LOS ANGELES — Ryan Day considers himself an old soul, but no matter what Ohio State players think, the 39-year-old quarterback whisperer does not need a hearing aid just yet.
What’s that you say? ’Tis true. In raving about Day’s amped energy level at Rose Bowl practices, tackle Isaiah Prince said of the soon-to-be Ohio State head honcho: “He’s bouncing around. He’s demonstrating. You see like a 50-year-old guy running a route and you’re like, ‘Who does that?’ ”
Day does that — minus the 11 extra years Prince added to his age — and he plans to continue doing it next season in his first full stint as CEO of a program handed to him approvingly by Urban Meyer, who is retiring after the Rose Bowl on Tuesday.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Anyone thinking Day will delegate all of the play-calling to a coordinator and turn over the job of working closely with the quarterbacks should think again.
“I want to continue that, because that’s what has given me the opportunity to be in this situation and I don’t want to change that,” he said Saturday.
The hands-on approach is what makes Day tick, and it also is what should make Ohio State fans feel better about a murky quarterback situation heading into next season.
Is Dwayne Haskins Jr. off to the NFL? Probably. Is Tate Martell ready to step in and lead the Buckeyes to fewer than three losses? Possibly. Is Justin Fields, who some have compared to former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, transferring from Georgia to Ohio State, where the NCAA could rule him immediately eligible? Maybe.
The Buckeyes face uncertainty similar to a year ago, when a record-setting quarterback (J.T. Barrett) was out the door, leaving Ohio State with a largely untested replacement (Haskins) and an even less-experienced backup (Martell).
The difference is that last offseason Day was working exclusively with the QBs, and now he is about to oversee the whole show. Something has to give, right?
“I’m still going to be involved with the quarterbacks a good amount,” he said. “Having a feel for the quarterbacks in terms of what they’ve seen … what they’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis, kind of keeps you in tune with the offense, because the offense goes as the quarterback goes.”
This is no small thing. Day is considered among the top quarterback coaches in college football, having honed his skills in the NFL. I asked what makes him so good at developing QB talent, and if fans should be concerned that he may spread himself too thin by continuing to work closely with the quarterbacks.
“I hate to talk about myself like that, but I will say this: I played the position. I was coached by a great quarterbacks coach when I played. But then a few years ago I had to make a decision kind of where my career was going. I made a hard decision to coach in the NFL and focus all my time on the quarterback play and the pro passing game. I thought that would differentiate myself in the coaching profession.”
He thought right. Day spent two years meeting with different quarterback coaches and studying offenses, particularly the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
“I felt that gave me a little bit of edge in coaching,” he said.
The other edge comes from participating in practices like a 39-year-old going on 20. Not 50.
“That energy he brings to the offense is what gets us going,” Prince said. “Whatever quarterback he has next season is going to get the best that he has.”
The Rose Bowl is nigh. After that, we find out if Day’s best is good enough. I have yet to hear anyone say it won’t be.