October 14, 2019

🎥 Ryan Day Press Conference – Northwestern Preview

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Ohio State University Football Media Conference

Transcript

Ryan Day

Q. Coach Day, do you like the way the schedule sets up this year with the two bye weeks about two weeks apart? It’s an unusual schedule. Do you like the way it sets up or would you prefer maybe a more traditional schedule?
RYAN DAY: No, I think it gives us a chance to kind of regroup a little bit and kind of take some self-assessment of where we’re at during the season. Also heal up. So I think any time you can get a bye week, it’s great.

Q. Do you feel good about where your team is at health-wise, and what were you able to do during the bye week?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, a couple weeks to kind of heal up, and I think overall we are. We’ve played some depth this first six games, and so we’ve got a lot of guys out there, which is great, too, so we do have some depth at the positions. But like any team, six, seven weeks into the season, there are some different things, nagging injuries here and there, but overall we’ve been pretty healthy.

Q. You had said that you wanted to do some self-scouting during the bye week. What were your top-line takeaways from that?
RYAN DAY: I mean, nothing, just like you said, that just are glaringly evident. It’s just a lot of little things here and there on both sides of the ball, and when you play six games, you start to create some tendencies, you do different things, and so you just want to look to see first off personnel guys if you’re doing things the right way, and then secondly, schematically what are our tells, what are some things we need to clean up. And then as individuals, what are some things they need to get better at. So we gave all of our guys three different things they need to improve at so that we can say get better but get better at what, and there were some more targeted ideas on what we need to get better at.

Q. What is the challenge of coaching a team where the mistakes aren’t going to — I imagine the margin of return is very tight with the corrections that you have to make. What are the challenges of that?
RYAN DAY: Well, we just have to be critical, and I think the players have to understand that as coaches we’re not being over-critical, it’s just that we understand as talent equates and we start getting into these games like we do this week, it’s going to be — those issues are still there. They’re still on the film, and we have to address them, and again, as we start to get tighter, tighter competition, they’re going to show up more and more, and that’s the challenge I think for the staff and for this team to understand, the maturity to understand that the urgency to get better, even though maybe sometimes those mistakes haven’t cost us a game yet.

Q. When this game was announced Friday night, a lot of high school coaches were upset by that. Are you sympathetic to their plight? And how have you heard from them in terms of how it might hurt them and you being the guy in Ohio? Are you a sounding board for them on that?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, but I hadn’t really got much feedback from the guys on that. Just one-on-one in my conversations with high school coaches, I’m sure they don’t appreciate it, but that’s out of our hands, out of our control and not much we can do about it.

Q. Looking back to when you started as an assistant 15 years ago in college football, the reputation that Ohio State has for being a football factory, in the last few years you guys have been much more involved recruiting kids who have offers from places like Stanford, Northwestern, et cetera. Has that been easy for you guys to sell based on all that stuff, or how have you been able to push for those types of kids against the stereotypes?
RYAN DAY: Well, I think the best thing about Ohio State when you’re recruiting right now is not only can you recruit throughout the country and the reputation that we have on the field, but also off the field and what we’re doing academically. So what’s happened is we have opened up our recruiting to really everybody, but the thing that we’re doing is we’re competing against some of the top academic schools year in and year out for some of the best student-athletes. And I think what everyone is finding is not only the networking and the reach that Ohio State has and the power of our alumni is really great, but also what a great academic school Ohio State is, and all the different things and majors and different areas that guys can come in and do a great job in competing at the highest level but also then competing at the highest level in the classroom. That really has opened up a lot of doors for us and a lot of opportunities recruiting different people.

Q. Is there still a push-back like when you go around to different parts of the country from people that don’t really buy it?
RYAN DAY: I think the further away you go from Ohio, I think when people come in and see our campus and get to meet with our academic people and understand what a beautiful place this is but also the power that it has academically, I think that they learn more and more about it. I think the closer you get to Ohio State, the more they know that, in the Midwest and everything like that. I think the reputation speaks for itself. But it is great to get people who are in different parts of the country to come in and show them what we have.

Q. This is maybe a little off topic from this week’s game, but I wanted to ask you about the offense that Northwestern was running back in the day when Randy Walker and Kevin Wilson were there, it’s my understanding that Chip went and visited with those guys when he was at New Hampshire. I wonder if that ever became any kind of influence on you as a player, watching those games?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, we used to watch all the films. That was how the spread game started. We came back and called it everything that Kevin Wilson and Coach Walker and everybody called it at Northwestern. That was like the way to run the spread offense. Chip went out and visited them and came back with all the different terminology, and I was like the guinea pig quarterback to try to figure it out, and some games and some plays were better than others, but that was the start of it.

Kevin Wilson was right on the front end of that, and so yeah, the offense that we were running there, a lot of it had to do with Northwestern. There were other teams. I think Rich Rodriguez was at Clemson at the time, and Wake Forest had a part — there was different versions of it, but certainly Northwestern was right on the front end.

Q. Moving forward from that, I guess, how did it influence you as a coach, that idea that you can spread teams out like that but still run the ball?
RYAN DAY: Well, yeah, I think the idea is that you’re trying to create space, especially in today’s day and age with the size of the different players that are out there, it’s become harder and harder to run between the tackles because they’re so big and strong, and the more you can get guys out in space, the better off it is. You look at basketball, that’s the way they’re going. It’s the same thing in football. But that doesn’t take away from the toughness and the edge that you play with and block and run with, and so having the two of those, being physical but also being able to spread teams out I think is a great combination.

Q. I know most weeks obviously you’re trying to get Justin ready for a game, so maybe the backups have a harder time getting top-end live reps. Was last week a chance to do that, and where do you see Chris and Gunnar at right now?
RYAN DAY: I think that’s hard anytime you’re a backup quarterback, especially to challenge yourself to be ready. At any point, you’re one snap away from playing. But sometimes it feels like you’re miles away, and that’s the challenge of a backup quarterback.

But I think they know that, and like you said, going into the bye week, any time you have opportunities to practice like that, whether it’s spring ball, bowl practice, preseason or a bye week, certainly those guys get more and more reps to prove themselves.

Q. You expanded, you touched on the value of last week for preparation. I guess we’re starting to see Garrett Wilson come on a little bit, Jameson, Zach Harrison, Josh Proctor. Is there a sense you’re starting to add some depth with these young guys right now?
RYAN DAY: Well, they’ve gotten a lot of reps, and so they are growing and they’re developing, and they should be, because they’ve been playing more than a typical freshman would. So yeah, the more reps they get, the better they’re going to be. I think if they’re getting reps and not getting better, that’s a concern. But I do, I think a lot of those guys are coming on and getting those reps, and now they’re going to have to prove that they’re ready to play in the big time as we get into these tough environments.

Q. Where do you stand on the whole Friday night thing? Would you prefer to just play all your games on Saturday?
RYAN DAY: Again, I try not to worry about that. When the schedule comes out, we’re going to go play wherever they tell us to play. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that because it’s not really under my control or something that I can worry about. So we just — when the schedule comes out, we’ll go figure out where they’re at and we’ll go play them.

Q. Coming off the bye week, does it really not change your week at all?
RYAN DAY: We just start everything a day earlier, yep.

Q. I’m not sure we saw Demario McCall against your last opponent, Michigan State. What can you characterize why he wasn’t available, and will he be back for this game?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, that was not a coach’s decision or anything like that. That was something that came up in pregame, and he wasn’t available for us at the time.

Q. Will he be able to play do you feel?
RYAN DAY: We hope so, yeah.

Q. I think there’s a trend in college football right now where just true freshmen are contributing more. I think of Alabama, they might have six or seven guys that are true freshmen starting, which is atypical for a program like that. You guys are very similar. Why is that the case, and you have guys like Garrett who are heavily involved. Are players just more ready right now?
RYAN DAY: I actually brought that up. We talked about it this morning, talked about it with Mark Pantoni. I do think guys are more and more ready to come play. I think maybe physically they’re more ready, more exposure to different things, but I do think now more than ever, guys are more ready to play. And with the new four-game rule, it’s kind of forcing guys in there to play a little bit. They have this opportunity to get out there and prove themselves, and then they can kind of grow from there and build from there, and I guess it’s giving them an opportunity to prove that they can play right away and that they do deserve reps. I think it’s a combination of those two things.

Q. When you look at recruiting and having those discussions with Mark, you can depth chart right now and see there’s a chance this team could lose their entire secondary after this season, and you have a lot of spots to fill in recruiting in the secondary. When you’re recruiting, obviously you want every player to be as close to ready as possible when you’re recruiting them, but do you ever look through that lens of, hey, we’re going to need guys to be ready immediately, and does that change of type of player, the type of personality, the way you approach it, any differently than you would improving a position where you have a lot of depth?
RYAN DAY: Yes, yes. I think when you’re looking to recruit somebody, typically you look at them like, hey, this is a guy that we project that can come in and make a difference right away. He’s further along in his process, and so we have those conversations. You’ve got to come in here ready to play.

Then there’s other guys that you look at that are maybe a little bit more developmental, for whatever reason that is, and they’re going to take a couple years, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be great players, and everybody has this journey along the way. I talk to our players about that all the time, is that just because one person is playing earlier doesn’t mean you need to be playing earlier. Everybody has their own journey along the way, and we’ve all heard unbelievable stories about guys in their fifth year playing, guys who play right away, guys who play in their second year. Everybody has their own way. That doesn’t mean one player is better than the next. It’s just sometimes it takes a little bit longer, but certainly we try to figure out where they’re at in recruiting and then plan accordingly.

Q. Just to rehash that a little bit, if you know that you’re going to need players immediately at a certain position, you would not recruit a developmental guy at that position the year before in the anticipation that you know, hey, there’s going to be a big gap of talent here that we need to fill immediately?
RYAN DAY: It certainly becomes a lot harder if you have too many developmental guys in a position of need for sure, absolutely, yeah.

Q. How much of a conversation is there with sort of the current young cornerbacks on the team when you look at that as a position that might have some departures this off-season?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, in conversations it’s — first off, you’re one or two snaps away from being in the game and being a starter full-time, and then secondly, your time is now. You have to start having that mentality. You can’t wait until guys leave the program. You’ve got to have the approach that I’m here right now because you might be out there in the second play of the game. Or not.

But either way, at some point the passing of the torch is going to be to you, so now you’re no longer a freshman, you’re no longer a younger guy, you have to become veteran and play veteran and start to show leadership and understand that you’re going to be the guy.

There’s a lot that goes with that. There’s a much different approach with that, very much more urgency about you, and much more mature.

Q. Cam Brown is someone who you guys relied upon in the second half of last game. He’s someone who was injured last year, came in as a wide receiver. What have you seen in the past year from him to get him to this point where he’s the first cornerback off the bench for you?
RYAN DAY: A tremendous amount of growth. I think Jeff Hafley and our guys, and it’s not just Jeff, it’s everybody in the program. It’s Mick and the strength and conditioning, it’s Ryan Stamper, it’s everybody involved as you’re bringing guys along, and I think Cam would tell you that maybe six or seven months ago, he wasn’t ready for this. But he’s matured into a really good young man who’s taking care of all of his business off the field, in the classroom, and now on the field.

That’s typically what happens is that when you really start to take care of what’s going on in the classroom, you’re doing a good job off the field, you start to make plays and you start to become reliable and play with discipline, as well.

Really impressed with how far he’s come, and the good news with him, he’s got a high ceiling, and he’s got a long way to go.

Q. You were asked about Demario. I think he’s a guy that a lot of people thought would play more this year than he has. Jaelen Gill, kind of in the same boat. Both of those guys, where do you see them in terms of where they’re at right now, and what do they need to do to earn roles in the offense?
RYAN DAY: Well, Demario has had these kind of nagging injuries back and forth, and he’s had some different return opportunities, and he’s going to keep getting opportunities, and he has to make the best of those opportunities, and Jaelen is still working to fight into the depth chart.

Q. Obviously the H-back was a really big position here. You guys mostly used K.J. Hill as more of a traditional slot receiver in that role. As you look forward to the future of this program, do you want to have that Curtis Samuel type of H-back in this program?
RYAN DAY: I think you’re looking for best available, and then it’s your job as a coach to figure out what they do best. I think K.J. Hill is a very different player than Parris Campbell, and Parris is different than Curtis Samuel, and they’re all different than the last guy.

You try to look for somebody who has a real high-end skill set, whatever that is, working in short areas, and then you kind of go from there. And one of the things going into the season for us was that we felt like our 12 package was stronger this year, and so that H position has been supplemented a little bit with a second tight end, and I think that’s been good for us.

So again, it’s — you try to recruit the best available, the best players possible, and then you try to go adapt the offense based on that.

Q. You play Northwestern, and they’re one of the worst offensive teams in the country. Wisconsin plays Illinois; looks like pretty much of a lay-up W. How do you keep your guys’ minds off two weeks as opposed to Friday night?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, the same thing that we’ve been talking about all along, which is all you’re worried about is this game right here, and we all know what happens if you start lose focus, and we cannot do that. So this week we’ve talked about having a white belt mentality, which is a mentality that you’re starting right from scratch and that you don’t take anything for granted, you don’t make any assumptions, and if we do that, then we’ll be fine. If we start to look ahead or start to let our egos get in the way, then we’re in trouble.

Q. Did you watch Wisconsin Saturday?
RYAN DAY: I saw them on TV, yes.

Q. What can you gain from watching a team on television as opposed to scouting them like you scout them as a coach?
RYAN DAY: I mean, you’re just kind of going through the channels, and there was a lot of great games on TV and it was great to get a day off and rest and be with the family.

My son had a football game, so we went to that and then got home and watched TV as a family and watched a bunch of the game, but just going back and forth. You really can’t get much from it, you just kind of watch the games and try to be a fan for an afternoon.

Q. On calling plays, I don’t know what the right term is, more fun, easier, different, calling plays for this offense as opposed to calling it for last year’s offense, and if you could go through the differences.
RYAN DAY: No, I don’t think it’s — one is more fun than the other. I just think that they’re very different. When you think about the two different offenses and where we’re at with it. But very different people. You know, I think we’re seven or eight guys different in the mix of guys, and some of our younger guys have grown up.

So no, I think it’s the same thing. You try to prepare the best you can. You do the best you can about getting 1st and 2nd down calls ready to go, do a great job on 3rd down, the red zone and then in the goal line have some situational stuff, two-minute ready to go, and it’s all about the work that we’re putting in now during the week to make sure that those calls are ready to go, and once they’re on the call sheet everybody gets behind them, and then we’ve got to go to work with installing them and then the guys own it, and once it’s ready to go and it’s on the call sheet for a game, then you’ve just got to call it and trust it.

Q. How much are you guys monitoring the transfer portal right now?
RYAN DAY: We always monitor it now, and again, it’s something that’s kind of new to all of us, but we certainly are, and Mark has guys that are watching it all the time, and the minute somebody goes in, we do our research, looking at film or finding out more about the individual.

Q. Do you go so far as to like the guys you maybe missed out on a year ago who aren’t playing, is your staff maybe projecting that these guys might end up in the transfer portal? Do you go that far ahead?
RYAN DAY: Right now we’re not. We do not have somebody assigned to just looking at players out of their teams. I don’t know if that’s going to be the next — we’re going to talk about that in the off-season and figure out if that’s the right thing to do. It’s kind of a scary road to go down. But right now we’re not doing that, and if somebody pops into the portal, we’ll do our research and find out, but right now we’re not doing research on guys who are on anybody’s team.

Q. Do you hold a roster spot for the portal at all?
RYAN DAY: No, no. If it works out that way, great, but we try to recruit high school guys to fill those spots.

Q. Ryan, Justin has seemed so in control of the offense in the first six games. You talked a lot before the season about you guys are going to have to help a new quarterback in the first six games and then you can have the bye week to maybe readjust. Are you — did you give him more of the offense this week? How might Justin — how did the bye week let Justin grow, and how much of the offense was he really working with in the first six weeks?
RYAN DAY: He was working with just about all of it, you know, and he’s learning it more and more. And it’s the same thing with the bye week. We’re trying to enhance the best we can, and work on our fundamentals. He has certain things he needs to work on, and he’s going to do that. But we’ve kind of thrown the whole thing at him, and he’s been able to handle it.

Q. Did you know he’d be able to handle it, just the way that — we know he’s dynamic and explosive, but he’s been so calm and controlled it seems like. Did you know he’d do that?
RYAN DAY: No, I didn’t know he’d be able to handle it, but he’s still got a lot to work on too. He’s talented and makes plays, but there’s still a lot of stuff on film and a lot yards we’re leaving on the field that he’s got to work on. We all have to work on. He’s not the only one. Everybody on the team has things they need to improve. Certainly he’s off to a good start, but there’s just a lot of things that we need to clean up.

Q. Just overall, the quarterback room, could you just reset again — and I’m sorry to ask this — but in recruiting, what your ideal quarterback room looks like as you stack guys. And as we all know, the transfer portal and you guys have gone through it, is your view of the ideal quarterback room changing, or is there no such thing as an ideal quarterback room anymore because it’s like, man, everyone is kind of going to be winging it because we’re just expecting quarterbacks to move in and out?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, a little bit of both. I think the ideal quarterback room is four quarterbacks and young guys that you’re developing who want to get on the field and understand how much they love Ohio State and the program and want to be here forever and work through it. And even if they’re not the starter, they still want to be here and love their teammates and all those things. Unfortunately, that’s hard right now. And so I’ve come to grips with that. As much as we’d like to have four, we’re going to keep working on getting four and keep recruiting four and work as hard as we can to make sure we have those guys in here.

But also knowing that in today’s day and age, especially the way that we quarterbacks here, a lot of guys are going to feel like they can go somewhere else and play, and I get that. But when we recruit guys, we tell them you’re going to be recruited here and you’re going to be coached at the highest level in all of football in terms of the style that we’re going to be running on offense, different protections, the different coverage structures, the whole style. And so I think they love that. I think that’s why guys want to come here.

Q. When you’ve scouted Northwestern this week, their defense has had some low-scoring games, kept teams to low scores. Does anybody pop out on film for them?
RYAN DAY: They do a tremendous job on defense. Really that whole defense is back from last year, Big Ten Championship game. Pat is as good a coach as there is in the country. That’s documented. It’s hard to find a yard against them. I think they’re a top 30 defense in the country. I believe they held Wisconsin under 300 total yards. I mean, they’re good. They know exactly how you’re trying to attack them. They make adjustments. It’s a defense that’s been around for a long time, and they know exactly what you’re doing. They’re sound in what they do they can they can. Paddy Fisher is the guy in the middle, kind of keeps everything going. And across the board, there’s guys who have played a lot of football in that group.

But it goes back to Pat. I mean, he is one of the more thorough coaches. He obviously played there and understands what he wants to get done, and they play that way. They’re sound and they don’t give you anything.

Q. The first six weeks I’m sure went as well as you could have hoped in terms of performance. You got a lot of praise around the country. Was this a good opportunity this last week to be able to step back and say, okay, we do have a lot to improve on? How much was that kind of drilled into those guys last week?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, that was part of going through and working on our three up, three forward, which is trying to figure out three things they’ve done well and three things they have to improve on and show them that we have to get better. Again, how do you get better? Well, here are three things you need to work on to get better. And so they met with their position coaches, they met with me, and those are ways to really say, hey, these are things — if we’re going to get where we want to go, you’re going to have to do that. And then talking to the team about things we need to do better as a team.

Q. Josh Myers stepped in at center. I’m assuming you think that’s gone very well. How would you assess his play and also his leadership on that line?
RYAN DAY: I mean, only six games in, but so far, so good. I think his communication has been really good with those guys inside, and all three of those guys are really new. Wyatt obviously played towards the end of the year, but those are three new guys in there that I think have handled it well so far. But we’re going against a really good defense this week, and we’re going to continue to go against really good defenses moving forward.

You know, the tale is yet to be written, but obviously a good start.

Q. One of the big turnarounds from last year to this year is limiting big plays on defense. Is there something schematic you think has led to that or just the natural improvement of a lot of those guys coming back?
RYAN DAY: Again, no defense wants to give up big plays. But I think we’ve done a good job of teaching where everybody fits into the defense, and I think that that was some of the feedback that we’ve got is that guys understand where everybody is on the field. And so if you know where everybody is, when you go to track the ball, I think that’s important. You can play with a little bit more confidence knowing maybe you’re not on an island, you have guys that are coming with you, swarming to the ball, and I think that’s helped.

Q. Going back to Myers, just as a former quarterback yourself, what do you expect out of a center as far as his kind of command of the game or what he’s doing out there communication-wise leading, and how is he fitting into that kind of blueprint?
RYAN DAY: I think that part is really good. Other than a quarterback, he’s the guy that has to run the show up front in terms of communicating the identification and run game and the pass game. He handles the ball. He’s got to talk to guys up front and make sure everybody is on the same page. The center has a lot more going on than everybody else. So you have to be able to multitask. You’ve got to be able to do those things and be high-functioning, which he is.

Q. This time of year when extreme things happen like Georgia losing at home to South Carolina, how much do you pay attention to national things like that that happen? Do you use them as lessons, or are you just trying to tunnel vision yourself a little bit?
RYAN DAY: I mean, I think any time you see something like that it gets your attention and reminds you of how fragile this is. All it takes is one game where we’re not following the plan to win. We turn the ball over, we don’t tackle, we don’t show up to play, and there you go. We know all about that.

Do we spend a lot of time talking about it? No, but it’s always out there as a reminder.

Q. Also, Northwestern — you’re 10 months away from playing them for the Big Ten title and obviously things haven’t gone their way this year. When you look at them on tape, what do you see?
RYAN DAY: No, same guys. Especially on defense, which I watch a lot more of the defensive guys. They’re there. It’s the same defense, and they’re playing just as hard. They’re just as good. Statistically they’re — I’m pretty sure they’re close to how they ended last year. Not much has changed there.

Q. When you look through the notes, you look through the statistics, historically good. I know there’s room for improvement, but specifically as you can, what are you happiest about with this team?
RYAN DAY: I think that, again, going back to the chemistry, I think guys, they care about each other. I think they love each other. They are playing for each other, and I think that we’ve played with great energy and we’ve played with toughness.

Q. Are they playing a little — I don’t want to say looser than a year ago, but just in your sense, is there just a sense that these guys are just flying around and maybe not tight, that they are really enjoying themselves?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know about that. I think, like I said, we’re playing tough. I think that they care about each other. There’s good leadership. I still think there could be more leadership. We’re still working to clean up a lot of the things in the execution and we still have a long way to go. It’s hard midway through the season to really get an assessment on all of that. I think in another six to eight weeks, we’ll have a much better idea of where it all stands and be able to reflect on it.

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