From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about what we would do if we were in charge of our favorite position group, team, conference, or sport. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all our “Unpopular Opinion” articles here.
Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Our Unpopular Opinions about Ohio State football
This week is Unpopular Opinions week here at LGHL, and rather than give a lengthy introduction, I am just going to come out firing. Because, honestly Gene, we all know that some of these opinions or “takes” will be rather spicy. And those tend to rile people up and/or elicit a strong reaction. So why waste time with pillow talk? Let’s get down to business.
My Scarlet and Gray-themed unpopular opinion for today is that Brian Hartline was not the best choice for Ohio State’s offensive coordinator position. And it pains me to say that, because I absolutely, unequivocally, 100% believe that Hartline is a great coach, a great motivator, and arguably the best recruiter OSU has ever had.
But he has zero playcalling experience, which I find to be a bit (AKA very) concerning. Not only that, but Hartline will be learning the ropes and inevitably making mistakes at THE Ohio State University, where the expectation is perfection and the reaction to anything less is... umm, not always great or super positive. So while my opinion might be unpopular, I think that my concern is completely warranted.
But it’s not just about Hartline’s lack of experience. Every coach, every person for that matter, is “inexperienced” until given an opportunity — whether that be calling plays, painting a house, or performing open-heart surgery. And then they sink or swim. Hartline might swim and swim quite well; better than Michael Phelps. However, we have no idea what he’s capable of. There is no track record or history of success. Yet he was promoted over another in-house candidate with a proven track record and who can point to past success.
That man’s name is Justin Frye. Frye called plays for UCLA from 2019-2021, prior to joining Ryan Day’s staff. The Bruins boasted a prolific rushing attack during his time as their OC, an area (ground game) in which the Buckeyes could use some improvement. And not only did Frye perform well in his previous role, but he did so under Chip Kelly. Kelly was of course a mentor to Day, and Day and Frye have a long working relationship that dates back to 2012.
So not only does Frye have P5 playcalling experience and a more complete resume than Hartline, but he is also very accustomed to what Day would like to see and execute on offense.
But maybe that was the point of Hartline’s promotion, right? Maybe Day needed to remove himself from the equation (although not entirely, I’m sure) and pass the sticks to a coach who’s first thought/question is not WWRD or what would Ryan do? This is not an indictment on Frye, as he likely has his own style and own set of beliefs... I am simply speaking in hypotheticals.
The other and last thing I will bring up is motive, as far as it pertains to Hartline’s promotion. I think we can all agree that at least part of the motivation behind giving him an elevated title and big-time compensation was concern that he could or would bolt Columbus. And I don’t believe that fear or concern (of someone possibly leaving) should have been a determining factor. Maybe it wasn’t. But even if it was, I also find it hard to fault Day for making such a move, which makes me a bit of a hypocrite. So be it.
The whole Hartline situation is unique and interesting and, at the end of the day, a good “problem” to have. Which is it to say, it is no problem at all. I, we, Buckeye Nation love having him on staff. But that does not mean he was the safest or best option available (for OC). I only hope that he proves me wrong. And knowing Hartline, who has been successful at every other level or position, he will likely shut me and others up sooner rather than later.
Like Josh said, in the spirit of Unpopular Opinions week, we are undoubtably going to ruffle some feathers. It is not with the intention of doing so, but it just comes with the territory of an opinion being... well, unpopular. As such, like my counterpart here, I am also going to take aim at a member of the coaching staff with a ‘hot take’ that make be less and less unpopular as the years go on, and could actually become a popular opinion depending on how the 2024 season shakes out.
My unpopular opinion is that Ohio State will never will a national title with Ryan Day as its head coach. This isn’t to say that he is flat out a ‘bad’ coach or that he hasn’t gotten the Buckeyes to the precipice before, but there are a number of reasons why I think it will be tough for OSU to take home the crown with the current headman in charge.
For starters, we dont even really know how much longer he will be the head coach in Columbus. This isn’t even really alluding to the fact that he would be fired anytime soon, as Gene Smith and the rest of the athletic department seems to be in full support of Day, but there are a handful of factors that could play into his departure sometime in the next few years.
The most obvious, however, despite everything I just said, would be Ohio State deciding to go in another direction. Smith and the rest of the heavy hitters behind the scenes dont want to have to go this route, but if the Buckeyes were to lose to Michigan this season for the third year in a row — and a win in Ann Arbor in November will be no easy task — then their hands may be tied. A loss to the Wolverines would likely mean another missed trip to Indianapolis, and more than likely an omission from the College Football Playoff. That is simply not going to cut it at a program of this magnitude.
Outside of the Michigan game, Ohio State has a handful of other notable games that must be won in order for the Buckeyes to achieve their goals. That includes a road trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame on Sept. 23, where Day cannot afford to lose to a former OSU player coaching a program that hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 1936. The other big one to keep an eye on, outside of the obvious matchup with Penn State, is a road trip to Wisconsin, where the Buckeyes will battle the Luke Fickell-led Badgers. A loss for Ohio State in this one, and Fickell might be hopping on the plane with the team back to Columbus.
Other than a potential firing, I just dont think Ryan Day has what it takes to make the tough decisions necessary to set yourself up for success at a program like Ohio State. This includes firing bad coaches, making the correct personnel decisions on the field, and being aggressive in the transfer portal to plug holes on the roster — all of which must be done without being worried about hurting someones feelings.
I will give Day some credit for his work in the portal this offseason, but the Buckeyes were seemingly unwilling to guarantee a starting job to anyone they took in, which ultimately cost Ohio State a handful of potential game-changing options along the offensive line. If you’re swinging for the fences in the portal, you can’t be telling guys that their spot on the depth chart won’t be guaranteed, regardless of what that means for the players already on the team. You have to play hard to put the best team on the field.
The same goes for being willing to make changes on your coaching staff and among your player personnel if guys aren’t getting the job done. We saw what happened when Ohio State let Kerry Coombs stick around too long as the defensive coordinator, and the Buckeyes are in danger of not putting their best team on the field this season if they let a few guys at the top of the depth chart keep their spots based purely on seniority and not on merit.
I am obviously rooting for Day to succeed, as I would very much like to see Ohio State win another national title in the next few years, but I have my concerns. Day could very well prove me wrong and go out and make all the right choices this year as the Buckeyes earn a second College Football Playoff trophy, but in my unpopular opinion, I dont think they will do it with Day in charge.