Genius At Work
So, after some time off that included a trip to visit The Mouse and his magical kingdom in Orlando, and then a week of recovering from visiting The Mouse and his magical kingdom in Orlando, I figure it’s time to write something.
Is Genius at Work a bit of hyperbole? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. There is a lot we don’t know about Ryan Day as a head coach. The sample size of what we have to judge him on is small, but if you look closely there are some very encouraging signs.
Day’s record as a head coach is 3-0. That came as a result of him taking over while Urban Meyer served his suspension early last season. The first two of those wins were easy as the Buckeyes steamrolled Oregon State and Rutgers. But, it was that come-from-behind, dogfight win over TCU that should tell you something. The Horned Frogs came to play, and had the Buckeyes on the ropes. Day’s team blew an early ten-point lead, they lost the best player in college football to injury when they were already trailing, and little seemed to be going right at that point. Day kept his team calm, and they began to make plays. Offense, defense, special teams. All contributed to the Buckeyes’ comeback win. This is about the time I be came convinced if Meyer retired, Day is who I wanted taking the job. The way he handled the team in a tough situation really impressed me.
Once Day was named the 25th head coach of Ohio State in early December, you immediately heard so-called experts say, “But, can he recruit?” That question was answered in a hurry when Zach Harrison, the top player in Ohio and a top-ten player nationally, committed to OSU just two weeks after Day took over. Of all the players who had committed to Urban Meyer for 2019 class, Day managed to keep all but one. That’s rare when there is a coaching change. But, Day wasn’t finished. He went out and got the top transfer in the country when quarterback Justin Fields decided to join the program, and he brought in offensive lineman Noah Jackson from Rutgers, the number five transfer nationally. When a couple of transfers left the quarterback position depleted, Day didn’t just bring in one transfer, he brought in two. The team had a potential problem. Day addressed it in a hurry. Well, he still wasn’t finished. Late last week the program got a huge commitment for its 2020 class, and could be on the verge of another (more on that in a bit). Can Ryan Day recruit? Yeah, I’d say so.
I’ve made it clear how much I love the way Day sets up his offense, and calls plays. This may be where the actual genius comes in. Recently he spoke at a coach’s clinic about how he prepares his offense for a game, and his philosophy. Day firmly believes in bucket organization. The buckets represent certain concepts in the offense. The staff teaches these concepts, and all of the variations during spring practice. When the staff sits down to gameplan during the season they may choose a couple of inside zone runs from that bucket, a few outside runs from another bucket, a counter from another, etc. There might only be nine or ten running plays in the gameplan, but Day is a master at running the same play from multiple formations. When it comes to throwing the ball, regardless of what the scouting report says about a team and its coverages, Day believes you need to be ready for anything. If a team has played only man-to-man all season, the Buckeyes will still go into the game with plays from buckets designed for zones. One thing you won’t see Day doing is putting in an entirely new play during the season. He thinks this is a very bad idea. If a quarterback hasn’t practiced a play MULTIPLE times, he feels you won’t get a positive result. One thing I really love about his philosophy is every run should have a play-action pass off of it. I love that. Day’s organization through these buckets is something I really like because I think it makes it easy to gameplan. Eleven Warriors, in another of their excellent Film Study series, did a great job explaining all of this in more detail. I highly recommend reading it. You can do so by clicking here.
The Buckeyes with Day at the helm COULD be on the cusp of something even more special than the seven years we just experienced. COULD is the key word. But, there are an awful lot of signs pointing to the Buckeyes being very, very successful with this guy leading them.
Who is that huge commitment the Buckeyes got for their 2020 recruiting class? None other than the number one receiver in the country, Julian Fleming. What’s my favorite part of this commitment? Fleming lives just 90 miles from State College, PA. That’s right. Ryan Day and his staff went into Penn State’s backyard, and took the best player in the state away from them. Fleming developed a strong relationship with Day, and receivers coach Brian Hartline, who is turning into an outstanding recruiter. He also cited the transfer of Justin Fields as another reason he chose OSU, and appreciated the way guys like Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin stayed in touch with him. Give Hartline a lot of credit on this one. He went head-to head not just with Penn State, but also out-dueled Clemson for Fleming’s pledge. Also, just the other day the Buckeyes got a commitment from Cincinnati LaSalle kicker Jake Seibert. One kicking service has him rated as the top kicker for this recruiting cycle. The commitments of Fleming and Seibert bring the total for the Class of 2020 to ten and is now considered the top class in the Big Ten, but it is heavily loaded with offensive players right now.
This past weekend the Buckeyes hosted Kendall Milton, the nation’s second ranked running back (according to Rivals). By all accounts the 6’1”, 215 pound native of Clovis, Ca had a very, very good visit. Based on comments from his dad, some thought he was a lock to join the Buckeyes. But, Milton’s father quickly set everyone straight, and let it be known his son will be taking all of his visits before making a decision. OSU’s main competition appears to be Georgia. Milton is expected to announce his intentions sometime in July.
Talk Is Cheap
Do you remember that smart-assed kid in school, who no matter how much he got the crap kicked out of him, he still got up talking smack like nothing ever happened? Well folks, college football’s version of that kid is the Michigan Wolverines. Their players talk. Their recruits talk. Their fans talk. Oh wow, do their fans talk. Their assistant coaches even talk. You’d think after getting the snot kicked out of you by your biggest rival time and again, they’d learn to just be quiet. But, oh no, not this bunch. It seems like ever since they got their fancy, high-profile head coach a few years ago, the media fills their heads full of, “This is Michigan’s year!” rhetoric before each season. Once this happens everyone wearing that ugly yellow and blue get delusions of grandeur, and their mouths start flapping. Smart people know when to be quiet. Michigan people don’t.
A lot of ugly colored feathers got ruffled when Wolverine assistants Greg Mattison and Al Washington, Jr. left to join the Buckeyes. Back in April Wolverine assistant Chris Partridge expressed his displeasure with the move of his former coaching mates, “Those guys left, and it was another shot. It’s wasn’t okay. That’s how I feel, I’m not speaking for anyone else. I’m ultra-motivated. I make sure my guys that I get in front of, that they hear it, and they know that every single day when I wake up, I’m motivated. I want to take this thing, I want to hit it in the mouth, I want to go get it.” Ok coach, good to see you’re motivated. Partridge coaches safeties and special teams. You’d think he’d be a bit more concerned with figuring out why the Buckeyes were able to block a punt, or why his safeties struggled to be the least bit effective against the OSU offense. But, see, that’s just not the Michigan way. Talk is cheap.
It’s one thing for someone currently part of a program to make comments, but when the recruits get involved, you want to hand them a cookie, and tell them to go stand in the corner until they actually put on the uniform. Let’s start with LaGrange Park, IL quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who committed to the Wolverines about a month ago; he’s a part of the 2021 recruiting class. He said he grew up a big Ohio State fan, but now hates them because he claims Ryan Day lied to him. McCarthy said Day told him he would not be taking a commitment from a quarterback until the end of the summer. In late April, the Buckeyes accepted the verbal commitment of Philadelphia’s Kyle McCord. Since schools can’t comment on a recruit until they are signed, we’re hearing just one side of the story. McCarthy said he now wants to kill Ohio State. Talk is cheap.
Not to be outdone by a future Wolverine, a former Wolverine couldn’t resist spouting off. Jourdan Lewis, now a cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, gave his thoughts on his alma mater’s 2019 prospects. Among the gems he uttered were, “I expect them to win it all. They’re up there once again and have all the tools they need…” Then there was the usual prediction of a win over their biggest rival, “We’re definitely going to take down Ohio State…..we’ll get the job done no matter what.” Yeah, sure, whatever. Buckeye fans are kind of used to the yearly “We’re going to kick their ass” prediction. But, Lewis outdid himself with this one, “We came so close last year, but just need to clean a few things up.” 62-39. Just need to clean a few things up? That’s almost as good as Chase Winovich calling the loss to the Buckeyes “a mirage.” I wonder if Michigan has some sort of lottery where they pick who gets to make the next ridiculous statement. In the last thirteen months or so, no less than six (by my count) future, former, or current Wolverines have shot off their mouth. Talk is cheap.
Yes, talk is cheap, but in the case of the Wolverines it is very cheap. I’ve never seen a college football program that provides more bulletin board material than this bunch. You’d think they’d learn to just keep their heads down, and continue working. But, when you’re blinded by your own hubris, and over-inflated sense of your standing among your peers, using good judgement and thinking logically isn’t something you do very well. They just don’t get it.
Ryan Day and his wife, Nina, have created the Ryan and Christina Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The fund will help support families affected by mental health issues at the hospital. It will also aid the research of mental health treatments and preventions. This issue hits very close to home for the OSU head coach. Day lost his father to suicide when he was just nine years old.
Three-time first-team All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis is one of three former Buckeyes on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot. He’s joined by running back Keith Byars, and tackle Chris Ward. An injury-riddled final season as a Buckeye is probably what is keeping voters from putting Byars on their ballots. When healthy he was quite simply one of the most versatile backs of the 80’s. Ward was a first-team All-American in 1976 and ’77. There are currently 25 Buckeyes enshrined in the Hall.
Remember running back Brian Snead? He showed a lot of promise early in the 2018 before being suspended by the school for the remainder of the season, and eventually was dismissed by Ohio State altogether. According to The Lantern all of that stemmed from a rape investigation started by the university. Snead is currently enrolled at a junior college in Iowa.
The Dwayne Haskins to Terry McLaurin passing combination is already turning some heads. At the Redskins’ mini-camp the other day, McLaurin made a ridiculous catch of a Haskins pass. Are we really surprised by this? No.
Terrelle Pryor has signed with Jacksonville. He feels he is now completely healthy after battling injuries the last two seasons.
The Buckeye baseball team was the upset winner of the Big Ten tournament. That earned them a trip to the NCAA tournament last weekend. They dropped their first game to second-ranked Vanderbilt. But, won in extra-innings over Murray State to stay alive before Indiana State ended their season. Indiana State is coached by ex-Skyvue High School great, Mitch Hannahs. Skyvue was consolidated along with Woodsfield back in the 90’s to form Monroe Central. In 1985 Hannahs led his tiny (and I mean TINY) school to the state finals in both basketball and baseball. They lost on a last second shot to Jackson Center, but came back to win the state title in baseball just a few months later. Considering the size of the school, the magnitude of what Hannahs and the Hawks accomplished can’t be understated.
The Tremendous Machine
For those who don’t know, T&T stands for “This & That.” While I spend 98% of the time talking about Buckeye or other forms of football, there are times I like to write about other things. Now is one of those times. June 9th marks the 46th anniversary of Secretariat’s incomparable run in the Belmont Stakes. It wasn’t just him becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years that made it special, or the fact he destroyed the field by 31 lengths. It was those two things combined with Chick Anderson’s iconic call of the race. Anderson’s description was so good, Sports Illustrated made it the subject of an article last year. It was that good. Anderson perfectly conveyed each moment of the race. When Secretariat began to pull away, the crowd started to realize what was about to happen. The excitement in Anderson’s voice rose with them. As Secretariat started around the far turn, Anderson gave what might be the most accurate description ever given by any announcer anywhere in any sport when he said, “He is moving like a tremendous machine.” Take the time to watch the race, and you’ll see what I mean. This is one of my all-time favorite sporting events. I never get tired of watching it.
Another anniversary was observed this week. One whose importance now seems to be lost on young people. June 6th marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in World War II. Time moves on, but this event is one younger people need to be made aware of just how much it changed the course of world history. Hats off to the brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy that day.