Ryan Day Ohio State Buckeyes Head Coach
Football

Ryan Day Talks Transfer Portal Boom, Coaching Changes, Wild January

COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with reporters for the first time since the Cotton Bowl and provided a recap of a wild January that featured transfer portal additions, coaching changes, and over 10 talented juniors who chose to put the NFL on hold and return for one final season. The highlights of everything that Day had to say can be found below.

  • No updates on Bill O’Brien. He is here today working.
  • At the end of the season he looked hard at what changes needed to be made. They are chasing that 1-2%. The last couple of drives of a game. He felt like Bill O’Brien would allow him to hand over a lot of the duties that Day was doing. He had a great background and it was the right cultural fit.
  • The plan is to hand over play calling.
  • He is happy for Jeff Hafley’s new challenge. That was a curveball he was not expecting.
  • Regarding the portal, they are trying to fill needs. They always want to recruit HS players and develop them. The portal allows them to fill the needs from veteran departures. Guys from around the country see what is going on at Ohio State. A big part of the draw was the guys coming back and showing that they wanted to be with their teammates and reach their goals.
  • Sonny Styles has the flexibility to move positions and they will talk more about that as spring ball gets here. They have had conversations with him about what is best for the defense.
  • Devin Brown is healthy and good to go for spring. He’s had a good couple of weeks in the weight room. He has done a good job leading that room.
  • It’s going to be a competitive spring for the quarterbacks. Five guys makes the competition tougher and makes them all better.
  • They have some flexibility with their assistant coach roster. They’re about a week away from knowing exactly what they’re doing with their 10 assistants.
  • There will be certain guys who have played a bunch of football that they’ll be smart with this spring. Not everybody needs the same reps, but they have quarterbacks who need reps so there will be a bunch of team reps planned.
  • Will Howard’s reps this spring will be determined by what they want to get done each day.
  • Tim Walton has a great personality and makeup and character. “I can’t say enough great things about Tim Walton.” His background of development speaks for itself. Walton played here. He’s a Buckeye. He wants to help Ohio State win a championship. He’s talented. He’s good in a lot of areas. He has a competitive room and that reflects Walton’s mentality. “All of those things add up to Tim being the best secondary coach in the country.”
  • Does Day see Will Howard as the starting quarterback? “Will came here to play football so I hope that’s his mentality.” He wants all of the QBs to have that mentality. A big part of the QB play here begins in the weight room and building credibility with your teammates. You have to endear yourself to the building and he’s doing that.
  • Quinshon Judkins and TreVeyon Henderson working together? When Judkins first went into the portal, they immediately talked to Henderson for his thoughts. “He was unbelievable.” Then talking to Judkins about Henderson returning, they wanted to play together. Their approaches are that they want to get each other better. Henderson’s leadership this offseason has been tremendous. He’s got a different look in his eye. But Judkins has also embraced the Buckeye culture. He’s doing a great job of assimilating. It’s a heck of a running back room. This is going to be a long season. It’s an NFL schedule so your roster needs to reflect that.
  • What was January like for you? Like any year, you end the season and you try to identify what is important for the future. You start with roster, then staff, and any adjustments that need to be made. You have to put a plan together. It started with the juniors/seniors choosing to come back. The next step was the staff changes. That’s just the beginning. Now they go into the spring.
  • Air Noland and Julian Sayin are just getting started. It used to be a significant move to come in mid-year but now it’s much more normal. It allows them to come in during the summer and not be a freshman anymore. It’s hard to come in in January, especially coming from Atlanta and California. But they are getting their feet underneath him. Lincoln Kienholz didn’t have that opportunity last year. These guys will be further ahead than Kienholz was as a true freshman last year.
  • What conversations were had when you want after Julian Sayin? He made sure to communicate with the existing QBs. He shared his thoughts on why. Generally guys embrace it. It’s not always the case but it’s important to bring in the right guys who can help the program.
  • Is NIL where you want it to be? It changes all the time. It’s changed in the last year. It changed in December. It’s probably gonna change again in May. It’s something that they adapt to. They are working hard to be competitive. What’s most important, however, is guys that embrace the culture and care about each other.
  • Dominic Kirks is the lone signee today. What made him a good fit? They felt like they saw a guy with a lot of talent. They spent time with him to see the fit. Being at Ohio State is not for everybody, but when they met with him on his visit they could see that this is what he wanted. He knows that he’ll have to earn everything he gets at Ohio State.
  • Let’s recognize Mark Pantoni and what he’s doing. “He’s killing it right now. He and his staff deserve a huge shoutout.” His job has changed so much over the years.
  • Do you want a full-time special teams coordinator? There’s a lot that comes into that final 10th spot. He is comfortable going without one. Finding the right guy is what’s important.
  • Matt Guerrieri brings a diverse background. He’s an excellent teacher. The older guys know who he is because he was here before. He knows Jim Knowles’ system very well. It will be seamless. He can definitely help on special teams if needed based on how that 10th position shakes out.
  • Recruiting is always going to be competitive so you’ll always have critics from around the nation, but it’s always going to be about the right fits culture-wise. “We want guys who want to be here.” If guys don’t like where they are, they can just leave. So you have to recruit people who won’t necessarily do that. But recruiting is very, very competitive. The job of the head coach is to acquire as much talent as possible.
  • What was different this year with the transfer portal and NIL? “I think the administration’s been unbelievable. Gene [Smith] has been great.” The support has always been great. College football is just in a very unique situation right now. There’s a lot going on right now. They added three guys from Alabama, for instance. But it all starts with the juniors that decided to return. That’s the real story.
  • The personality of this team is still being forged. It’s easy to put slogans on shirts “we’re just trying to work.” It’s a long way to next year. They’re not worried about that right now. The more veteran you are, the more you recognize that. There is still urgency though. The good news is they have the right guys in the seats.
  • Caleb Downs, you saw what he did as a freshman. It’s an understatement to say they’re excited to have him. He brings a lot to the table. You’ll all see that. He’s talented, he’s disciplined. It’s fun watching that secondary. They embraced him. They all knew him from the recruiting process. He is very, very talented. 107 tackles last year as a freshman, “my goodness.”
  • The process with Will Howard? The Big Ten coaches had a meeting in December talking about the difficulties of that month. It’s a nightmare. It’s chaotic. So how the Will Howard thing played out is a blur. You have to have contingency plans for every position. It’s Day’s job to continue to make plans to stay ahead of issues that can cost the team. They are chasing the 1-2%. You act but you don’t overreact. You also remain transparent with your team about the process.
  • If Bill O’Brien leaves where do you go? You have contingency plans, but you can’t just take out one guy and put another guy in there. They have talked to different people for that position. Hopefully they won’t have to go down that road.
  • What is the plan for this offensive line? The feedback from Bill O’Brien has been good. He sees talent and depth. It’s going to be a competitive spring. The feeling now is that they have enough to win it all. If that supposition changes after spring, they’ll address it.
  • On getting the QBs reps this spring? The Julian Sayin addition is not something they planned on, but they saw an opportunity to enhance the room. The cream will rise to the top. They will do what they can to get as many reps as possible, but then they’ll start to see the traits that are required to be a starter. They don’t focus on guys that may hit the portal. “We can only control what we can control.” You can’t hold somebody back from going to the portal. That’s part of being transparent.
  • Josh Fryar has swing capability to move to guard if need be. They’ll keep him on the right side. He’ll play tackle this spring and a little bit of guard. He has flexibility which is good for his NFL future as well. Fryar’s feedback is important too. Just like with Sonny Styles. You want the guys to take ownership of it. Not just because the coaches told you to do it.
  • This is a big spring for Tegra Tshabola and Luke Montgomery. And not just for them. The guys last year who came in during the summer last year and never had a spring like Arvell Reese and Lincoln Kienholz. “I’m hoping this is the most competitive spring we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
  • Jeremiah Smith has jumped right in. He has so much discipline, but he also has a ton of skill. He has had a great approach so far. The signing day was a crazy day back in December, “but you’re talking about the No. 1 player in the country.”
  • How much does having a play caller help you allow to handle in-game situations late? When you’re calling the game, you have more control of the situation when you want to go for it on fourth down. But having somebody else calling the game will allow him to step back and have a different perspective and a wider lens on things. There are pluses and minuses to both situations. You have more control when you’re calling plays but you can also get too laser focused on the situation.
  • How difficult was it to give up play calling? “Well I haven’t done it yet,” he said through a smile. Does he want to give up play calling? No, he loves the football aspect of it. But he knows it’s best for the program right now to step away with the way the team and the sport is right now. “I know that’s the right thing to do.” But they still have to have the right guy.
  • “There’s always urgency here. If you don’t believe that, try losing a game.”
  • Do you feel you have a championship roster? “I do.”
  • On Will Howard, he likes his competitiveness and toughness. Won a Big XII Championship, was a field goal away from beating Texas. He’s big. He can run.
  • Caleb Downs and Seth McLauglin were able to get on board with the rivalry with Michigan. “They know what’s coming at the end of the year.”
  • It has become very difficult in college football to call plays as a head coach because of everything that is going on. It’s not something you just wake up and decide, but at the same time, they’re not just going to put somebody in that spot.
  • How different do things feel now in the building as compared to the feeling after the Cotton Bowl? “I don’t know about ‘different.'” The way things are in college football right now, losing Kyle McCord to the portal before that game wasn’t fun. But then Cody Simon and Jack Sawyer started getting the guys together with a focus on next season. The guys feel it every day in the building. “But now we’ve got to go execute it all.” “The right guys are in the right seats.” “Fired up to see what this spring looks like.”
  • How much do you embrace the pressure this year? “I would say it’s like that every year.” CJ Stroud says that pressure is a privilege and Day would agree. There is a buzz with the fan base. The players feel it. There is a lot of work to be done.
  • Having an experienced center is critical when you are trying to win every game. Seth McLaughlin brings something different to the table. It provides a different perspective for the existing players as well. They get to see the differences from OSU and Alabama.
  • If he can step away from the offense more that would allow him to spend more time with the special teams. “Ideally that’s what I’d like to do.”
  • What do you think of the staffing decisions you’ve made both externally and internally? You have to decide what needs changed after the season, but you also have to project what might be issues a year or two down the road. You use feedback from the staff as well but you try to trust your instinct. The key is reacting but not overreacting, which is not always easy to do here because when you lose a game they’re can be a lot of panic from outside.
  • He knew as the season was going on last year that he needed to find a playcaller for 2024. But it requires a very unique person because the expectation around here is to score 60 points a game.
  • Jim Knowles’s defense was very good in year one. Got a lot better in year two. It’s gonna be even better in year three.
  • What is the most fun part of your job other than calling plays. “I wouldn’t call anything fun. It’s just what you do. Fun will be winning next year.” He understands that he got this job because of the success of the offense, but that’s not his job anymore. He’s the head coach and he has to be the leader of the entire team. He can’t rock the boat, he needs to steady it. As a leader you have an opportunity to show your character in defining moments.
  • “Everybody has to embrace their role.” If you can’t be your best at Ohio State, where else you gonna do it? He challenges his coaches all the time, “If you can’t do it at Ohio State, you can’t do it anywhere.”
  • James Laurinaitis has been impressive on the recruiting trail but also coaching the players. This winter was his first opportunity to get on the road recruiting.
  • It has been great for Bill O’Brien to come in and learn what Ohio State does, but it also gives a different perspective to see if there are better/smarter/easier ways to do something. O’Brien has been able to look at stuff and see easier ways to teach things, but you can’t just go changing an offense because you never know how long a coordinator is going to be here. “It’s been great so far. It’s been great.”
  • How might you embrace Will Howard’s running game? They need to be able to run the ball to win the last game of the year and Howard will need to be accounted for. But that’s also the case for all of the QBs on the roster. They don’t need to be running around with the ball but they at least need to be accounted for in the running game.
  • Caleb Downs will certainly be hard to beat out but he’s got to go earn it. “We’re not going to change that at Ohio State.” They’ve even talked about special teams and playing some offense.
  • Proud of his son RJ getting an offer from Marshall. “He loves football and he’s obsessed with it.”
  • Who was better at that age, Ryan or RJ? “Me!”

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