.
There is a lot to look back on but he says he will think about that sometime after Saturday’s Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin and whatever game or games OSU plays after that.
“I really don’t want to reflect on this until we get through that finish line because I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do at this point,” Day said. “I am looking forward to reflecting on it and everything that has gone on this year. But I don’t think now is the time.
“I really want to get the team ready and the coaching staff ready to go win this game,” he said.
Turning the clock back a year, Day was a highly regarded offensive coordinator in his second year at Ohio State who had stepped in as acting coach when Urban Meyer was suspended for the first three games last season.
When Meyer announced he was stepping down as Ohio State’s coach two days after beating Michigan for the seventh straight time, athletic director Gene Smith moved quickly to hire Day, who had no head coaching experience other than putting Meyer’s plans into place for three games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU.
Some people thought replacing a legend like Meyer required a longer and wider national search, but Smith – whose three biggest hires are Meyer, Day and men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann – was convinced he didn’t have to go beyond the Woody Hayes Center to find the right man.
After a 12-0 regular season, being No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, a chance to win a third straight Big Ten championship and beating Michigan for an eighth time in a row, that decision seems to have turned out pretty well.
Day is the first Ohio State assistant elevated to the head coach’s job since 1946 when Paul Bixler moved up, then moved out after one year when OSU went 4-3-2 and tied for sixth in the Big Ten.
Day was a record-setting quarterback at the University of New Hampshire, where his offensive coordinator was Chip Kelly.
He was an assistant coach at Temple, Boston College, New Hampshire and Florida He was quarterbacks coach for Kelly when he was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers before Meyer hired him in 2017 to be OSU’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
When there were rumors the Tennessee Titans were interested in making him their offensive coordinator in 2018, Meyer made him offensive coordinator, put him in charge of play calling and gave him a raise.
On the day Day was introduced as Meyer’s successor, Smith said, “It’s rare that you have the opportunity to create a succession plan where you have the right person in place. I wouldn’t have him here if he couldn’t X and O. Let’s be clear, he’s got to win games. He knows that.
“We recognized the talent Ryan Day had early. He had an opportunity to audition in a different way, not relative to winning on the field, but how he mastered leading not just the football staff but everyone around it,” Smith said.
Smith also said he had talked with many Ohio State players and felt Day “would be embraced” by the team.
That seems to be the case, judging by what some players said earlier this week.
“It’s crazy to see how he’s developed in his first year as a head coach,” receiver Austin Mack said.
“He’s a great guy and a great coach, and I love to be able to play for him.”
Defensive lineman DaVon Hamilton said, “Having him step in here and do the things he’s done so far this season is really spectacular.
“Not too many people expected that out of him. The fact he’s been such a good head coach for us made us trust him even more. If we just had a brand new coach come out of any random place, that would have been a lot different. But the fact he was already here, most of the guys knew him already, made it easier to transition,” he said