The 2019 college football season wrapped up Monday night in New Orleans, and the Ohio State Buckeyes have already shifted their focus to 2020.
OSU’s new freshmen early enrollees are already on campus, and the Bucks are working their way through winter workouts.
The program has already added one assistant coach, in quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis. Another, the new co-defensive coordinator to replace Jeff Hafley, is still awaiting official confirmation.
Wednesday afternoon, OSU head coach Ryan Day met with the media to recap everything that has happened since the clock hit zero in the Fiesta Bowl, as well as to look ahead at what’s next for the program.
You can watch Day’s press conference below in its entirety.
After it concludes, a complete transcript will be posted below the video.
COACH DAY: I know sometimes you have a tough job and you have to ask tough questions, but the professionalism in this room, I just really appreciate it. And I want to thank you guys for a great year across the board from beginning to end. It means a lot to me and the program. I just wanted to take that opportunity to say thank you.
Q. You guys used the 1-high safety and the three corners mostly for your starting secondary. Is that kind of your defensive philosophy moving forward regardless who the new coach is? Is that how you want to do it moving forward?
COACH DAY: Yeah, that’s kind of our base. We definitely can get to a 2-high look and we will. We’re going to diversify a little bit more this year, but certainly we don’t want to change our philosophy. We kind of built that this year. We thought we made some great strides there. Certainly not perfect. But we’re going to keep the structure of what it is now, but we’re going to diversify a little bit as we move forward.
Q. Jeff Hafley was in the box. Greg Mattison was on the field. I know it’s early, but will the new coach likely be in the box or on the field?
COACH DAY: We haven’t hired anybody yet. Once we go about the business of hiring somebody we’ll figure that out.
Q. Is the plan for the 2020 class to get one more running back as you stand here right now?
COACH DAY: The numbers are pretty tight right now. So probably not. But we’ll kind of see how things go.
Q. The hiring of Corey Dennis coming in and choosing him as Mike Yurcich’s replacement, how important was the familiarity and him being a part of this staff already in terms of making that hire?
COACH DAY: Really important. Since I got here Corey’s kind of been my right hand man. And he’s kind of, right from the beginning, from when I got off the plane that first time we were kind of together. And we’ve spent a lot of time in that meeting room together. And he knows exactly how we teach things. And he’s got a tremendous relationship with the quarterbacks here. He’s done a good job in recruiting and has had a hand in a lot of stuff.
But I feel great with not only the fact that he can teach the way we teach it, but also we need some continuity in that room. Corey is a young coach who has a really bright future. And I think everything — if you put into Corey you’re going to get back in invest because he’s so bright.
But when I got in here and Mike came in and so now this is the third guy in really three years. And I really want to solidify that room and have some stability in there. So I think that was critical too because I know Corey is invested in Ohio State and his family. So when you combine all those things together, I thought it was a great hire.
Q. There were reports he was going to go to Colorado State in December. Was that something that changed at the last minute with that job opening up?
COACH DAY: I think he had an opportunity to go there as well, and all things happen fast as they do in December and January in the coaching world. So, I believe maybe he was out in Colorado at one point and came back to Ohio. I know it was very exciting for he and his family, and he was really excited to get back to Columbus.
Q. Ask you about Justin as well coming. Obviously he is coming off the knee injury. As he is going into these offseason workouts, do you place any restrictions on him or are you cautious with him as he goes into these workouts?
COACH DAY: If his knee is still there as we start into the running phase of things then we’ll be smart about it. But we’re hoping by the time we get to that point he’s rehabbed and he’s 100 percent.
Q. You’ve been nice enough to talk about Joe Burrow all season. Now that he’s won it, have you had any contact and what your feeling is for him? And the follow-up, was there any thought about what might have been if he had stayed?
COACH DAY: We talked to Joe obviously several times on the award circuit and stayed in touch with Joe, and then obviously talked to him after the game and just congratulated him and how happy we were for him. It was great to see the way he played, and just the way he handled himself all year was awesome.
Really cool moment to be there at the Heisman and be there with his family and just see him win that job and overcome so many different things.
In this world, think about the guys we had in that room, it’s just amazing. And you do the best you can. You try to make the best decisions you can at the time, and when you think about Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields, wow, what a problem to have.
And they’ve all did really well. One is in the NFL; one is a Heisman Trophy winner; and one is a Heisman Trophy finalist really in the first year of playing college football.
Again, nothing but the utmost respect for Joe and happy the way things played out. It’s hard to see somebody who leaves the program, graduates and everything, go on to do something like that. But I think everybody understands you have to make tough decisions. And we’re obviously happy with the decisions we made. But at the same time it’s great to see Joe go on and play so well.
Q. Was that you and Urban making that call?
COACH DAY: Yes.
Q. You lost one game, pretty great season but still one game from your goal. I’m interested in how you regard the season looking back. Was it unsuccessful because you didn’t get to where you wanted to be, or do you look at the body of work?
COACH DAY: I think it was a successful season, for sure. I just think that in the first year of this coaching staff and a first-year quarterback and all the different things that came in — the defensive staff — there were so many positive things in the way we played.
Certainly we didn’t reach all of our goals, though. And that’s something we’ve got right back in here this past week and talked about. And they’re hungry. This team’s going to be hungry, turned around. It’s obviously fresh off the loss. That was a tough game to swallow. But we’re already moved on looking towards the future.
But I think the ground work has been laid moving forward. And I think there’s a lot of credibility now, and I think there’s some real good leadership there. And these guys have tasted it now. They’ve been in the semifinals here, some of the younger guys. I think they’re just going to be hungry moving forward as we get into the next season.
Q. As a first-year head coach, grade yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?
COACH DAY: I don’t know if I’ll do that. But, again, when you go 13-1, you win your conference championship, you win the rivalry game, that’s a hell of a season now. Doesn’t matter where you are, hell of a season.
But, again, we didn’t reach all of our goals. So that keeps us wanting more.
Q. Heading into the spring what’s your biggest concern for the team right now?
COACH DAY: I don’t know if it’s a concern. I think as we get going and we start to practice and go through work outs we want to find out who the new leaders are going to be. We lost some really good leaders and some guys who declared for the draft. Those were big leaders for us.
We’re going to need some guys to step into those roles. And as we start to practice, I think we’ll get a feel for what we need. Obviously in the running back room, those guys will be pretty green. Master played some this year, but we’re going to have to replace J.K.
In the back end there we’re losing some really good players there with Jordan, Damon and Jeff leaving. So some corners will have to step up. But that’s college football. You’re always going to have turnover.
But the good news is a lot of our guys played. In those first 11 games, those guys were all playing in the second half. So there’s a lot of experience there. And at the end of the day it’s going to come down to our leadership and how our guys lead and how hungry and accountable our guys are.
Q. Do you pull certain guys aside and tell them this is what we need from you this year?
COACH DAY: Oh, yeah, there will be a lot of meetings.
Q. After the game in Glendale, you came out and obviously right after the game and you said, I feel a lot of emotions right now including anger. Is there a part of you that’s still angry?
COACH DAY: No, I’ve moved on from the anger part of it. Obviously when you’re a competitor like that, it’s hard to lose in a game of that magnitude. And you feel like you played really, really well. But when you watch the film, we came up short in certain areas. We didn’t do well early on in the red zone. We gave up the four-play drive inside the 7-yard line late in the game. And we didn’t finish the drive with the last play of the game.
And so you look at those moments. There were a lot of great moments. We came out and played really well early on. We established the run. We hit that big fourth-and-one to Chris for the touchdown. There were so many good plays. The roughing of the punter was a huge mistake that we made.
But when you’re playing in big games and the margin for error is tiny, that’s what happens. So, yeah, I don’t know if we’ve moved on yet. I don’t think that’s probably the word. But it’s still kind of sitting there. We’re thinking about it a lot. And it’s going to keep motivating us moving forward. But at some point you do have to take the next step.
Q. The other thing about the next step into the next year, in your own evaluation of your performance, first full season as a head coach, are there already things that you can now look at and say you will do differently in year two? Are there already things you say maybe we alter our approach slightly?
COACH DAY: Yeah, for sure. I think, again, one of the things that’s the art of coaching, especially in college, is that it changes week-to-week, month-to-month, but certainly year-to-year. This team will be completely different than the last team and this staff is going to be completely different than the last staff.
There’s a lot of things after the first year, once you establish the culture as a coaching staff, year two is different. And that’s the journey we’re on. Again, one of the best things about adapting and being a good college football coach is the ability to move and adjust and talk about those things on a week-to-week basis.
What we think right now might be the best thing in two months might not be. I’m interested to see how our guys work in the weight room with Coach Mick and where is the leadership headed. A lot of things come into play.
We have 15 mid-year guys that just showed up on the team. That’s a big chunk of our team. How do they get meshed into the team and the fabric of our culture? Those are all things coming, and that’s the fun part of the journey.
Q. There are a handful of head coaches across the country who are quarterback coaches by trade who elected not to have a quarterback coach. Why do you want one, feel like you need one?
COACH DAY: After going through it for a year, it’s very difficult with all the things that come with this job to be in that room all the time coaching the quarterbacks. Certainly involved with the offense. And Kevin is a huge part of what we do on offense. And he’s going to continue to do more.
And we’ve talked even about moving forward, having him share some of the play-calling roles with me. And we’ll continue those conversations as we go through the spring.
But one of the things, whether it’s special teams, I’m in every special teams meeting with Coach Barnes. While that’s going on the quarterbacks are meeting. I want to be able to jump in and out of different things and have the flexibility to do that while the rest of the team is meeting.
And then on the field, I stay pretty close to the quarterback. That’s kind of how it works. But you certainly need a really good teacher in that room because there’s a lot of teaching that goes on in that meeting room that’s critical.
Q. Throughout the first year, as you were balancing all that stuff, the amount of time you were in the quarterback room, was it more than you thought you’d be, less than you thought you’d be, wanted to be? How did that all play out?
COACH DAY: Less. More on the field. I think if you saw the flow of how it worked, once we got on the field, I was kind of right there with the quarterback and coaching them up on the field and making sure we were on the same page. When it came to meeting, Mike and Corey were in there and they were meeting.
Q. Is it hard to let it go? Like, position’s your baby a little bit. I know the team’s your baby but for years that was the group.
COACH DAY: That is one part of part of being the head coach is you have to let things go. You have to trust the guys around you. That’s one thing that I’ve learned this year is you’re only as good as the guys around you and you have to let things go and you have to trust them. If you don’t you drive yourself crazy you, and can become exhausted worrying about all the different things that come into play.
Q. Along those lines, you mentioned the continuity with, Corey and obviously in a lot of ways he feels like he’s an extension of you because he’s worked with you so long. I think other people would say there’s a benefit of bringing somebody in that’s not that closely related to you and have a different perspective. How much did you weigh that, and did you come close at all bringing in somebody from the outside? Is there any value to that?
COACH DAY: I think two things. One, again, I wanted continuity. So I knew Corey is invested here for a while. That was certainly important. But I think when you’re dealing with a quarterback, for me, it has to be done the way that we’ve done it here.
And when someone else starts bringing in their different opinions or we read it this way, we don’t have time for that. We know what works here. We have a system in place that’s really efficient. We feel strongly that we know how to develop quarterbacks.
And one thing that I felt like I couldn’t have conversations with is, no, we’re going to read this differently or teach this differently. We have so many other things we have to focus on. We feel great about that. And Corey’s bought into that and he’s going to enhance that.
Q. Just wondering, do you have any feelings about the targeting rule? There’s been a lot of conversation about it, especially because of what happened with Shaun and in the title game. I’m wondering if you feel like that’s something that needs to be revisited, or is it going to be — is it too penal? Or just your take on that rule and the ejection?
COACH DAY: I was at the AFCA head coaches meeting yesterday. There was some talk about that and trying to make some adjustments. I’ll let Todd Berry and those guys talk about some of the things. But I do think that some of those things should be looked at.
It’s certainly a difficult thing at times to officiate, as we all know. It’s in there for the right reasons. But there is some gray area there that’s sometimes hard. I totally get that.
But I definitely think the walk of shame, where the guy, he gets done, he walks off the field. I don’t think that that’s right. And so, again, I’ll let kind of Todd go out there and talk about some of the things we voted on yesterday. But I do think there’s some different things we can look at.
Q. Regarding Shaun, (indiscernible) underclassmen to the NFL. He’s coming back. How significant is that? You talked about the secondary, the impact.
COACH DAY: Huge. Just like when Damon came back. Having somebody who has that much experience, played in big games, that was a big, big deal for us.
And Shaun is now going to become a leader. He’s got to take that next step. And we’re going to move him to corner full time. He’s going to play out there. We think he’s going to be — he should be a Thorpe Award finalist right off the get-go. He’s got a chance to be one of the best corners in the country and hopefully a first-round draft pick next year. That’s huge for us.
We’re going to have some younger guys playing back there. So having his experience will be really important.
Q. I would assume in the day after the game you thought about it a lot, all the different plays, all the different things. Two and a half weeks out, how much do you think about it, think back on that night?
COACH DAY: Probably as opposed to every second, every other second, especially when the game was played Monday night and just right there front and center. It’s hard to let go. I’m just telling you, it’s hard. And we’re not going to let go.
I think you do have to move on with your life, but at the same time — we talked to the team — we’re not just going to flush this. This is going to be here for a long time. And it’s the way it should be. We felt like we had a chance to go win the whole thing. We didn’t do it. So it’s going to stay fresh in our minds.
Q. Because it’s your first loss, do you feel like they won it or do you feel like you lost it?
COACH DAY: I don’t know. That’s a great question. I know that two teams were evenly matched, very talented, and high-profile file game like that, there was a lot of back and forth.
I thought our guys competed really hard. I thought we had a really good plan. We came up short in the end. But when you play big games like that, there’s big plays and all it takes is a few not to go your way, whether it’s the interception or running into the kicker.
Whatever those are, if you don’t get those big plays we call them GAPs — game altering plays — then you’re not winning the game. We didn’t win the turnover battle, we didn’t do well in the red zone. Combine those together and we didn’t win. I thought we were well prepared and we played really hard.
Q. The reasons you had for hiring Corey make a lot of sense. The headline is he’s Urban’s son-in-law. People may wonder if Urban had any input on that. The last time you addressed it here, there were thoughts that maybe Mike had his own way of doing it — and not that you guys fought, not that it was unpleasant — but sounds like the confirmation from you that maybe the thing, maybe in hindsight if you could go back and change something your first year, would it be you learned or were enlightened on the fact that, I have the Ryan Day way; I want to coach quarterbacks and I don’t need — elsewhere those kind of outside opinions might be great, but on this position here it’s not great?
COACH DAY: No, actually it’s the contrary. I think Mike did a great job. And if you look at the way Justin developed during the season. He did a really great job. I think a lot of that had to do with that he did things the way we talked about, and we were all in alignment. And he brought great ideas. He was really good in that area.
The frustrating thing was he was here one year and he was gone. And that’s hard. We don’t want that. We want continuity. And a place like Ohio State, when you have a high profile offense, people will come after your guys. And I get that. But we think this is the way to solidify that role better.
Q. Would you say you wanted Mike to stay?
COACH DAY: Oh, for sure. Absolutely. But I don’t know if it’s public the amount of money he was offered to go to Texas, but that’s a lot of money that he and his family couldn’t pass up. So wish him nothing but the best of luck.
Q. You had, behind Justin for next season, a grad transfer or a fifth-year senior quarterback, and two true freshman. What’s your level of confidence you have a situation behind Justin better than what you had, maybe this season?
COACH DAY: That’s what we’re hoping and that’s why we brought C.J. and Jack in here is to compete for that job. That room’s stronger at this point than it was last year, that’s for sure. Now those guys will have an opportunity in the spring to learn and grow. And hopefully we can develop some depth there.
Q. You mentioned before just being really tight on the scholarship situation, and this will be your first time kind of handling that as a head coach. What’s your philosophy towards that? Because it’s obviously going to be kind of a delicate thing to approach here, I guess, through spring ball.
COACH DAY: Yeah, I think it’s changed just with the different transfer situations and portal situations that are out there nowadays. So you have to be able to adjust and move. But it’s tight. We’ll do the best we can, try to project.
Q. Speaking of GAPs, how much have you looked at the catch, strip, scoop and score? And did you all discuss that at the coaches’ convention about what is a catch when a guy actually has a ball in his hands for three or four steps? I mean, have you gotten any more clarity from that ruling since then?
COACH DAY: No. And I really — once we got out of that game, in terms of all that stuff, we typically have communication with the Big Ten. That was an SEC crew. Didn’t really get into all that. It was kind of behind us and thought at that point it wasn’t worth bringing up.
Q. It was behind you. Okay. You were once a young incoming quarterback. How do you step into a system, like C.J. and Jack are doing, and exert leadership like the coaches want to see you do and yet know there’s a hierarchy there and there’s learning to be done? What do you want to, I guess, see from them over the next several months to show you that they’re the real McCoy in that regard?
COACH DAY: I think you set a standard, first off, about how you go about your business, because if you’re not doing that then no one’s going to follow you.
I think you start to build a rapport with the guys you come in with, because the thing that’s unique about this class there’s 14 other guys in that room or came into that class. So you can build a little bit of leadership with that group.
Then there’s little ways you can do that. Even if — let’s say we call a tempo play. He can be barking at the guys, come on, let’s get lined up, let’s do those things — as opposed to giving them real intricate, you should run the route like this. We’re not there yet now. And you have to prove you know what you’re doing before you start doing those type of things.
But there are certain ways to build credibility and to show leadership. And a lot of it is just setting a standard of work ethic and making sure you know what you’re doing. And those are all ways to get started.
Q. Can you have too many guys competing to be the leader, if you follow my drift?
COACH DAY: I don’t think so. When you think back on some of the rooms we’ve had here. Those guys were all good leaders. They all went on to do great things. And proud of the people that have been through that room the last three, four years, and the development that’s gone on.
And those guys can be friends, too. I thought it was really cool — I wasn’t here for Cardale and Braxton, but I saw the commercial where all three of them were in a car and they’re still close friends to this day, and they were all in the room together.
And the same with Joe. Everyone has their own way and things like that happen. But their relationship can still be good in there and they can do it together.
Q. This came up and it came up with you guys, you all like to run tempo. When you get a first down, you get going. And more and more it seems a proliferation of what I call fake injury situations, where guys are going down. Was there any talk in your coaches convention about addressing that aspect of the game?
COACH DAY: That wasn’t brought up specifically. But sometimes those things are brought up in our league meetings. But, yeah, I think that’s an unethical move is to fake an injury for sure. But, yeah, it’s something we need to bring up and have a conversation about.
Q. I know you folks (indiscernible) offensive game plan a lot. Looking back, assessing the defense with the coaches, what was your evaluation — D line, linebacker, secondary?
COACH DAY: On the season, I think it was a success. We installed that new scheme. And I thought it was really well done across the board. I wish we had done a couple more things in that last game that would have helped us win the game. But at the end of the day I thought it was a great start and now we’ve got to build on it.
Q. Now that the season is over could you shed a light what Justin was dealing with with the knee or anything at all. How much do you think that really impacted him in the Fiesta Bowl?
COACH DAY: Without getting into too many details, it wasn’t something that was catastrophic, but at the same time he wasn’t 100 percent. And there were times this year where he missed practice. And so the whole arsenal of stuff was not there.
But I’ll tell you what, he’s tough, and he worked through it and he competed and he played hard. And it’s a tribute to how tough he is and his ability to work through things. Really leading into the Big Ten Championship game he really didn’t practice much at all, wasn’t able to do much.
And just the way he played in that game, especially in the second half, once he got his legs underneath him. It was very similar to the J.T. Barrett a couple years ago. I think it’s very hard for a college quarterback to play at a high level without practicing.
I think if you’re Aaron Rodgers and you’ve been doing it for X number of years it’s okay. But when you’re — the timing and everything it’s very hard. And the way he played says a lot about who he is as a competitor. And I thought he played tough.
I’m watching the film, he played good against Clemson. He played good. He made some really good throws. Some throws we just missed. And he competed, and really proud of the way he came along this year.
And I thought from game one all the way to the last game he really improved. So it’s exciting that we’re going to have him back. That’s what’s so exciting. And so many quarterbacks, I feel like over the last eight years, haven’t had a quarterback that’s started and then come back and had another year with them. This is the first time I’ve had it, since I can remember. So that’s exciting.
Q. Did he just need to continue rest over the last couple of weeks? Was there any procedure that had to be done for that knee? I don’t know if you can or want to say.
COACH DAY: I can’t really get into all that, some of the rules that tie me into not saying anything. But, again, we don’t see any issues moving forward.
Q. When you’re talking about having him as a second-year starter and having got to experience that, where do you see it going? What do you want to accomplish? What can that mean for him?
COACH DAY: We’re going to meet on it tomorrow and sit in there with Corey and Justin and I, and really talk about what’s next for him. There’s a lot of things that we can really work on. He’s made a lot of great strides. But there’s certain things in his game that we can really take to the next level. It’s great conversation, and I know he’s excited to hear what’s going on.
Q. The continuity piece with Corey obviously makes a lot of sense, but can you talk about as a recruiter, what is it that you’ve seen out of him in the last two years working with him that gives you confidence he can go out and find guys and bring them in knowing that he doesn’t have the background that you did or that Mike did with other successful quarterbacks to point to? Have you seen that from him and what gives you the confidence to do that?
COACH DAY: First off, he’s been around really good quarterbacks in that room. He knows what they look like. I think his eye for talent is really good. He’s seen a lot of different things in terms of his young career.
But he also has a dynamic personality. And I think the kids really like him. I think the parents really like him. You can tell who he is. He’s a great husband, great father. And made of the right stuff. Very bright. He played the position at certain times in his career.
And so I think he’s really bought into how we do things here and he’s proud of that and really understands what we’re doing in terms of attacking coverages and different schemes and techniques and all those things.
So I think when you combine all that together — and the other part of it is you want to go to some place that is going to have that continuity, that, hey, I’m recruiting you, but I’m going to be here when you graduate. I’m going to see you through this thing. I think that more than anything is a huge selling point.
Q. Does the trust you have in him from working with him the last three years make it easier for you to trust an evaluation on a quarterback that you haven’t watched yet? It’s such a big piece of the puzzle.
COACH DAY: It is but we’ll work on that together. That is a piece of the puzzle. I certainly want to see these guys throw, too. Whether it’s going out there in the spring for Corey to go watch them or bring them into camp and see them throw or even get into a game hopefully in the fall and see them throw live — not that those opportunities are great but sometimes during a bye week you can do those type of things. But I always feel like I need to see the guy throw live before we do anything.
Q. Shifting gears, you’re talking about positions that need a change in leadership or getting one, at the wide receiver room, with the four early enrollees, with Chris coming off of the Fiesta Bowl and that obviously disappointing moment, what have you seen out of him in the last two weeks with those new guys that shows his maturity and his leadership in that room?
COACH DAY: I think we’re going to see more and more as the spring moves on. But it’s so early. And Chris is the ultimate competitor. I love Chris Olave. I’m not sure he ate solid food for about three or four days after that game; he was crushed.
But that’s not the reason why we lost the game. He threw his heart on the field, and he thought Justin was scrambling. When you play in games like that, things like that happen. Unfortunately that happened.
But nobody cares more than Chris and I know he’s going to come back even more hungry. And to your point, I think to your point he’s going to be a leader in that room.
Q. K.J. Hill obviously leaves a hole at the slot position for you guys. Jaelen Gill is there. And it looks like Mookie Cooper can be there. Are there other outside receivers that we would perceive as outside receivers that you could see being in the mix in the slot this year?
COACH DAY: We’re going to look at it. We’re going to rank our top six wide receivers and figure out who are the top six. And whoever those top six are, they’re going to get on the field. And what you don’t want to do is just pigeonhole a guy — you only play this position and have three really good players at one position and only one is on the field. We’ll look at that here as we move into the spring.
Q. There are different positions but that wouldn’t be a huge adjustment for a Chris Olave or Julian Fleming or somebody —
COACH DAY: Yeah, I think some guys who change direction really well do better inside. So K.J. was excellent — C.J. Saunders was excellent in there. And Jaelen is pretty good at changing direction. Mookie is pretty good. But the guys that can do that — Austin Mack really worked on that when C.J. went down early on. He actually can handle himself pretty good in there.
So we’ll look at that. We’ll figure that out and make those decisions. We have some time as we get going into March.
Q. Running back room, you said there’s a lot of green guys in there. Can Master Teague be the guy, or what does he have to show you — obviously he was the backup this year — what does he have to show you to be a number one running back in the Big Ten?
COACH DAY: I don’t know what he has to show us right now. I think that’s something we’re going to figure out through the spring. I think we had it nailed down with J.K., what he needed to do. And Coach Alford did a great job of that.
But that’s a young group that as we get going here — it’s hard with Master because he came into some of those games late in the games and really was a great change of pace. He was downhill. He got through it. And he got to the next level and rolled.
But what really didn’t happen for Master this year is in big moments early in the game or — he didn’t get a ton of those carries. J.K. got the meat of those carries. So that’s the next step for Master is now taking on that responsibility and knowing what he’s doing and having some confidence in that because he does have the ability.
Q. Looking backwards can be helpful for any young coach as you try to learn for the future. Saying what you’ve said about Justin and how he was affected by the knee injury, how do you look back on the decision to have him in that situation on fourth down with an 11-point lead and just over two minutes left against Penn State? Do you think that was a mistake?
COACH DAY: No, not at all. Not even close. It was a pass and he rolled out to his left and it wasn’t there. No, I would have done the same thing again.
Q. You would have done it again in the future, same situation?
COACH DAY: Yes.
Q. To follow up on all the questions about Corey. Would you promote a quality control guy to a full-time assistant at another position, in another position group?
COACH DAY: Yeah, if the fit was right, yes.
Q. Are you more comfortable doing it here because quarterbacks are your area of expertise?
COACH DAY: Yes.
Q. He is inexperienced. There are not a lot, you look at Power 5 programs, it’s not the most common thing in the world for a guy his age, his experience level who has never been in charge of a room before to get an opportunity like this at one of the five best programs in America. To me, it is somewhat of a risk. I understand the continuity, especially as it relates to Justin. But then behind Justin you’re going to have three very highly rated recruits — quarterbacks in here who need to be developed and haven’t played college football. Is it a risk in some way?
COACH DAY: No, I don’t think so, because I know what Corey’s capable of. And I know that he’s got a great feel for those guys. He’s a good teacher and he’s going to do a good job. And Kevin will be right in there with him. I’ll be right there with him.
And Justin’s coming back, so he’s got a year under his belt. I think it’s going to be a great fit.
And, again, the best thing about having someone like Corey who is young and really sharp is everything you invest in him you’re going to get back. That’s what I love. Sometimes when you have somebody older like that, that’s not the case. And so he’s going to be here for the long haul and that’s a huge deal.
Q. Do you think that if you didn’t have a co-offensive coordinator title on the quarterbacks coaching job, how did that limit the pool of people that you maybe, if you would have gone outside, that you could have gotten to come here?
COACH DAY: I didn’t really look at it like that because, again, Corey was what I wanted, really. And I didn’t really spend much time thinking about it because I just knew, again, for all the reasons we just talked about, that was what we needed right now.
Q. Going to ask you to reflect a little bit even though the season is fresh. Big story was you were following a legend. And you talked about putting your stamp on the program as you went forward. Reflecting here, what stamp — do you feel you put a stamp on here? It’s unfair to compare to the past because you made the previous guy look better or worse, but what stamp have you left on the program? When did this program become yours, when did you really feel it became yours?
COACH DAY: That’s a good question. I think that anytime you follow up a legend it can be overwhelming. And that’s the way I approached was just it was an opportunity and looked at it that way because, again, that can eat you up, especially here. And you know you understand the expectations.
So the whole focus was how hard, how tough can we possibly play. What kind of chemistry can we build? Can we build this tough love that we’re talking about? And we went about it every day.
And I think people appreciate how hard and how tough we played this year and how physical we played and the energy we played with.
And there were a lot of new things that went into the program. There was a lot of things that carried over from the year before. And not trying to say, hey, this is the way I do it. Was trying to do what was right. I think that’s important. And drop your ego on it and figure out what does this team need right now.
And I think everyone in Buckeye Nation saw a team that played really, really hard. It was well coached. Again, we didn’t reach all of our goals, but certainly a good starting point here as we move forward.
Q. What about playing loose, a lot of talk maybe they were tentative last year, a little tense. And this year they were having fun; I know that’s a loosey-goosey word. But is that something you brought to the table, this idea of we’ll enjoy ourselves a little more and not just be uptight?
COACH DAY: I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment. I do know that this coaching staff is very competitive in that we want to be aggressive. We certainly don’t want to take ourselves too seriously, but when you’re at a place like Ohio State, that’s hard not to do because the expectations are so high.
But the only way that I know how to do it is to be as confident as you can, be as aggressive as you can, and let the guys go play. And that’s the way I think our team played this year. And we’ve got to keep building on that moving forward.
Again, it’s hard because of the way the season ended. You get that knot in your stomach, and can’t eat for a couple days or sleep. And you just keep thinking about every call and everything that went wrong in that game. And that’s hard as a competitor. But I think these guys are going to come back even more hungry.
Again, when you look at what we did this year, I’m proud of the way the guys played, how hard they played, how competitive they were and how much they were together.
Q. Maybe the worst kept secret is Kerry Coombs. Is he your next defensive — are you bringing him in? Can you speak to that?
COACH DAY: No, we haven’t hired anyone yet. Still going through it all. Just go from there. I’m not going to go through that right now.
Q. You’re watching the National Championship game, three pretty even teams — you and the other two. Do you think you learned anything from watching that game, that that’s something we could do or exploit or anything?
COACH DAY: Schematically?
Q. Yes, just any of that. Did you take anything away that could help you?
COACH DAY: Nothing that we didn’t know going in. I think our guys, like we said going in, it wasn’t like that stage was too big for anybody or it took us a while to find the speed of the game. We came out playing great.
I thought it would be a little harder to find the rhythm of the game. I thought it would be fast and furious early on, and we would be a little Helter Skelter. We weren’t. We were locked in. We had a good plan early on. And they kind of got back into the game. It swung. We took the lead. They took the lead back and we couldn’t finish it.
But we weren’t in that kind of a game all year. We came back in the Wisconsin game and pulled away, but we have to be able to win a game in the fourth quarter in a two-minute drill, when the game goes back and forth like that. We didn’t.
That’s something we’ll work on in the spring. We’ll try to put the guys in situations where they have to go win a game like that, where they go back and forth.
Q. I was curious, watching the LSU-Clemson game, how hard was it and how much of it did you have to resist the urge to say that should be us and how we would do against LSU?
COACH DAY: That was hard to watch. That was hard to watch. I’m not going to lie. It was very difficult. I told the team and the coaches that I wanted everybody to watch that game, as hard as it was going to be from beginning to end and then think about the things — how bad do they want to get back into that game next year, or back into that situation and get to that game. And then what are they willing to do and sacrifice to get back there. That’s what I was thinking when I was watching that game.
Q. How do you think you would have done against LSU?
COACH DAY: It would have been fun to play them. I don’t know. That’s why you play the game. Certainly wished we had the opportunity to play them.
Q. Already the “too early” Top 25s are out there for next year. You guys are — Clemson, 1; you guys are pretty much consensus 2. In your mind what are the expectations for next year? How good do you think next year’s team can be?
COACH DAY: Again, when you come off of something like this it’s easy to say, let’s just get back to that. But there’s so many things that need to be done to even start with that first game against Bowling Green next year. And we’ve got to go to Oregon, and that’s going to be a long trip.
You have to rebuild this thing again and you start with one game at a time. And, again, the easy thing right now is to think about how do we get back to the semifinals. But so many things have to go well to get to that point. And that’s why I want to make sure our guys understand that a lot of things did go well, and we did play really well to get to that point. And that isn’t just going to happen. We have to make sure we take it one game at a time and build.
Q. You mentioned the DBs, and obviously that’s a huge issue; Shaun coming back is a big deal. How concerned are you about getting three guys, having to replace three guys who are really good?
COACH DAY: Yep, that’s going to be hard. When you think about a position where you’re going to have to guys to step up, that’s going to be a huge position where we’ve got to get guys to play.
The good news is they’ve played. It’s not like they’re completely inexperienced, but that’s the difference of being a starter.
Q. Ryan, looking at Justin’s season, doesn’t look like there’s areas to take a step forward, but obviously you see it differently probably with him. Where do you think year one, year two he can make a big stride in like anything?
COACH DAY: I think that’s for he myself and Corey to talk about, just the things that we see and we’ll talk about that tomorrow and different areas. I mean, leadership is going to be a big one, just as an intangible.
But there’s also things with his game that we really want to look at and work on this offseason so that he can be more efficient throwing the ball.
Q. And as far as play calling, just to circle back with that, you mentioned Kevin might share more responsibilities. Is that due to you wanting to delegate more? Is it the fact that he’s called plays before and you’re comfortable with him? I guess maybe what sparked those conversations?
COACH DAY: Kevin and I, since this whole thing started we’ve kind of done it together. We constantly have conversation. And he’s got a great feel for calling plays. He’s called plays his whole life.
So, now, I think it’s a little bit of everything you just said. I think there’s going to be times where it’s going to make more sense for Kevin just to call it. But then I’m also going to be right there, too.
But we’re going to kind of figure out what that flow looks like moving forward because I think it would free me up at certain times to go address some other things.