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 our Biggest Concerns. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our Biggest Concerns here.
Just how high are expectations for Ohio State on a yearly basis? One loss can ruin a season, especially if that loss comes to Michigan. Head coach Ryan Day is feeling the heat after two straight losses to the Wolverines. While many were hoping that Day could channel the energy Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer had against That Team Up North, lately Day is coaching more like John Cooper against Ohio State’s biggest rival.
Day recovered from the most recent loss against Michigan to push Georgia to the limit in the Peach Bowl before a puzzling decision at the end of the game allowed the Bulldogs to survive and move on to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Under Day, Ohio State has made the College Football Playoff three times, but have failed to win the title in those appearances, only making the championship game once.
There’s no question Ohio State has the talent to make another CFP appearance this season, especially with some of the skill position players that are returning on offense. What is unknown is can the defense make strides in Jim Knowles’ second season, and can Day handle giving up some of the play calling on offense? If Day and the rest of the coaching staff can’t fix those issues and halt a two-game losing streak against Michigan and don’t make the College Football Playoff, then it’s going to be an even longer offseason in 2024.
In Day’s defense, college football has changed so much from when he took over as the head coach in Columbus following the retirement of Urban Meyer after the 2018 season. Since then, not only has there been the introduction of the transfer portal, NIL is also a huge part of recruiting now. Now Day and his coaching staff have to recruit high school prospects, try to figure out what NIL packages they can help new and current players get, as well as keep current players happy to try and keep them out of the transfer portal, all while evaluating those in the portal to see if they might be interested in coming to Ohio State if there is mutual interest.
With all of his responsibilities on and off the field, it’d be hard to blame Day if the NFL came calling and he decided to return to the professional ranks. Day already has an idea of what is asked of NFL coaches since he spent time as a quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Even though the transition from college football to the NFL has been tough for a lot of coaches that have made the jump, at least Day has some previous experience in the ranks.
When Day was acting head coach during Urban Meyer’s suspension in 2018, as well as when he took over full-time at the end of the season, we saw a loose head coach that wasn’t scared to mix it up on offense. Over time, it feels like Day sometimes is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with some of his play calls. There are times when coaches get told they are geniuses and they start to think whatever they do is going to turn to gold. It doesn’t quite work that way. Just look at this year’s game against Northwestern. There was no reason for C.J. Stroud to throw 26 times in what was essentially a hurricane in Evanston.
We saw the same things with Urban Meyer during his coaching career. There is no reason why Meyer shouldn’t have spent at least 15 years coaching Florida. The problem is, Meyer’s expectations were so high and what he demands from his players and assistant coaches can not only wear on them, but it also wore Meyer down as well. Then Meyer takes a year off and comes to Columbus and it felt like he was on the same trajectory. Even though the Zach Smith scandal played a big role in ending his time with the Buckeyes early, nobody was expecting him to coach for another 10 years at the school.
This season will mark the fifth season Day is head coach of Ohio State, and I just don’t see another five years in the cards for him in Columbus. There feels like there is too much pressure on him to win for him to stick around that long. I know head coaches love a challenge, but I don’t think Day can take too much more of people coming up to him in the produce section of Kroger and giving him their input on how he should coach. Day might joke about things like that happening, but you know inside it eats at him since head coaches are perfectionists.
Maybe Day is different from so many other coaches that have had to make some changes in their coaching style. Who knows, Brian Hartline could be even better at calling plays than we are all hoping he is. If Hartline really takes to his new responsibilities and allows Day to fully embrace a role where he is more CEO than head coach. Even if that happens, how long will it be before other schools are calling Hartline to be their head coach and Day is back in the same spot?
There’s no question that Day knows how to coach. Just look at what he was able to do against the eventual two-time national champs on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta. What is concerning is to get that type of performance from his team, Day essentially had to lock himself in a bunker and eat game tape for a month. Day can’t revert back to that type of preparation, or else he is going to burn himself out. He has to have some trust in those around him, and we have seen how hard it can be at times for coaches to trust their assistants.
Hopefully, I’m wrong and we see Day in Columbus for another 20 years and the Buckeyes win another five national titles. Unfortunately, I’ve seen how college football can grind up and spit out coaches, especially those that seem like they are at the top of the sport. Even though it’s not quite at the level we see in soccer sometimes with the turnover of coaches, the lifespan isn’t nearly what it used to be.