Loss of Jeff Hafley adds to Ohio State coach Ryan Day's busy week

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State coach Ryan Day celebrates with defensive end Chase Young (2) and wide receiver Binjimen Victor after beating Wisconsin 34-21 in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 7. Day lost co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley from his staff, but said he expects to retain his other nine assistant coaches. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

Ohio State didn't play a football game last week, but it's not as if that afforded Ryan Day much time for reflection about his first season as coach.

“No, I haven't had time to think at all,” Day said Monday.

If anything, last week was more even more of a whirlwind. Day shuttled between recruiting trips to firm up the stellar class that will become official on Wednesday, awards ceremonies for Buckeyes stars, the start of College Football Playoff game preparation and dealing with the loss of defensive co-coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley to Boston College.

“Last week was the craziest week I've ever been a part of,” Day said.

The biggest news was Hafley's departure. He was introduced Monday as Boston College's head coach after one season at Ohio State.

Hafley and Greg Mattison directed a defense that has allowed only 12.5 points per game and yielded an average of just 247.6 yards. Last year, Ohio State gave up 25.5 points and 403.4 yards per game.

Hafley quickly made his mark with the Buckeyes with his passion, schematic expertise and ability to forge relationships with players. He will stay with the Buckeyes through the playoff. Ohio State plays defending national champion Clemson in a semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona on Dec. 28 in a matchup of 13-0 teams.

“Certainly (we're) going to miss Jeff and wish him nothing but the best of luck,” Day said. “He's going to do a great job at Boston College.”

Day said he isn't worried about finding a replacement.

“We're not all of a sudden going to change,” he said. “Jeff came in to run this defense, and he did a great job. But we're going to fill that in and we're going to continue to do the same thing we're doing on defense in the future.”

Losing coaches is part of life for successful teams. It's better than having assistants no one else covets.

“You can either go hire somebody that is going to be here for seven to eight years or go hire the best in the country,” Day said. “We're going to hire the best in the country.

“I told the DBs last year at this time, 'I am going to go get the best guy in the country,' ” Day said. “They didn't know who Jeff Hafley was. Now they love him. They're going to miss him. We're going to do the same thing again next year — go get the best there is.”

Day said he expects to retain his other nine assistant coaches, including linebackers coach Al Washington, who's a former BC player and assistant coach.

The Buckeyes had their first practice for Clemson on Monday. They will practice through Wednesday before they can return home for a brief pre-Christmas visit before the team reconvenes in Phoenix.

For Day and his coaches, the next big day is Wednesday. The early signing period has replaced the traditional one in February in importance, and Ohio State is expected to have a top-five class.

Hafley's departure threw some uncertainty into the picture, but Day is confident that the five blue-chip defensive backs committed to Ohio State will remain in the fold.

“Coach Hafley is a big reason they came here, but it wasn't the only reason,” Day said. “Our guys have been strong in their response. They're excited to sign on Wednesday.”



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