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Column: 10 offseason priorities for Ryan Day

Day lost to Michigan. Again. Here are 10 program changes to flip that next season.

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

As is always the case with a Ryan Day-led program, the issues we saw in Week 1 came back to haunt them. 12 games into the season, Kyle McCord’s decision-making, Ohio State’s special teams play, and Day coaching scared and not believing in his players caused another heartbreaking loss. When it mattered most, Michigan and interim coach Sherrone Moore trusted their guys to win the game, and Ryan Day didn’t. It’s simple.

If you’re like me, you’re over the Day era. Day has three goals for this program: Beat TTUN, win the Big Ten, and win the national championship. He is 0-9 in the last three seasons. I wonder how he would grade himself on his own stated goals. Not to mention, the list of players who have played at Ohio State and never beat Michigan is truly unacceptable.

That list includes:

  • Julian Fleming
  • Paris Johnson Jr. - First round NFL Draft pick
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba - First round NFL Draft pick
  • CJ Stroud - First round NFL Draft pick
  • J.T. Tuimoloau
  • Jack Sawyer
  • Donovan Jackson
  • Emeka Egbuka
  • TreVeyon Henderson
  • Mike Hall Jr.
  • Jordan Hancock
  • Tyliek Williams
  • Denzel Burke
  • Marvin Harrison Jr. - Greatest WR in Ohio State History

Every player on this list is going to play in the NFL. Stroud already looks like a top-five player in the league, Paris Johnson Jr. is arguably one of the best young tackles in the league and Marvin Harrison Jr. is as close to a guarantee as you can get to someone who could earn a gold jacket.

How does Ryan Day look in the mirror and accept the failure of the past three seasons? Ohio State will continue to recruit well and will always be at the top of the sport, but what is the likelihood we ever see a quarterback better than Stroud? What are the chances we see a wide receiver more talented and with the work ethic of Marvin Harrison Jr.? Who is to say we will ever see another offensive tackle who can come in and play two different positions at a high level and be a first-round NFL Draft draft pick after three seasons like Johnson Jr.?

Day should be credited for recruiting these players, of course. I don’t see a realistic way where Day becomes a poor recruiter and the Buckeyes aren’t one of the five most talented programs in the country. However, I have lost all faith in his ability to win at the highest level. If he couldn’t do it with these players who is to say he can ever do it?

In his five-year tenure, he has had arguably the two most talented quarterbacks in Ohio State history and four or five of the most talented wide receivers. He is 1-6 in the games that matter. He had a weird loss to Oregon in which his defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed so Oregon kept attacking the edges. He has lost to Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia in the playoffs, and he has three losses in the biggest regular season game in college football. Those 56 wins mean nothing when compared to the seven losses.

You may be reading this and say my standard is too high and no one can achieve what I’m asking, but that is simply not true. Besides maybe the Alabama game in 2020, Ohio State was competitive in every single loss, and could not earn a win because of either Day’s uninspired play calling or because of a fatal flaw on the staff or roster that could’ve been fixed before the season. The Day era is littered with correctable mistakes.

Here’s a list of reasons Day and Ohio State haven’t lifted a banner in Ryan Day’s tenure:

  1. An antiquated strength and conditioning program that shows up in big games with either key injuries or his players being pushed around by bigger, stronger and tougher teams.
  2. Poor recruiting and development along the offensive line and taking too long to identify the problem and replace the coach.
  3. Ryan Day’s play calling, which he said he would give up and then went back on that decision.
  4. Lack of oversight on the defense, a poorly constructed staff who couldn’t recruit or develop players and taking a linebackers coach off the field to empty a special teams coach.
  5. Lack of oversight on special teams, a unit that has cost Ohio State in every big game including against Georgia and Michigan on Saturday.

Which one of these is not the fault of the head coach? Fans and the few honest media members have complained about every one of these issues for months or years before they were fixed. It wasn’t until tragedy struck that Day made changes to his program, firing the offensive line coach and firing the defensive staff. Now Day has another set of problems, some of which he should have fixed last year. So it’s up to him to make these changes this offseason if he wants a chance to be successful at Ohio State.

  1. Fire Parker Fleming — You do not need a full-time special teams coach, especially a bad one. See No. 2.
  2. Hire James Laurinatis as linebacker coach so there is a full defensive staff and he can recruit.
  3. Fire Mick Mariotti — Redesign your strength and conditional program and finally advance into the 21st century.
  4. Fire/Retire Larry Johnson and hire a new defensive line coach who will actually coach Jim Knowles’ defensive scheme.
  5. Fire and replace one of Corey Dennis, Tony Alford, or Keenan Bailey — This isn’t as much about these coaches individually as much as it is about Day. This offense needs an outside influence. Everyone on the staff has either been there since Urban or worked under Day at some point in their career. Day needs to hire an offensive assistant with fresh eyes and no ties to his program and offense.
  6. Give up offensive play calling and move to a CEO role. You hired Hartline as offensive coordinator, and everyone on the staff besides Tony Alford was hand-picked by Day. Trust them to do their job or replace them.
  7. Open up all five offensive line jobs and bring in competition from the portal.
  8. Open the QB competition to Air Noland and Lincoln Kienholz as well as competition from the portal.
  9. Move Sonny Styles to linebacker — It’s clearly his best position and Jordan Hancock is great in the slot. You need experience with Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg most likely off the roster.
  10. Speaking of Hancock — beg, plead, pray, use NIL, anything to get players like Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, Tyliek Williams, Mike Hall, TreVeyon Henderson, Lathan Ransom, and Jack Sawyer to stay. I fully expect Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and J.T. Tuimoloau to leave because they can be first-round picks. You’d gladly accept it if they came back, but it’s doubtful.

Are these 10 priorities going to guarantee Ohio State beats Michigan next season or wins the National Championship? No, but I feel pretty confident guaranteeing that if Day does not do the majority of things on this list he will lose four-straight to Michigan and will put a first-year athletic director in the tough position of deciding if it’s time to move on from him.