Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer will officially announce his retirement at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, where Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith will name Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Ryan Day the program’s next head coach. The Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl appearance against Washington will mark the end of Meyer’s seven-year tenure at Ohio State, where he has an 82-9 record including a national championship.
If you exclude the 2011 season coached by Luke Fickell, who’s now the head coach at Cincinnati, Ohio State has only had five head coaches since 1951. Meyer had the shortest tenure in Columbus of that group, which includes Woody Hayes (28 seasons), John Cooper (13 seasons), Jim Tressel (10 seasons) and Earle Bruce (9 seasons).
It’s not unusual for coaches to spend a decade-plus in Columbus, and Ohio State has finished in the top five of the final AP Top 25 poll in 11 of the last 16 seasons, so it’s undoubtedly one of the best jobs in college football.
That brings us back to Day, who served as Ohio State’s interim head coach for the first three games of the season, and will become the program’s 25th head coach beginning in the 2019 season.
Who is Ryan Day, and what will he bring to the table as the next head coach at Ohio State?
All things considered, Day made a relatively quick climb to become Ohio State’s head coach after arriving in Columbus in 2017 to be the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. He spent the previous two seasons in the NFL as the quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers (2016) and Philadelphia Eagles (2015) under head coach Chip Kelly.
Day’s connection to Kelly dates back to the University of New Hampshire, where Day was a starting quarterback and Kelly was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Day also has offensive coordinator experience at Temple and Boston College, the latter of which produced a Heisman Trophy finalist and 2,000-yard rusher in running back Andre Williams in 2013.
Ohio State’s offensive production under Day in the last two seasons – combined with his NFL background and tutelage under Kelly, who’s considered a great offensive mind – should inspire confidence among Buckeye fans.
The Buckeyes have had a top-10 scoring offense (43.5 ppg in 2018, 41.1 ppg in 2017) since Day joined Meyer’s staff, and they were second in passing offense this season with first-year starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who headlined an offense that has averaged 373 passing yards per game.
If this college football season taught us anything, especially in light of the College Football Playoff selection committee’s final decisions, it’s that teams can ride an offensive juggernaut to the playoff even if they have an average — or worse — defense.
Alabama and Clemson rank in the top-five in scoring offense and scoring defense, but they’re operating at a higher level than any other programs in the playoff era, so they’re the gold standard. Oklahoma earned the No. 4 seed this season with the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense at 49.5 points per game and a defense that ranks No. 96 in points allowed. To a lesser degree, Ohio State was built in a similar mold as Oklahoma this season with an offense that ranked eighth and a defense that ranked 54th.
Day’s three-game sample size this season as an acting head coach is obviously small and two of the three games came against arguably the worst Power Five teams in the sport (Oregon State and Rutgers), but the results were encouraging if you’re an Ohio State fan. The Buckeyes beat Oregon State 77-31 and Rutgers 52-3 at home, followed by a 40-28 win over then-No. 15 TCU in Arlington, Texas.
The margins of victory likely affected the play-calling to some degree, but Ohio State ran 56 percent rushing plays (135) to 44 percent passing plays (105) in the three games.
Even if Haskins, the Heisman Trophy finalist who’s a redshirt sophomore, were to be a “one-and-done” and declare for the NFL draft after his only season as the team’s starting quarterback, backup Tate Martell was productive in September, albeit while taking limited snaps against significantly inferior competition.
He was 10-of-10 for 121 yards and a touchdown with eight carries for 95 yards and another score against Rutgers.
For the season, Martell was 23-of-28 for 269 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, with 22 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was named Big Ten Quarterback of the Year last season, and this year Haskins is a finalist for college football’s greatest individual honor. Barrett was a dual-threat quarterback, while Haskins, who’s much more of a pro-style quarterback, has thrown for 4,580 yards and 47 touchdowns. The team’s offensive success in successive seasons with two different types of quarterbacks shows the versatility and adaptability of Day.
Day will have big shoes to fill by taking over for Meyer, who has won three national championships in his career and averaged just 1.2 losses per season in Columbus, but his offensive track record and NFL coaching experience (read: a valuable part of his sales pitch in recruiting players who hope to make it to the NFL someday) make him a promising in-house coaching hire.