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Mental health awareness hits home for Ryan Day

The head coach’s own personal life experiences have shaped his approach on the subject

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Texas Christian Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“Ryan Day came to better understand mental health and the stigmas attached to discussing it openly in society. So soon after Day became the full-time head coach at Ohio State in December, he and his wife, Nina, decided they were going to use that powerful philanthropic platform to bring the discussion about mental health — especially in the childhood and adolescent space — to the forefront.”

- Pete Thamel, Yahoo Sports

Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day has, unfortunately, a unique personal relationship with mental health issues. Day’s father, Ray, died by suicide in 1988, when Ryan was just nine years old. At first, the young Day did not understand just what had happened. He felt angry that his classmates and youth basketball teammates got to have a father but he didn’t. However, as the years went on, and his father’s struggles with depression came into focus, Day began to understand mental health and the stigmas attached to its discussion.

So, upon becoming the head coach at Ohio State, Day decided he was going to use his new platform for good. With the help of his wife Nina, they partnered with On Our Sleeves, a movement by Nationwide Children’s Hospitals to de-stigmatize being open about emotional and psychological issues faced by America’s youth. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among adolescents and teenagers. Day believes that it is an issue that deserves more attention, and by opening up the discussion and making it more commonplace to talk about mental health problems, it could save lives.

Day first made public his father’s struggles at a press conference in early June. The courageous act by the Buckeye head coach has opened the door for more people, including his players, to speak up about the issues they are dealing with. Just a few weeks ago, defensive lineman Robert Landers spoke up about his own conflict with mental health, urging others to surround themselves with good people and to not be afraid to speak up.

This is the exact environment Day is trying to create at Ohio State. One where the players should feel comfortable enough to talk about every and any issue that may be affecting them in their day-to-day lives. Day says that he believes his players see him as someone who is approachable and that they could come up to at any time with any problem. That effort extends past football, where Day tells recruits they will help them develop from a football aspect, but also help them grow mentally and emotionally.

“Multiple sources have confirmed to Lettermen Row that the senior captain had a minor medical procedure performed to address what appears to be a high-ankle sprain. And while the Buckeyes aren’t confirming it, the conversation over the last few days at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center certainly suggests that the defensive end could be dealing with the injury for the first couple games.”

- Austin Ward, Lettermen Row

Despite facing an opponent that likely shouldn’t pose much of a threat on the scoreboard, the Buckeyes will be faced with an early test, as senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper will almost certainly be out for the game against Florida Atlantic and possibly even a few games beyond. While the official injury report won’t be released until Friday, word is out that Cooper is dealing with a high ankle sprain, one that required a minor medical procedure, and the length of his absence is unknown.

Cooper was slated to lineup on the opposite side of Chase Young. While Day and his defensive staff had already planned on utilizing a rotating cast of guys along the defensive line anyway, it now becomes even more important for Young and the guys behind him to step up without Cooper in the lineup.

While Day admits the Buckeyes are probably deeper on the interior of the defensive line, he is not worried about the depth at the end spots. With Young cemented on one side for Larry Johnson’s unit, it will likely be some combination of Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday and maybe even Jashon Cornell getting the majority of snaps in Cooper’s place. Friday and Smith both played limited minutes last season, combining for 12 tackles and a sack. Cornell, who can play both interior and outside, has a bit more experience, totaling 15 tackles with two for a loss and one sack in 2018.

Cooper’s injury will also open the door for guys like redshirt freshman Javontae Jean-Baptiste and true freshman Zach Harrison. Jean-Baptiste was a four-star outside linebacker in the 2018 cycle, and the coaching staff has loved how far he has come along at defensive end. Harrison was Ohio State’s highest-rated recruit in 2019, as the five-star defensive end was rated the No. 1 player in the Buckeye State. While the injury to Cooper is unfortunate, it could open up some additional playing time for the two highly-touted underclassman in the easier opening section of the schedule.

“Florida Atlantic could still leave with a victory, though, albeit a monetary one. During an appearance on the Andy Slater Show, [Lane] Kiffin was asked what the benefit was of playing the Buckeyes. ‘Uhh, money,’ Kiffin said with a laugh.”

- Jordan James, 247sports

A lot of college football coaches at small schools will beat around the bush when asked about their odds of coming away with a win against a big-time program like Ohio State. The ever-eccentric Lane Kiffin is never going to be one of those guys, and he showed it in a recent interview on the Andy Slater Show. Kiffin, the third-year head coach at Florida Atlantic, was asked what his team’s benefit was of playing the Buckeyes. His answer: money.

While Kiffin’s answer was clearly a joke, and he will still be preparing the Owls to try and come away with a big upset in Columbus on Saturday, he is certainly not wrong. As mentioned yesterday, Ohio State will pay FAU $1.4 million for their appearance at Ohio Stadium on Aug. 31. This is the largest payout any non-conference opponent will receive for coming to play the Buckeyes this season, ahead of both Miami (OH) ($1.4M) and Cincinnati ($375,000).

Florida Atlantic’s matchup with Ohio State will be the third Power Five opponent Kiffin has faced since taking over the program prior to the 2017 season. It will be their second game against a team from the Big Ten, falling 31-14 to Wisconsin in 2017. Their only other P5 game came against Oklahoma last season, where the Sooners blew out the Owls 64-13. The Buckeyes will hope to get a result similar to the outcome in Norman when their season opener kicks off at noon ET Saturday.

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