New day for Buckeyes

Bill Rabinowitz

Pictures of Ryan Day’s family adorn the shelves of the head football coach’s office in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Exactly three months after he was named to succeed Urban Meyer, Day said the office does feel like his now. But much of the space on the shelves remains empty.

“You accumulate a lot of things as years go on, so I’m leaving some shelves open,” Day said on Monday.

The assumption is that success in the coming years at Ohio State will fill them. On Wednesday, that task begins in earnest when he leads his team onto the practice field for the start of spring practice as its full-fledged coach.

“It’s funny because I felt like we just got done with (Rose Bowl) practice,” Day said.

Video: Ryan Day's Spring Practice

Day is just one of many who will be in new roles, or just new entirely. Line coach Larry Johnson is the only holdover from last year’s defensive staff. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. is gone after his comet-like one season as a starter. Also departed are potential No. 1 overall draft pick Nick Bosa, wide receivers Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon and five others who just wrapped up the NFL combine.

But this is Ohio State. Talent is not an issue, even if it is unproven. Most eyes will be on the battle to succeed Haskins at quarterback. Justin Fields, the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, enrolled in January after transferring from Georgia. Redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin is healthy after rehabbing from a torn ACL last year.

Though Fields is considered the favorite to win the job, Day wouldn’t tip his hand. In fact, the first quarterback Day mentioned was third-stringer Chris Chugunov to praise him for the way he has embraced his role.

“It’s going to be a great battle between Matt and Justin,” Day said.

He said each will get plenty of reps in the spring.

“I know everybody wants to (speculate), but nobody has done anything,” Day said. “Justin just got here, and Matt hasn’t done anything since he’s been here. We have to see.

“Guys have to earn it. It’s all about earning. Chris will have an opportunity as well. Those guys have to earn everything they get. It’s so early right now.”

It’s a similar situation at several other positions. The offensive line will have a completely new look from the one that played most of 2018. Day said that left tackle Thayer Munford, the only returning lineman who started all last season, will miss spring practice as he recovers from an injury he declined to specify.

Last year’s starting linebackers return, but their inconsistent play will make competition there intriguing.

“Those guys are a little bit scarred,” Day said. “I think they’re hungry. There’s some experience, and there’s some youth in there. Until we get on the field, we really don’t know. But they’re very serious about their business right now, and that’s exciting to see.”

The secondary returns several starters after a season in which it didn’t play up to lofty team standards. Day said safety and unit leader Jordan Fuller will likely miss spring practice because of an unspecified injury.

The Buckeyes are coming off a successful, though tumultuous, season. Day believes it speaks well for the program’s culture that only two players — linebacker Keandre Jones and quarterback Tate Martell — departed after the turmoil and coaching transition.

Now the on-field work for 2019 is set to begin.

“I want to see what the personality of the team is and where the leadership comes from,” Day said. “We have a lot of guys on offense that haven’t done it. They have played a little bit, but they haven’t been leaders.

“Guys on defense, they have a lot of experience. But what is this team going to look like? What’s its personality? What’s its identity?”


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