With two other coaches on Ohio State’s football staff with head coaching experience, Ryan Day was not expecting to be named as acting coach when Urban Meyer was put on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1.

But OSU athletic director Gene Smith picked Day over defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson to fill in for Meyer.

“It really caught me off-guard,” Day said

 

Day on Monday spoke publicly for the first time about his new role, which he’ll maintain for three weeks with Meyer suspended until Monday and then from games until Sept. 16. Ohio State opens its season at noon Saturday against Oregon State.

Day, 39, has never been a head coach. In the offseason he got a bump in pay and title to offensive co-coordinator after he was courted by the Tennessee Titans.

Day opened with prepared remarks in which he addressed the ordeal that resulted in Meyer’s suspension.

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“I understand there’s been a lot of pain and stress,” Day said, adding that he wasn’t involved with or interviewed for the investigation into Meyer. “Our coaching staff has been working hard in that time to get ready for Oregon State,” he said.

He believes Buckeyes players will benefit from the difficult August, as painful as it’s been.

“Adversity can reveal character,” he said.

Insiders have said that Day has acclimated well to his new role. Schiano heaped praise on him.

“I think Ryan Day did an incredible job” during training camp, he said.

Day said the adjustment hasn’t been easy and he credited Schiano, Wilson and the other assistants — “it has to be the best staff in America,” he said – for easing his transition.

“It's kind of learning by getting thrown in the fire,” Day said.

But he took comfort in advice and support from his mentor, UCLA coach Chip Kelly, who coached him when Day was a quarterback at New Hampshire. Day said Kelly texted him, saying, “You’re built for this.”

Day and Schiano clarified some position battles that have gone undisclosed during the team’s media blackout. At linebacker, Baron Browning will start in the middle, flanked by Pete Werner and Malik Harrison.

Werner is perhaps the biggest surprise of the three.

“He’s made quite an ascension,” Schiano said. “You saw him grow up on special teams last year. He had a great spring. He really worked hard to mature his body. He’s a much bigger man than he was as a freshman. His arrow is pointing up.”

On the offensive line, Michael Jordan has moved to center after playing left guard the past two years. Isaiah Prince will be at right tackle, Demetrius Knox at right guard and Malcolm Pridgeon at left guard. At left tackle, Thayer Munford has been battling an injury. He or Josh Alabi will start.

The competition for the safety spot alongside Jordan Fuller remains unsettled between Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint.

Dwayne Haskins Jr., as expected, will be the starting quarterback.

“The thing we talk about with Dwayne is he doesn’t have to be J.T. (Barrett),” said Day, who also coaches the quarterbacks. “He doesn’t have to be Braxton (Miller) or Cardale (Jones).”

Day said that backup Tate Martell made a push during the last two weeks of camp and also will see action.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

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