In his first public appearance as acting head coach of the Ohio State football team, Ryan Day reminded everyone multiple times he has never planned to be in his current position for long.
“It has been a whirlwind,” Day said of taking the reins of the program when Urban Meyer was placed on leave Aug. 1, two days before the start of preseason practice.
After a university-commissioned investigation found Meyer mismanaged former assistant coach Zach Smith over a period of years, Meyer’s leave was converted to a suspension that will last through Saturday when Ohio State opens the season at home against Oregon State.
That leaves Day in charge on a day-to-day basis for the rest of this week. Meyer can return to the team Sunday, but he will miss the first three games (including the opener).
Although Day is one of the youngest coaches on the Ohio State staff, he has displayed the wisdom to stay out of the way while figuring out what he doesn’t know about being the man at the front of the room.
“My goal in this thing was never to replace Coach (Meyer), that’s not what I wanted to do,” Day said. “What I wanted to do is empower the coaches, empower the leaders and just keep this thing moving and I think we have done that.”
With experienced assistants such as defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (30 years in coaching, including 13 as a head coach in both college and NFL), offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson (35 years in coaching, including six as a head coach), offensive line coach Greg Studrawa (29 years in coaching) and defensive line coach Larry Johnson (36 years in coaching), that makes sense.
“What this coaching staff has done here over the past few weeks has been remarkable,” Day said. “Greg Schiano, Kevin Wilson, what they have done for me during this time is something that I’ll always be in debt for, their counsel and what they have done for me has been really something I won’t forget.”
The press conference was a reminder the 39-year-old Day has collected an impressive range of football experiences in a relatively short amount of time, too.
After playing quarterback at New Hampshire (where future coaching star Chip Kelly was a young offensive coordinator), Day worked at his alma mater, Boston College, Florida and Temple from 2002-14.
He then spent two seasons in the NFL — working for Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers — before Meyer hired him as the new quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2017.
Day name-dropped Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, whom he coached in Philadelphia, and NFL Most Valuable Player Matt Ryan, who was at Boston College when Day was there, on Monday and mentioned playing for Kelly before later working with him.
Kelly, now the head coach at UCLA, is among those in his corner now.
“One of the things that really helped me along the way was I got a text message and I get it just about every other day from one of my mentors, Chip Kelly, and he says, ‘You’re built for this,’” Day said. “That’s what he told me. And that’s the thing I keep going to every morning when I wake up is that I’m built for this. Because there is no script, there’s no game plan, and again, my goal was never to make it about me or try to replace Coach (Meyer), it’s all about the players and the coaches and empower them and that’s what my instinct has told me and so that’s what we’re going with.”
Day has made a believer out of Schiano, who is 13 years older than Day but did not give a hint of jealousy at being passed over for the interim job this month.
“Ryan’s only been here a year and I’ve only been here going on my third year, so I didn’t know Ryan before he came,” Schiano said. “We have gotten, I would say, in the last 30 days a lot closer. And that’s been neat because he’s a special guy, he’s got a bright, bright future.
“We have a program here and as Ryan has told our staff and told our players, he’s holding the spot until Coach gets back. So we have a program, we have a philosophy, we have core values, we’re sticking to the plan. But within the plan there’s daily decisions that must be made and I told Ryan, listen, hear me out, hear Kevin out, but at the end of the day you have to do what you feel comfortable with, because your name now is in front of that program.”