Ohio State’s 2018 season-opening game against Oregon State on Saturday figures to bring even more newness and unknown than the usual lid-lifter.
Oh, sure, there will be the typical array of new starters, including Dwayne Haskins taking over at quarterback and Wayne graduate Robert Landers joining the first-team defensive line.
Michael Jordan is the new starting center, the first-team linebacking corps is expected to have a completely different look from last season and the secondary will be 50 percent new.
Speaking of the defensive backs, they are coached by two men who weren’t on the coaching staff last year in safeties coach Alex Grinch and cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson. (Johnson, a former star player at Wittenberg, also served as OSU cornerbacks coach from 2007-11).
The receivers are also under new management but via a familiar face: Former Ohio State receiver Brian Hartline is the interim receivers coach. He replaces Zach Smith, who was fired after a protective order against him was granted to his ex-wife and a trespassing charge came to light. The fallout from that also included an investigation into how head coach Urban Meyer handled previous allegations Smith committed domestic violence, and Meyer was suspended for six weeks and three games after being found to have mismanaged Smith.
Of course, Meyer being sidelined (or, to be more accurate, not on the sideline) also changes the equation for the coaching staff.
Acting head coach Ryan Day said important in-game decisions (such as when to go for it on fourth down) will be handled by the triumvirate of Day, Kevin Wilson and Greg Schiano.
Although Day will be a first-time head coach Saturday, Wilson and Schiano have both been head coaches in the past so they have experience being The Man on game day.
Wilson wasn’t available for interviews during the week, but Schiano said he anticipated his role will not change much.
“I think I’ll do pretty much the same way I did with Coach Meyer,” Schiano said. “We were constantly in communication, he and I. If there was, you know, a no-brainer penalty, we never talked about it, but if there’s things to weigh we always talked about it, how did it affect the defense, how did it affect the offense.
“We would have a three- or four-way conversation going, but, again it’s the head coach’s job to make the final decision. You can take the information, and often times you have to take that information and make a decision in about 12 seconds, right? It’s not like you have an hour to think about it. So that’s what Ryan will do and that’s where I’m here to help him, that’s where Kevin’s here to help him and our whole staff is.”
What about play calling?
That will be a group effort, too, but that is always the case — and what play is actually called at any given time is often heavily dependent on what the game plan dictates based on pregame research and what worked in practice. It is not a snap decision made at the whim of the head coach or offensive coordinator.
“Well, it’s like anything else, I think some of the best coaching is done during the week,” Day said. “The decisions that are made during the week in terms of strategy and what you’re doing on the field, I think that the stuff that’s done in the offseason in terms of finishing and toughness and willing to go out there in the fourth quarter and go win a game, that stuff is done in the offseason.
“So I think so much of it has to do with leading up to the game. During the game, obviously the motivation before the game, sometimes the in-game decisions are important, but I think so much of it has to do with what you do leading up to the game and the decisions that are made midweek.”