COLUMBUS — It will happen more times, but Ryan Day did something reminiscent of Urban Meyer on Tuesday at his first game week press conference as Ohio State’s football coach without the word “interim” in front of his title.
Meyer never missed an opportunity to talk about how much Ohio State meant to him and how much he liked the traditions associated with the school.
Day seemed to go down a similar path on Tuesday when he said Ohio State was the only college football program that could have made him leave the NFL.
Most of Day’s coaching background has been in various jobs at the college level. But the two years before Meyer hired him he was Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers and he was in no hurry to leave the pro game.
“Really the only place I would have left the NFL for was to come to Ohio State because this is just the greatest organization in all of America,” Day said.
Asked if an Alabama or Notre Dame or some other legendary college football programs had offered him its head coaching position could it have gotten him to leave the NFL, he said, “Only in Columbus.”
Day, who had his 40th birthday in March, has moved nine times since beginning his coaching career in 2002 as tight ends coach at New Hampshire, where he was a record-setting quarterback. Ohio State and Boston College are the only places he has stayed more than two years.
“From early on I dreamed big. I was always taught to dream big at a young age and I saw a lot of guys who moved up in the profession and said, ‘Why can’t that be me?’ he said.
“I had the opportunity to be around a guy who was my offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire who went to Oregon and went from somebody who nobody knew when he was at New Hampshire to one of the hottest names in football,” Day said about his mentor, Kelly. “And I realized anything is possible. He kind of taught me. I grabbed on to that and ran with it.”
Some other thoughts from Day:
• Right tackle decision: Branden Bowen will be the starting right tackle when Ohio State opens its season against Florida Atlantic on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. He beat former 5-star recruit Nicholas Petit-Frere for that position.
It was less publicized but probably more of a battle than the competition that resulted in Justin Fields being named the starting quarterback.
Bowen was a starter at right guard for OSU in 2017 before a broken leg ended his season. He had three surgeries following the injury and has not played a snap in a game since the play on which he was injured.
Bowen learned that he was a starter when Day announced it during his press conference.
“It was hard not to break down and cry because it’s been a long road,” Bowen said.
The fifth-year senior said his struggles to get back on the field made him stronger.
“I’m happy I went through it. It’s made me a much better person, a much better player and a much better man,” he said.
• Good signs from defense: Day said OSU’s defense has been practicing “at a high level.”
“You’re seeing linebackers showing up, getting their hands on balls. They’re showing up on the run game. The defensive line is penetrating and they can get after the passer. And I think the secondary is playing at a high level right now,” he said.
“I’m fired up to see what it’s going to look like. It’s not going to be perfect. But I’m proud of those guys, the way they’ve come out. They’re hungry. I think they have something to prove.”
• Hands off: Asked how much he is involved with Ohio State’s defense, Day said, “Very little. That’s why we hired the guys (defensive coaches) we did.”
• Dobbins workload: Day said he doesn’t have a target for how many carries J.K. Dobbins gets this season, but that he can expect to carry the ball a lot in some games.
“He’s going to have some 20-carry games. He’s gotten stronger. I think he’s ready for that kind of season. He has been splitting time with Mike (Weber) over the past couple of years and now he’s got to be the workhorse. And I think he’s ready for that.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.