Big Ten Conference Football Media Days
Thursday July 18, 2019
Ryan Day – Ohio State
RYAN DAY: I just want to, again, thank Jim Delany for everything he’s done for the Big Ten. I haven’t been around here to see everything he’s done, but obviously what he’s done and the opportunities he’s provided for everybody involved with the conference is tremendous, and really looking forward to working with Kevin Warren moving forward and tackling some of the changes in college football and the landscape as we move into the next couple decades.
Excited to be here. Excited to be here with three great young men, Jordan Fuller, K.J. Hill and Jonathon Cooper. Jordan is a First-Team Academic All- American. He was a captain last year, leading tackler on our team.
K.J. Hill is someone who came back for his fifth year. After sitting with him and his parents, we lost three senior captain wide receivers last year, and him deciding to come back was a huge deal for us. He’s 48 catches short of breaking the school record for most career catches at Ohio State.
And then Jonathon Cooper, defensive end for us, senior who’s played a lot of football for us. He is the epitome of what it means to be a Buckeye. He’s a tremendous young man. I think you’ll enjoy speaking with all three of these guys.
This summer has been interesting. June has changed a lot. We now have official visits, so June is a bear for college football coaches, and having official visit weekends in June, it was a lot of work. Got into July and really had the staff get away from football a little bit, recharge as we head into August because this team has got a lot to prove. The coaching staff is a new coaching staff. We’ve got a lot to prove.
The offense, we lose seven guys, really eight with Mike Weber leaving, as well. It’s going to be a new quarterback under center. And then also on defense, there’s a group of guys over there who are salty who have a lot to prove. August is going to be a big month for us, and looking forward to getting going in a couple weeks.
Q. Who has the inside track to be your starting middle linebacker and what are some of the other
important position battles you face going into training camp?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, we have a lot of depth at linebacker, and with the new scheme, we actually have the ability to use different personnel groupings. We’ll put five DB’s in a game, we’ll put three linebackers in a game and kind of mix that up. Tuf Borland played a lot for us last year and he’s being pushed. He’s being pushed by Teradja Mitchell. You’re going to see Baron Browning, Malik Harrison, Pete Werner. You’re going to see a lot of these guys playing next year.
Al Washington has got his hands full. I talk to him all the time about you’ve got to figure out who’s going to play, and it’s a good thing. There’s a lot of healthy competition right there, and we want that room to look like the defensive line room has looked in the past, whereas we’ve got a lot of guys in that room that have, and Larry Johnson has built that room up to where you look at the guys who have come before and then the young guys who are there, there’s a mentorship going on in that room, and we want to build that in the linebacker room, and Al Washington is working on that.
Q. What about on the offense?
RYAN DAY: On offense, yeah, so the tight end group right now is probably the most experienced group, and Luke Farrell came back and had a really good off- season, Rashod Berry has played for us, and then Jeremy Ruckert is looking to make a push right now, so there’s battle right there with different skill sets.
The thing up front is going to be interesting because we have some guys who have some experience. Although we’ve lost four guys who are starters, Thayer Munford is the incumbent at left tackle. But other than that, Wyatt played at right guard, Josh has played some at center, but then you also have Jonah Jackson coming in from Rutgers, Branden Bowen and then Josh Alabi, and then the other guy is Nic Petit-Frere. All of those guys could play. For the most part they had good springs. They’ve had a good off-season, but the battle is really going to happen in August.
Q. Ryan, in terms of this transition you’ve gone through, what have been the challenges? You’ve kind of gone from I’m assuming less coaching to more type of thing. How has it looked in terms of how you recruit, your role changing, and sort of being the CEO of the program?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, it started with — in the summer with the staff and making some hard decisions right there, and then go about motivating the staff and hiring guys that you trust to do their job. We have so many other staff in place, whether it’s quality controls or GA’s, recruiting staff, and creating a vision there in terms of recruiting is — our No. 1 priority in the building is recruiting.
And so as the head coach, as the position coach, anybody else in the building, that’s the first things we focus on every day. And then from there it’s what we call power the unit, which is motivating their units, and then at the end it’s enhancing the scheme.
And so constantly talking to the guys about that, and as football coaches a lot of times we want to hit on scheme, we want to talk about plays, but it’s more about recruiting and about working with our guys to create that brotherhood amongst each other and having that approach now where it’s more of a macro approach as opposed to just looking at the Xs and Os and the football and everything like that.
Still very much involved on offense, working with Kevin Wilson and Mike Yurcich on that side of the ball, and that’s the exciting thing about college football is every year that offense is going to adapt based on your personnel. Losing as many guys as we lost on offense, it’s going to look different this year, and that’s an exciting journey as we move into August.
Q. You talked I think on the day you got hired or got the job that over time you would put your personality on the program and you’d obviously make some tweaks. But you’re also trying to maintain a really successful program as it is. Have there been things already in the first six or seven months that you’ve consciously done differently, tried to change or anything at this point that’s notable?
RYAN DAY: I think the easy thing to do is to ask how are you different than Urban Meyer, and that’s not something I really like to answer because first off, you don’t replace a legend. You don’t replace one of the best football coaches in the history of the game.
What you can do is just be yourself, and I think that’s what I’m doing, and focusing on what we call tough love, tough is being tough, being tough on the field, and with our strength and conditioning program being the backbone of our program, they have to be tough. Our guys gotta be — it’s a tough game. We’ve got to make tough decisions. Leadership is tough, challenging your teammate.
But then also love, love for your brother and creating those bonds with your coach, creating those bonds with your teammates, because that’s the ultimate motivator in my opinion. Those are the things we’ve been preaching to our team, and I think there’s a lot of energy and positivity around the program.
Q. For the first time in a long time, Ohio State is not the clear favorite to win the Big Ten according to some things that have been out there. What’s your take on that? How good do you feel about your team a couple weeks before training camp starts? RYAN DAY: I feel great about the team. I love our team. I love our players. I love being around the guys. There are teams you get around where it’s a labor to go to work. That’s not the case here. These are great kids and they’re working really, really hard. But like I said, we have a lot to prove. This is a new staff. This is a new team. We haven’t done anything, and we need to do that. So the minute — first off in July, our guys have been working really, really hard. They got a break right around the 4th of July, but other than that they’ve been working, and our strength and conditioning staff of Coach Mick and everybody, they’ve been working their tails off to get themselves in shape and learned a lot of hard lessons right there in the weight room and working out.
But it’s going to come down to proving it on the field. That’s what matters in the end. We’ve got to do it as a staff. We’ve got to do it as offense, defense and special teams.
Q. Curious about Justin Fields. Kind of an uneven performance publicly in the spring game. We didn’t get to see him run, obviously. You guys obviously can see so much more during practice and use him in different ways. Curious about his development this summer and bringing in Gunnar Hoak, just what that dynamic should look like going into the preseason?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, the quarterback room, there’s not a guy in that room that was on the roster last year. There’s not in a guy in that room that was on the roster in December, other than Chris Chugunov.
So it’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar are going to compete like heck to go win the job. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.
Our schedule is funny this year. We have six games, a bye week, two games, a bye week, and then we play four games. And so in those first six games, the quarterback is going to be green. He’s not going to have a lot of experience. So the guys around him, our defense, the running game, the receivers on the end, they’ve got to pick up the slack there, and so as we go and grow throughout the season, we kind of get into that middle season hitting our stride on offense.
Q. Obviously Urban is still working for the university and my understanding is he will be working with a lot of the varsity coaches. I assume he’s available to you. Do you think you’ll talk to him much during the season?
RYAN DAY: For sure. I’d be crazy if I didn’t. First off, what he’s meant and Shelley has meant to Nina and I and our family, I could talk about that for hours. And he’s been unbelievable in terms of understanding when to be there, when to step away. He’s taken multiple phone calls from me just looking for advice on how to handle certain things.
And that would have been the case if I was anywhere else because of our relationship, but being at Ohio State and being right across the street, he’s an unbelievable resource and he’s been a huge help, and he’s going to continue to do that throughout the fall.
Q. Curious, in the past couple years the receiver rotation has gone six deep. Is that something you see continuing this year or could it fluctuate based on who you’re comfortable with at that position? RYAN DAY: We’d love to play as much depth as we can. If you look at last year, I thought when we started out the season, you had Austin and Ben at X, you had K.J. and Parris at H, and then we had Johnny and Terry at Z. And they didn’t care who caught the ball. What we were doing is we were playing really, really fast, and by the fourth quarter teams were kind of breaking down and our guys were fresh because we were playing depth. And that talks to that room and what Brian Hartline has done in terms of building unselfishness in that room. There’s a lot of receivers that want the ball. They want their catches. They want their numbers. But these guys didn’t care, and we have to keep that mentality going in that room.
But when you look at who we have coming back, I think we have a chance for that same thing. Not as much experience, but when you look at Austin and Ben, they’ve played there before, K.J. has got a ton of experience, and then Chris Olave came on at the end of the season. So we want to get to that six-, seven- man rotation if we can.
Q. I know you’ve been asked a lot about Urban Meyer, but I wanted to ask you about another one of your mentors, Chip Kelly. You played for him and then you worked for him. How much did he shape your thinking not only as a coach but the way that maybe you look at offense and the
direction that it’s headed going into the future?
RYAN DAY: Where do I even start? He’s like a father, brother, uncle to me. Known him since I’ve been six years old, spent some time with him again this summer. He’s meant everything to me in my career. He got me going. He recruited me to go to the University of New Hampshire, he coached me there, and then I coached with him in the NFL for two years.
He’s shaped it as much as — he and Urban are probably the two biggest influences, and Steve Addazio would be the third in what they’ve done for me in my career. He’s always thought outside the box. He’s been an innovator in the game, and so much of what we do is very much in line with his philosophies and some of the concepts that he built because what he did was he combined the spread run game with the pro passing game when he went to the NFL, and that’s kind of our philosophy.
Q. Some of the prognosticators and some of the magazines for the first time have Michigan winning the East. Is that something you use as bulletin board material or does your prior resume and the team’s resume speak for itself?
RYAN DAY: I think people read it. I think our guys read it. I think our guys read it, they see it. Especially with social media, it’s more available than ever. But, again, that’s not something that we focus on. I’ve talked to our guys about the expectations at Ohio State couldn’t be any higher year in and year out. We know that. But if we focus on all that, we can get ourselves distracted because it really doesn’t matter. I know that sounds like coach speak, but it’s true. Because in the end, what matters is if we win the game, and the only thing that’s going to help us do that is if we get better day in and day out and focus on right now. And, again, I know that sounds like cliché, but it’s truth and it’s what we’ve got to focus on.