As coaching transitions go, the week-old move from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day has been rather painless for Ohio State players as they prepare for their Rose Bowl date with Washington on New Year’s Day.
Day, after all, is no stranger. The second-year offensive coordinator led the team through preseason camp and the first three games of the season while Meyer served a suspension. Day will take over the full head coaching role as soon as the Rose Bowl is history.
“I have no doubt he’s going to do a great job,” fifth-year senior receiver and captain Terry McLaurin said Wednesday, the first time most of the players were available to the media since the announcement. “Coach Meyer is leaving it, and Ohio State is still in good hands.”
But then, McLaurin and his teammates have had time to digest the news. It came at them full force on Nov. 27 in a 7 a.m. team meeting.
“We didn’t know at all. It was a surprise team meeting,” freshman receiver Chris Olave said. “We were supposed to talk about the bowl schedule. … We all went in there, he announced it, and we were all shocked.”
Well, not all. There had been hints.
“The night before he announced it he called me and Parris (Campbell, another fifth-year senior receiver and captain) in, and we talked for about an hour or so, (Meyer) asking for our opinions,” McLaurin said. “When he did that, I felt like it was pretty serious. I didn’t think he was going to announce it — I thought he had maybe another year or so.
“But that next day he told the team, and me and Parris were looking at each other like, ‘This is for real.’ ”
They understood. Meyer started by going more in-depth with the players about something they already knew: His coaching life had become a challenge as he dealt with severe headaches brought on by an arachnoid cyst in his skull.
“First and foremost, his health was his biggest concern,” McLaurin said. “He has always preached to us: His family and us — that’s really all he has going in his life. That’s all he cares about. Then when something like his health affected the way he can coach, especially how intense that he is, he probably just felt like he couldn’t give it his all anymore.”
Most of the players had sensed that throughout the season, junior defensive tackle Davon Hamilton said.
“You could tell he wasn’t feeling well, his health was deteriorating,” Hamilton said.
To have Meyer lay it out for them in what amounted to a retirement announcement still made for interesting theater.
“When he started talking about it, he was talking about his personal issues and all that,” Olave said. “I was just kind of looking, on the edge of my seat, paying attention. … He told us coach Day was going to take over, they truly believed in him, and (athletic director) Gene Smith told us about everything.
“It was a day that was just unreal. All coach Meyer has done for this program is historical.”
But there also was no doubt who the new head coach was going to be. Instead of the players having to spend a week or two wondering who might be brought in as the successor, that man actually was already there. Heck, he already had been their head coach.
“It’s kind of lifting a weight off our shoulders, having coach Day the first three games as our head coach,” Olave said. “We know how he is and we know how it’s going to be around here. It’s probably going to be the same. There’s probably going to be no letdown.
“It’s probably going to be fun, so I can’t wait.”