COLUMBUS — Graduate transfer running back Trey Sermon officially became part of Ohio State’s football program last week, so the NCAA restrictions on head coach Ryan Day talking about him were removed.
And, once he could talk, Day had lots of good things to say about Sermon, who is eligible immediately and could be the Buckeyes’ starting running back when, or if, the season begins.
Sermon rushed for more than 2,000 yards in three seasons at Oklahoma with his best season coming in 2018 when he gained 947 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
His announcement nearly a month ago that he was transferring to Ohio State lessened some major concerns about OSU’s running back situation with J.K. Dobbins leaving for the NFL, his back-up last season, Master Teague, going down on the first day of spring practice and Marcus Crowley still recovering from an ACL injury late last season.
“Master getting hurt in the spring put us behind the 8-ball a little bit in terms of depth,” Day said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “When Trey became available, we did a lot of research and made a lot of calls. The people at Oklahoma had great things to say about him.
“We played against him. We saw what he could do on the field. He’s a really good player. But off the field, the people who know him have such great things to say about him. He’s a very good student. It was hard because we didn’t really have an opportunity to spend face-to-face time with him but we did the best we could with teleconferencing. I was very impressed with our conversations with him.”
Sermon suffered a knee injury late last season when he was the back-up to Oklahoma’s featured back, Kennedy Brooks.
“This transfer thing is kind of the way college football is going,” Day said. OSU added quarterback Justin Fields and offensive lineman Jonah Jackson as key parts of its offense in 2019 as transfers.
“We had to ask a lot of questions (about Sermon) and everything came back positive. He can do a lot of things. He’s big, strong and powerful. He can break tackles, he can run routes out of the backfield, he can pass protect. We’re fired up he’s a Buckeye,” he said.
Some other thoughts from Day:
• More players transferring has changed the way some coaches do their job. “I think what it really is forcing us to do is communicate better, which is something I believed in all along. I tell our recruits all the time that you’re going to get treated the way you were recruited. Anything other than that is not going to work. Now, more than ever, that is the case.”
“I think you have to be really honest in recruiting and give them constant feedback once they’re here,” he said. “The transfer world is kind of the new norm and we have to adapt to it. It’s like anything else in life — you can fight it or you can adapt to it. And we’re trying to adapt to it.”
• He would be OK with a shortened season, a season made up of only Big Ten games or even playing games without fans.
“Any football is better than no football,” Day said.”I think we have to keep talking this through. The first concern is public health and the student-athletes’ welfare and well being. We have to start with that. We have to look at all different options. I think we will come up with a great solution if we put our minds to it.
“We need to look at all options. If the ideal solution arrives, great. But if not, what are we going to do to come up with some sort of football and keep everybody safe and healthy.”
His concern with playing in an empty stadium is similar to what Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has said.
“I think the biggest challenge with that is if it is not safe for the fans, how is it safe for the players and coaches?” Day said.
• Not having spring practice won’t hurt Fields’ development but it could be an issue for his back-ups. “I don’t think that spring practice is going to set Justin too far back. We still have preseason camp and he has a whole season under his belt. Where I think it is going to be felt more is with the other guys (back-up quarterbacks Gunnar Hoak, Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud),” Day said.
“I don’t think spring would have made that much difference with Justin. There’s nothing like playing a whole season. That’s the big thing and he’s got that.”
• He might approve of an expanded College Football Playoff this season to regain some of the money lost if games are canceled if that is necessary but says more information is needed.
“I think anything is worth considering,” Day said. “Until we know what we’re dealing with this season it’s hard to even have conversations like that. Until we know our parameters it’s hard to make any decisions. I think everything is on the table. We have to listen to all those conversations. The more ideas the better.”
• The biggest thing he misses with not being able to coach his team is being around his players and coaches.
“I think this is going to bring us closer together. We just miss each other. That’s probably the hardest part, not to be able to hang around and be around our team. I keep telling the guys, ‘I miss you guys and can’t wait to get back together,’” he said.