Ryan Day says Ohio State football's focus is on Rose Bowl and recruiting, not possible coaching staff changes

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

In the aftermath of Ohio State’s loss to Oregon in early September, a defeat in which the Buckeyes were pushed around at the line of scrimmage, Ryan Day wasted little time in reshuffling roles on his coaching staff.  

Two games into the season, Day stripped defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs of play-calling responsibilities, handing those duties over to secondary coach Matt Barnes.

But any similar moves, or a larger staff shakeup, don’t appear to be on the immediate horizon following another upset loss.  

Speaking with reporters a little more than a week after the Buckeyes were beaten by Michigan, Day deflected a series of questions about potential staff changes, maintaining that their attention remains fixed on the early signing period beginning later this month and a trip to the Rose Bowl to face Utah on Jan. 1. The team begins bowl practices on Friday.

“As we head into this bowl time, recruiting is so crazy, so we're focused on that,” Day said. “We're focused on these guys. We're focused on the bowl game right now. That’s really where our focus is.”

Asked about possible staff changes, Ryan Day said, “As we head into this bowl time, recruiting is so crazy, so we're focused on that.”

Will Ohio State football have a new defensive coordinator in 2022?

The biggest question ahead of this offseason is whether Day will look to hire a defensive coordinator from outside of the program, an option he didn’t delve into much during his news conference Sunday.

Still, he didn’t shut the door on the idea.

“We’re always going to be evaluating and seeing what’s the best move going forward,” Day said.

The demotion of Coombs early in the season seemed to pave the way for such a possibility.

But as Barnes stepped in as the play-caller and oversaw a handful of schematic changes on defense, it seemed to patch up the holes on that side of the ball.

Then the Buckeyes visited rival Michigan, and two months of progress looked like a mirage.

Not only did they suffer their first loss in The Game in a decade, but they were also bullied in the trenches and allowed 297 rushing yards, the most against the Wolverines since 1995, mirroring their issues from the first few weeks in September when they struggled to stop the rushing attacks of Minnesota and Oregon.

Following the defeat, Ohio State dipped into the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in total defense. Giving up 20.9 points per game, it's also likely to be the third time in four seasons the Buckeyes have allowed more than 20 points a contest.

How has Ryan Day made coaching changes in the past?

Previous staff changes during Day’s tenure have often followed the postseason.

Former defensive co-coordinator Greg Mattison retired last January following the Buckeyes’ appearance in the College Football Playoff championship game.

When former quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich left in 2019 to become the offensive coordinator at Texas, his departure came a day after the playoff semifinal loss to Clemson.

The exception was Jeff Hafley. When the defensive co-coordinator was hired as Boston College’s coach two years ago, the move occurred ahead of the game against Clemson. Day hired Coombs as his replacement.

Those moves, though, have been minor in comparison to movement at other programs.

Day has largely kept his staff intact and remarked last winter that he valued continuity after players went through a tumultuous season in 2020 that had been altered by the coronavirus pandemic.

It was a priority when in February he promoted Barnes to secondary coach and Parker Fleming to special teams coordinator to fill the 10th on-field assistant spot left by Mattison.

But he might now explore alternative approaches.

When asked if he planned to have significant or minor changes to his staff this offseason, he said it was all under consideration.

“I think that's part of the process year in and year out,” Day said. “It's just looking to see what's right. I don't think you could go into any type of situation with a predetermined set of thoughts. You just got figure out on a year-to-year basis what’s the best to move forward.  We’re evaluating that, and we’ll continue to evaluate that. But really, what we want to do is give these guys a great bowl experience.”

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Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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