New boss can't be the old boss; Day must find own way to win

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State coach Ryan Day, left, watches as players go through drills at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

Reporters should have carried mirrors instead of tape recorders on Wednesday as Ryan Day explained the challenges facing new quarterbacks. The description reflected his own image as Ohio State’s new football coach.

• “It’s hard to lead when doing everything for the first time,” he said after the Buckeyes’ first spring practice.

• “Everyone is different. You can’t be somebody else. You have to be yourself.”

• “They have to find their own way.”

Day is doing everything for the first time. He is different from Urban Meyer. To succeed he must be himself, not try to exactly copy his former boss.

How different will Day be from Meyer? How different should he be?

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There are areas where Day should imitate Meyer and where he needs to break from the methodology of his predecessor.

First, the obvious: Meyer did most things right. He went 83-9 with one national championship, never lost more than two games in a season and was 7-0 against Michigan.

Meyer built his .902 winning percentage at OSU by demanding a non-negotiable commitment to team first. Day needs to continue to foster a culture of we-ism over me-ism. Meyer also was the king of intrasquad competition. He turned everything into a contest to keep players and coaches uncomfortable. Contentment was the enemy.

>> Video: Ohio State football first practice

Day should keep elements of Meyer’s 24/7 challenge mentality, but tap the brakes to avoid burnout. My hunch is that Meyer’s nonstop prodding created tiny cracks that resulted in bridge collapses against Iowa and Purdue the past two seasons.

Day detailed a philosophy on Wednesday that leads me to think he better understands how to release steam from the season-long pressure cooker.

“They have to feel they are allowed to fail,” Day said, explaining that he wants quarterbacks to compete but not feel they must be perfect. “If you fail, you learn. If you’re afraid to fail, because you are (worried) you are going to win or lose the job, then you are not getting better at a fast enough rate. Who can learn from his mistakes best usually wins the job.”

Early in his career, Meyer made hay by out-innovating opponents. Specifically, he refined the spread offense, which helped him go 22-2 at Utah and win two national titles at Florida.

But when defenses caught up the past few years, the Buckeyes remained committed to a spread that relied on a quarterback’s feet. The tension point came in 2017, when J.T. Barrett displayed toughness — Meyer’s No. 1 requirement of a quarterback — but lacked the NFL-type arm that separates elite offenses from excellent ones.

Day will adjust his offense to the specific skills of his starting QB, but ideally those skills lean toward pass-first capabilities. As for ranking quarterback traits, “Leadership is No. 1. … At the end of the day, do you move your team down the field and do you show leadership?” he said.

Day also wants to be out front offensively.

“We’re always trying to be on the cutting edge,” he said. “What is the thing that keeps us ahead of everybody else?”

One answer: Come fall, the Buckeyes will run more plays from under center than they did under Meyer, who left the play-calling to his offensive coordinators. Day is changing it up and will serve as the primary play-caller.

“I will allow some of the guys to call plays in the spring, but my inclination is I am going to call plays next year,” he said.

Ohio State fans should like what they see so far in Day. Players do.

“Coach Meyer is old-school. Coach Day is younger … talks our language,” said receiver K.J. Hill said, explaining differences between the two men without choosing sides.

Meyer may be old-school, but the winning percentage never got old. Day will be challenged to duplicate it.


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