Dwayne Haskins’ impressive 2018 season at Ohio State was no fluke. In his first year as a starter, the redshirt sophomore shattered all sorts of program and Big Ten records. He demolished the conference’s record for passing yards in a season with his 4,831 yards through the air— nearly 1,000 more than the previous mark. He also took down Drew Brees’ record for most passing TD’s in a B1G season with 50 — 11 more than Brees had in 1998.
Then 2019 came along, and yet another Ohio State QB put up big numbers in Columbus. Justin Fields stepped foot on campus and immediately became a Heisman contender, passing for over 3,200 yards with 41 TDs (51 total) and just three interceptions. All of the sudden, the Buckeyes had gone from an offense more known for the power run to one that was dominating in the passing game. What changed?
The answer: Ryan Day.
Day first joined the staff back in 2017, and his impact was felt almost immediately. As the starting quarterback that season, J.T. Barrett became a finalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Year Award, and was named the Big Ten’s QB of the year after breaking the conference’s record for career touchdowns responsible for at 147. Quietly, this was the start of Day’s magic touch at the QB position.
As a former QB himself, Day is clearly incredibly knowledgable on the most important spot on the offense. Playing at the University of New Hampshire under offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, he set four career records for the Wildcats, including completion percentage and touchdowns. Between his own skillset and the added tutelage of one of the pioneers of modern day college football in Kelly, Day has become a QB whisperer as a coach.
While he has only been at the helm for one full season, Day is entering his fourth year on the Ohio State staff. During his time on campus between the OC job and as the head coach, nobody in the country has thrown more touchdown passes than the Buckeyes (138 in three seasons). Over that same time period, OSU has ranked No. 2 nationally in offensive TDs scored (234) while sitting third in completion percentage (67.8) and 11th in passing yards per game (296.7).
Ohio State, historically, has not been a program known for producing NFL-caliber talent at quarterback. Before Haskins, the Buckeyes had not had a QB drafted in the first round since Art Schlichter in 1982. Two of their previous best QBs in Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller wound up switching to receiver at the next level. Neither of the QBs responsible for OSU’s national title run in 2014, Barrett and Cardale Jones, were able to find success in the league. However, times are changing under Ryan Day.
As previously touched on, Haskins was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and after a bumpy first season in the league — likely impacted by terrible front office management in Washington — is set to be the Redskins full-time starter in 2020. Now, Fields is primed to be an early first round NFL pick as well, and could potentially be the No. 1 QB taken in next year’s draft if he can out-duel Trevor Lawrence this upcoming season. In his short time in Columbus, Day has changed the culture of the Ohio State QB room, and it has become a breeding ground for NFL talent.
It doesn’t stop when Fields walks out the door either. Recruits are taking notice of what Day is doing with the Buckeyes, and some of the top QB prospects in the country have decided to call Ohio State home.
In the 2020 class, Day has managed to haul in a pair of incredibly talented quarterbacks in CJ Stroud and Jack Miller. Stroud, who earned a fifth star on 247Sports late in his recruitment, was the No. 2 pro-style QB in his class, and a top-50 prospect in the composite rankings. Miller, a four-star recruit and the No. 13 pro-style QB in the nation, has seen his rating take a hit as a result of injuries, but there is no denying his skillset when healthy.
After this past season, where an injury to Fields would have been the end of the world, Ohio State now has some reliable backups it can turn to in a time of need. Miller and Stroud missed out on some valuable reps this spring with COVID-19 cancellations, but they should still be able to get things going once preseason camps can begin, and will likely both get into games this season late in blowouts. While they are the frontrunners to replace Fields in 2021, they will have some stiff competition, as Day’s QB recruiting didn’t stop there.
The 2021 class features yet another elite QB prospect, as five-star Philly native Kyle McCord verbally committed to the program back in April of 2019. McCord, a top-30 recruit in this cycle, is the No. 3 pro-style QB in the country. The 6-foot-3, 204 pound talent will certainly get a chance to compete for the starting job as a true freshman. Healthy competition is always a good thing, and Ohio State fans can be sure that regardless of wins the starting job, the team will be in excellent hands.
Ryan Day has clearly made a huge impact on the Buckeyes’ offense during his early tenure in Columbus, and that is no more apparent than at quarterback. The last two QBs to play in his system have been/will be first round NFL Draft picks, and the future of the position looks like it could very well continue that way for quite some time. The track record is pretty darn good so far, and while Ohio State hasn’t exactly been rich in tradition at quarterback over the years, that will not be the case as long as Day is around.