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Ryan Day named finalist for multiple coach of the year awards

You guys like awards? Because Ohio State is in for a lot of them.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

“Ryan Day is a finalist for another national coach of the year award as the first-year Ohio State head coach was named one of nine finalists for the 2019 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.”

- Kevin Harrish, Eleven Warriors

Just a week after winning the Big Ten media’s Dave McClain Coach of the Year Award, Ryan Day has not one, but two more chances to add to his trophy cabinet. Like the title says, he’s a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, an prize that dates back to 1957 (Woody Hayes was the first winner) and is awarded by the Football Writers Association of America. The last OSU winner was Jim Tressel in 2002.

Day joins eight other coaches as finalists: Sonny Dykes (un-ranked SMU), Eliah Drinkwitz (Appalachian State), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), P.J. Fleck (Minnesota) Mike Norvell (Memphis), Matt Rhule (Baylor), Dabo Swinney (Clemson) and Ed Orgeron (LSU).

Day is also up for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award. This award has been presented by the Maxwell Football Club since 1989. Ohio State has never had a coach win this award. Day will go against the aforementioned Fleck, Rhule, Swinney and Orgeron, along with Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma).

It can be very difficult for blue blood programs to win these types of awards, generally they are reserved for smaller programs that have over-achieved or beaten expectations on the season. After all, if you have by far the best talent, and are expected to finish No. 1 or 2 and you do, it’s usually not seen as that much of an accomplishment.

But, how can anyone say that Day didn’t shatter the expectations for this years Buckeyes? He is a first-time head coach replacing a legend, and most media outlets had Michigan picked as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten.

In addition, Day would have to replace Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Dwayne Haskins with a transfer, first-time starter, not to mention deal with three starting receivers who left to the NFL and the defense was coming off its worst season in program history.

Fast forward to the end of the regular season and OSU sits at No. 2 after a 13-0 season that saw them win every game by double-digits. The Buckeyes had an average margin of victory of 36.2 and beat five current top-25 teams, along with two other conference champions, on the season. Day also coached two Heisman finalists this season and the defense is one of the most — if not the most — dominant defenses in the country.

Now that everyone knows what Day can do, this may be his last best chance to win any Coach of the Year awards. However, he certainly deserves them.

“The nation’s sack leader (16.5, 1.5 per game) also leads in sack yardage (117 yards) at the helm of a defense that finished the regular season as the country’s top unit, giving up just 232.2 yards per game. The 16.5 sacks is the Ohio State record for a single season and the most by a Big Ten player in 21 seasons.”

- Football Writers Association of America Press Release

In case it wasn’t clear, the player they are talking about above is Chase Young. Young received the Bronko Nagurski Trophy last night, given to the best defensive player of the year. Ohio State has only had one other winner in the history of the 26-year-old award, and that was James Laurinaitis in 2006. Young defeated Auburn DT Derrick Brown, Georgia DB J.R. Reed, Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons and Minnesota DB Antoine Winfield Jr.

Young was the obvious pick for many reasons. He’s the first defensive player to be a Heisman finalist since Manti Te’o in 2012, and the first defensive end ever. He was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and was totally dominant statistically.

In addition to the national sack lead, he was second in tackles for loss and forced fumbles, and his combined 246 yards lost on sacks and TFLs were the most in the NCAA. All of this while missing games against two of the weakest teams that Ohio State played all year.

Going beyond the numbers, Young has been an absolute monster, and his constant need to be double (or triple) teamed allows the Buckeye defense to go off around him. Even if he’s not showing up in the stat sheet, the Buckeyes are the best defense in the league because of his sheer presence.

Young won’t win the Heisman, but don’t let that fool you. He’s still the best player in college football.

“Ohio State has always had talented players up front, but this year that talent was matched by a desire to bury their opponent on each and every play. An incredibly athletic group who imposed its will while leading one of the nation’s top rushing attacks.”

- Joe Moore Award Committee Member, via Eleven Warriors

Offensive line is always an underrated part of football. They don’t do the flashy plays, they don’t usually score points, but they are critical to the performance of the offense as a whole. A team’s offensive line dramatically affects every single play, arguably even more so than the quarterback. Luckily, as of 2015 there is an award that honors the men in the trenches, the Joe Moore Award, given to the best offensive line unit in the nation.

Ohio State’s front five have been selected as a finalist, along with Alabama, LSU and Oregon. OSU’s offensive line played a big part in J.K. Dobbins career season (he would be the first to tell you that), repeatedly opening up gigantic holes for Dobbins and Master Teague to burst through this season. Ohio State ranked fifth nationally in rushing yards per game and sixth in yards per carry.

Every Buckeye starting offensive lineman landed on an All-Big Ten team, with Jonah Jackson and Wyatt Davis making first-team, and Thayer Munford, Josh Myers and Branden Bowen making the second-team. They have a combined for 339 knockdown blocks, and rank in the top-ten in nearly all of Football Outsiders advanced non-sack blocking statistics.

While pass protection has been somewhat shaky recently, some of that can be attributed to Justin Fields’ ability to extend plays and get out of the pocket. While that can lead to the QB dodging some potential sacks, it can also lead to more than it avoids, especially if Fields holds on to the ball a little too long.

No matter the metric, Ohio State’s offensive line has been dominant, particularly in the run game, and the Joe Moore Award would be some well-deserved recognition for a unit that doesn’t get enough love.

Quick Hits:

  • The Fiesta Bowl semifinal has been sold out. That took what, two days? Makes sense for two of the best programs in the nation. Ohio State always travels well (95 percent at the Big Ten Championship) and this one is no exception. Let’s hear O-H-I-O in Arizona.
  • Jeff Hafley may have lost out on the Broyles Award to Joe Brady, but that doesn’t diminish what has been an incredible season for him. He gave an emotional speech at the ceremony, where he stressed that his job is all about people and the relationships between them. It’s why he’s one of the best recruiters and coaches in the business.
  • Jordan Fuller was named a second-team Academic All-American by College Sports Information Directors of America. This is his third time in a row on an Academic All-American team. He’s still in the running for the “Academic Heisman,” the William V. Campbell Trophy ,and the Lott IMPACT Trophy.

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