COLUMBUS – A national championship, three Big Ten titles, a 7-0 record against Michigan and 86 wins in 95 games make Urban Meyer a tough act to follow for Ryan Day.
So does the look.
Meyer has always had a look about him that says he is intense, passionate and definitely in charge. But rather than being off-putting, it is also a look that draws people to him.
Dennis Wendel, who was on Meyer’s first Bowling Green team, described it this way not long after Meyer was hired at Ohio State in 2012:
“The first thing I remember about him is his walk when he walked into the room (at Bowling Green). As soon as he walked into the room, he definitely had a presence about him. He commanded the room immediately,” he said.
Meyer arrived at Ohio State with a presence as a known quantity and with two national championships, including a 41-14 thumping of OSU in the 2006 title game, in his pocket.
Ohio State fans had a lot evidence he had the “it” factor as a coach.
Much less is known about Day, who came to Ohio State in 2017 as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018 and was the acting head coach for three games last season when Meyer was suspended.
Probably the biggest thing most people know about him is that he is a creative offensive play designer and play-caller who is a protege of Chip Kelly.
But he has never been a head coach at any level before now.
So, there are many questions as people try to predict if he will continue the incredible success Meyer had at Ohio State.
One of the recurring questions is will he be as tough as Meyer? Can he make the hard call? Does he have the look, which is another way of saying will he command the same respect as Meyer?
The question of if he will be tough enough was put to Day at the Big Ten football media days in July when he was asked if he could be “the bad guy.”
Day said, “That is just part of coaching. I think there are a lot of coaches over the years, that I grew up with, that was kind of the way they were every day. I don’t think that is the way you are on a day-to-day basis.
“When it comes time you have to pull that club out of the bag, you are going to need it. If you have been told to do something and you just don’t do it, then we have a problem. But I want these guys to play free without anything in the back of their mind.”
Wide receiver K.J. Hill said, “I think Coach Meyer is more of an old-school, demanding coach. Coach Day is going to ask for the same thing, but it’s more in a laid-back way. Instead of yelling and screaming at you for something, he’s just going to demand it in an asking way.”
Safety Jordan Fuller says Day’s nice-guy image is genuine but that he also can be tough.
“No coach got to this level if they were just nice all the time. Obviously he has that streak, and he can motivate somebody to get the job done. I don’t know exactly how he’ll do it, but I know if he’s talking to me I’m going to listen,” he said.
Wide receiver Austin Mack says Day has already shown he is tough enough when players were late for a meeting or workouts or didn’t pay attention to their weight.
“We’ve had issues this summer, and he has handled them really well. He comes on as a nice guy because he wants to show it is tough love. He expects a certain standard, and if you don’t reach that standard he’s going to make sure you know about it,” Mack said.
One person who has no doubts Day is ready for the challenge of following Meyer is Kelly, his offensive coordinator in college who later hired him as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.
When Day took over as interim coach last season, Kelly texted him “You were built for this.”
Day, who turned 40 years old earlier this year, grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he was the quarterback of a state champion football team at Central High School.
He went on to start at quarterback at the University of New Hampshire for three years. He is fourth in career passing yards at New Hampshire and still holds the record for passes attempted in a game (65).
He started his coaching career as tight ends coach at New Hampshire in 2002. He was a graduate assistant at Boston College for two years before Meyer hired him as a graduate assistant at Florida in 2005.
Since then, he has worked at Temple twice, Boston College twice for the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers before becoming Ohio State’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2017. OSU is only the second job where Day has stayed more than two years.
Day left no doubt he knows what is expected of him on the day he was introduced as Meyer’s successor.
“It didn’t take long for me to figure out what the expectations were in Ohio State football. No. 1, win the rivalry game. And No. 2, win every game after that,” he said.
Ironically, considering all the concern that Day won’t be like Meyer, on that same day, Meyer’s advice to OSU’s new coach was that he should be himself.
“First, he’s got to be himself. That was great advice to me as a young coach from Lou Holtz and Earle Bruce. You can’t try to be someone else,” Meyer said.