Ryan Day knew it was coming. Every time the soon-to-be Ohio State football coach sat down with a recruit and his family, they wanted to know what the Buckeyes would be like once Urban Meyer retired.
“That was the No. 1 question,” Day said Wednesday.
Of course it was. You don’t replace a legend like Meyer without Mama demanding answers about how her son will be treated and where the program is headed.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“Most people had their phones out and would just kind of scroll through all the questions they had while we were sitting in their home,” Day said. “But the first one that came up was exactly that: your direction and what you see the vision for the program.”
Day was ready for it.
“The way I answered that was that we think we have the most comprehensive program from A to Z in the country, and the infrastructure is here, and the plan is not to change that,” Day said. “The plan is not to come in and blow all that up. There’s a reason why there’s been so much success here in the past, and we want to keep that going.”
Good answer, but not the complete one. Day knew that recruits and their families were comparing him with Meyer. He knew he could sell them on the university. He knew he could promote the football program. But he still needed to convince them that he was there for them.
Sitting in those living/interview rooms, with a recruiting class hanging in the balance due to Meyer’s pending departure, Day separated himself from Meyer not by winning games but by winning admirers.
“Anytime there’s a leadership change, there’s a change in personality and demeanor, and that will be part of this,” Day explained.
>>Video: Ryan Day on signing Zach Harrison
In other words, not being Meyer does not have to be a negative. Meyer’s track record as a recruiter is nearly impeccable — a No. 2 ranking the past two years — but Day is no second-rate deal sealer.
It is too soon to get a true read, but early indications are that the 39-year-old is a Great White Shark that swallowed 10 bags of sugar — sweet inside but deadly when pursuing his prey. Dispatch colleague Bill Rabinowitz captured Day’s ultra-competitiveness in Sunday’s paper. Check it out at BuckeyeXtra.com.
Day is confident and quicker on his feet as a coach than he was as a college quarterback at New Hampshire, which is not a slam on his athleticism so much as a credit to his ability to win the room.
When Ohio State announced that Day would replace Meyer, who is retiring after the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl, the most immediate public concern was whether Day was up to the task of running such a high-profile program.
Behind the scenes, however, the mood was much more buoyant because those close to the program knew that Day has been exceptional at recruiting. And if you can recruit, you can win.
Over the past 2½ weeks, Day has cemented his reputation not only as a people person, but also as a deft dealer in damage control. The 15 recruits who signed with Ohio State on Wednesday do not rank as a top-five class — 247Sports puts the Buckeyes at No. 12 — and two targets, Dwan Mathis (quarterback) and Jordan Battle (safety), flipped, but things could have been much worse, given Meyer’s exit.
The Buckeyes still signed three five-star players, including Zach Harrison of Olentangy Orange. Far from a disaster.
“The culture we’re going to have here is one of love, where we’re going to love our kids, and they’re going to enjoy coming into the building every day,” Day said.
That will preach — in living rooms and anyplace else.