Taking over Urban Meyer’s program is a daunting task. The only coach who has done it successfully so far is Utah’s Kyle Whittingham.
Ryan Day now becomes the latest to join the likes of Whittingham, Gregg Brandon at Bowling Green, and Will Muschamp at Florida.
Ohio State is obviously hoping that Day is much more Whittingham than Muschamp.
Day takes over a program that has been built on everything that Urban Meyer has wanted Ohio State to be, but expectations at OSU predate Meyer by nearly a century. Not only is Ryan Day replacing a legend, but he is also taking over a football program with unmatched expectations.
It is a daunting task for anybody, and one with plenty of challenges. There are no perfect answers, but there are suggestions based on prior experience.
“First, he’s got to be him,” Meyer said. “And that was great advice to me as a young coach from Lou Holtz and Coach [Earle] Bruce, you can’t try to be someone else. The players are, they were smart then, they’re far too smart now. You have to be real, as our strength coach, Coach Mick [Marotti], always says.”
Despite the pressure, a coach doesn’t have to look too hard or too long to find the advantages of being at Ohio State. Whatever a coach needs, OSU athletic director Gene Smith is going to listen. Meyer has said in the past that whenever he asked for something — within reason — there wasn’t any pushback from his bosses. If it’s good for the student-athletes, then it will generally be implemented.
“The good thing about Ohio State under Gene’s leadership is that the infrastructure is solid top to bottom,” Meyer said. “It’s arguably the best I’ve ever been around. And that’s talking about the academics, Coach Mick and his charges in the sports performance team, player welfare, our training staff, et cetera, et cetera.”
Program and player welfare are a couple of reasons why Gene Smith didn’t have to go outside to find a new head coach. He wanted as seamless a transition as possible.
With Day having worked under Meyer for the last two years, he has seen how to best run Ohio State’s football program.
There will be no need to break what isn’t broken, which will also allow Day to remain focused on keeping things moving in the same direction they’ve been going since 2012.
“When you usually go into a new program you usually have to implode the whole thing,” Meyer explained. “And you only have so much — I actually talked to Ryan about this — you have a ‘pie of energy.’ And your family and faith, don’t touch that. I’ve touched that before and it starts to implode — it creates issues for you. Don’t touch that.
“The other part of your time, you’ve got to divide it up somehow. And if you’re interviewing academic people, if you’re interviewing trainers and trying to find a strength coach, et cetera, you’re cutting into the lifeblood. And his focus is to go recruit. Go recruit. Make sure the staff’s exactly how you want it. And other than that, down the road you can adjust things.”
Everything that Day would need to build his own program is already going strong. The administration is solidly in place throughout the football facilities. Everything behind the scenes is still running just fine, which will allow Day to keep his focus where it needs to be — and right at this exact moment, that’s recruiting.
“But this recruiting gig, that’s all laser lights have to be on that, 100 percent,” Meyer said. “And I know he’s, first of all, he’s a great recruiter. And I think the way that things are set up here, that can be full-time energy on that and not some other stuff.”
On January 2, Ryan Day will be taking over the Ohio State football program.
It will be a while before he’ll be doing it without the ability to check in with Urban Meyer periodically along the way.
When he does, however, don’t expect Meyer’s advice to change — be yourself and recruit, recruit, recruit.