Once Tim Beck decided entirely on his own to leave Ohio State for Texas, Urban Meyer had to find the next-best quarterbacks coach in the country to replace him. His search ultimately brought him to Ryan Day, who he once employed as a graduate assistant back in his Florida Gator days.
When Day got to Ohio State, he found a quarterback room loaded with potential. His job was to turn that potential into production.
He had an entire winter and spring with his four scholarship quarterbacks, and now there are just over two weeks away from the first game of the 2017 season.
Day has met with the media several times since his arrival, and he has shared the work that he and his players have put in to prepare for this coming season. To a man, those players believe they are much better off than they were a year ago. While that should be the natural progression for any player regardless of the coach, the quarterbacks have had no problem crediting Day with their improvement, and it starts with the relationships that have been built over the last eight months.
“I would say just our relationship in general with all four people in the room is getting closer,” redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow said. “That might just be another year in the room together, it might be Coach Day, it might be Coach Beck, I don’t really know, I just know our relationship is closer now than it was last year.”
The room is now closer than it has ever been, and so is the competition. Players are pushing each other, they are learning from each other, and they are taking what Day is teaching and putting it to use each day on the field.
“He’s gotten me a lot better as a quarterback,” Burrow said. “He’s gotten all of us a lot better as quarterbacks and I’m excited to put it on the field this year. I’ve been trying to quicken my release even more. Last year it got a little long again. I got better last spring but I think It’s getting better again. I would say my arm is a lot stronger and my release is a lot quicker, my feet are a lot quicker. Just my mechanics have gotten better in general.”
Footwork has been a sizable issue as well.
“It’s a really big part of the mechanics of throwing,” Burrow said. “Before I was just using the upper body. Now I’ve learned how to put my whole body into it.”
As a teacher, the players have appreciated Day’s approach.
“He is really calm,” said senior J.T. Barrett. “He does a great job the way he coaches. He’s very particular, but everything you do has an explanation behind it. There’s a reason why we do certain things. There’s more of a breaking down process on why we do things like we do.”
While each of the quarterbacks has improved in the fundamentals of the position, there has been plenty of work put into the mental aspect of the game as well. That includes having a better grasp of the offense and being a leader, but also involves the implementation of some new “QB theory” as well. For instance, how do you throw the ball to a guy who isn’t open? It’s not quite “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” but it does require some thought.
“Coach Day brought that coming from the NFL,” Barrett said. “In the NFL nobody is really open if you think about it. You think about third downs and playing man to man, nobody is really open. What we do on defense here at Ohio State with the press corners is challenging every throw. That’s definitely something we talk about. You have to do your best to get your guy the opportunity to touch the football.
“Last year if somebody was draped all over my guy, in certain situations, third down I would do that, but even if it’s first-and-ten, second down, give my guy the opportunity to go make a play for us instead of just checking the ball or running it, things like that. It’s just a different mindset and Coach Day really brought it to teaching us quarterbacks. When you get to higher-level football like last year when we were playing Clemson, was there anybody just open running free? Not really, because that’s the top tier of football when the skill levels are equated.”
So not only has Day improved the footwork and throwing mechanics of how to throw the ball, he is also teaching his quarterbacks where to throw. That mindset has led to a much larger focus on the deep ball, but it is just as apt on a second-and-7 comeback route. Throws have to be made and Day is trying to teach his guys how and where to make it happen.
For redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins, his learning process has been as much about simply maturing as anything else. As a true freshman last season, his head was spinning. Eventually that spinning slows down. That’s when the real growth happens.
“Honestly, I’m different last from to this year with the maturity factor,” Haskins said. “Just being more mature. I feel like I took really great strides in spring ball and I’m just continuing to do that in fall camp. I feel like I’ve improved in owning the offense and being a general on the field.”
The players have clearly bought in, and it helps that they continue to see the results each day. For Day, this is exactly what he signed up for.
“I think there’s a respect level there,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for them, they’re very talented, and they’re very good in the classroom. I think when we go in there together and have conversations about football, I think they respect the fact that what I tell them and what goes on in the meeting room happens on the fields, and they can carry that over.”