The It Factor
Just a few hours after Urban Meyer walks off the turf at the Rose Bowl, Ryan Day will take over as the 24th head coach in Ohio State football history. He is following a coach who won ninety percent of his games, three conference championships, and a national championship. The expectations are the same for Day. Everyone from Athletic Director Gene Smith to Buckeye fans everywhere expect nothing different from the new coach. Is it fair to expect that from someone who has never been a head coach? It doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t because that is the reality. Smith hired Day because he feels he is an elite coach who will continue the current run of success. Some are skeptical. I’m not. There is something about this guy I really like. Call it the “It factor.”
I don’t question if Ryan Day can handle himself in a game. We all saw the way he guided the Buckeyes through a dogfight with TCU. They trailed by eight points in the third quarter. Lost their best player to an injury. Playing against a sky high opponent. You don’t win games like that without leadership from your head coach. Day really impressed me that night as a leader, and impressed me for the season as an offensive play caller. But, the question is can he run a major college program? That is a whole different animal than just guiding a team through a few games. He will go from a guy worrying only about offensive concepts to one who has to worry about everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Head coaches are football CEO’s. They oversee just about all that goes on in their program. Day will have to learn to do that. It remains to be seen if he will be a control freak to Meyer’s proportions. Those type of head coaches are common in college football. I’m interested to see how Day handles all that will be on his plate. He’s been around, and has an impressive resume’ that includes stops in the NFL. He’s seen how some of the best do it. Now it is time for him to implement all that he has learned.
Change is inevitable when there is a new head coach. There are certainly the changes fans don’t really see. Things like the way plays are called, terminology, how practices are run, etc. The changes I’m most interested in is when it comes to the coaching staff. We still have a few weeks to go before the head coaching carousel settles down. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was interested in the Temple job. Running backs coach Tony Alford has been mentioned as a candidate for some jobs. I think most feel it is a given Schiano will move on, as will linebackers coach Bill Davis. But, Davis has told potential recruits he isn’t going anywhere. Once Day takes over I think if staff changes are going to be made, they’ll happen quickly. The one thing I’m most interested to see when it comes to coaching duties is will Day remain in charge of calling plays. I hope so because I believe he is a master play caller. He does a great job of using different formations to run the same play, identifying how to attack a defense, and figuring ways to best use his talent. Will Day be able to run the program the way he wants, and be involved in the game planning as deeply as an offensive coordinator needs to be? There may be some rough spots early next season, but I think a happy medium will be found even if he has to delegate things to others.
In his remarks to the media after being named Meyer’s successor, he said he feels they will be able to adapt the offense to fit their talent. Considering he will probably be starting a new
quarterback with an entirely different skillset from the rocket-armed phenom they had this year, that is a very important statement. Tate Martell is the most likely successor to Dwayne Haskins (I’ll get to the talk of other quarterbacks in a bit). We all know he’s lightning quick, athletic, a far better runner than Haskins, and judging from the small sample we saw early in the season his throwing has improved from spring practice. Add to that the massive losses among the receivers, and I think you’re going to see Day implementing a far different offensive scheme than what we saw this year. I don’t see him trying to force round pegs into square holes like Meyer did at times. I’m very excited to see what Day comes up with to fit the talent next season.
This is who I wanted to see succeed Meyer. I really thought the legendary coach would give it one more season at least before retiring. I often wondered how the school would hang onto Day because he was going to be in high demand. He turned down Mississippi State and the NFL last year, and I’m sure there were going to be more offers to come after this season. As a matter of fact, if he had not already been named head coach of the Buckeyes I’m sure he’d already be gone to another school by now. In his remarks immediately after being named head coach he said, “It didn’t take me long to figure out what the expectations are for Ohio State football. Number 1, win the rivalry game, and number 2, win every game after that.” Ryan Day just gets it when it comes to the Buckeyes because that about sums it up. Expectations are very high for this program, and I think they’ve found a young, dynamic coach who can meet them. I’m very excited for the Ryan Day era.
Not Just Lip Service
We hear talk of “the brotherhood” from Buckeye players constantly. I think there is no question that bond has benefited the Buckeyes on more than a few occasions. That’s why it was so disappointing for me when Denzel Ward walked away from his te
ammates, and did not play in
the Cotton Bowl last year. Not everyone buys in completely. Sam Hubbard did, and played like a madman against the surfer boys from USC in Dallas last year. When the Buckeyes were not chosen for the College Football Playoff after winning the Big Ten championship earlier this month, Dre’Mont Jones indicated he wasn’t sure if he would play in the Rose Bowl. A few days later when he announced he was going to enter the NFL Draft, he said he was going to play because he had to finish what he and his brothers started. The latest Buckeye underclassman to declare for the draft, running back Mike Weber, also said he’s playing in the Rose Bowl for the same reasons: to finish what he started with his brothers. Some buy in and believe, while others give lip service to it.
Another Buckeye who is expected to leave early is Dwayne Haskins. He hasn’t said one way or another other, but there is a ton of speculation going on. Considering the way he’s climbing up the draft boards I’m fairly certain he won’t be staying in Columbus. At least two draft experts have him as the top quarterback in this spring’s draft, and the feeling is Haskins has a VERY high ceiling. He has said he will not make a decision until after the Rose Bowl.
On another note, WVU quarterback Will Grier has a ton of support on social media. One diehard blue and gold supporter declared if any quarterback is drafted before Grier, that GM should be immediately fired. Well, the reality is he’s not nearly as highly thought of as Mountaineer fans think he should be. One NFL scout said if they’d wanted another Case Keenum, they’d have signed Case Keenum. Scout’s Inc. has him as the number three quarterback, but he’s rated far behind Haskins, and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Most see him going somewhere between the second to fourth round.
Linebacker Devin Bush, the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, announced he will not return to Michigan for his senior season, and enter the NFL Draft. He is still recovering from a hip injury suffered against the Buckeyes, and will not play in the Peach Bowl against Florida. Also announcing he is sitting out the Wolverines bowl is running back Karan Higdon, who guaranteed a win over the Buckeyes. I guess when you shoot your mouth off and come away looking like a fool, you figure it is a good idea to get out of town.
Since he was tabbed to take over for Urban Meyer, one of the questions about Ryan Day has been can he recruit? When defensive end Zach Harrison announced he was signing with the
Buckeyes it went a long way in answering that question. The Olentangy Orange product is the top-rated player in Ohio, number one weakside defensive end, and one of the top five players overall in the country. A month ago many had him leaning towards Michigan. On Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, he became a Buckeye. That didn’t happen without a lot of work by Day and his staff. Reports say if there had been uncertainty about the head coaching situation, Harrison would have gone elsewhere. So, give athletic director Gene Smith credit for recognizing the importance of getting someone in place immediately. Getting Harrison is HUGE for the Ohio State program because it sends a message, and helps set the tone for future recruiting. The Buckeyes are still going to be a major player on the recruiting stage with their new head coach.
Day has done a great job of holding onto nearly every player committed to the 2019 recruiting class. Usually when there is a coaching change there are multiple defections, so I’m taking this as a very good sign. Defensive back Jordan Battle flipping his commitment to Alabama was not a surprise. Quarterback Dwan Mathis changing his mind, and signing with Georgia was a surprise on the surface, but not if you take a closer look. He originally committed to Iowa State. That lasted until Michigan State came calling, and he pledged to the Spartans. Once the Buckeyes got serious about him, he decided Columbus is where he wanted to be. According to 247 Sports he was even considering flipping back to Michigan State last week. That was until Georgia quarterback Justin Fields announced his intent to transfer, and the Buckeyes seem to be at the top of his list of landing spots. As a result, the Buckeyes are without a quarterback for their 2019 class. The thinking is they’ll pursue someone wanting to transfer, and take an additional quarterback in their 2020 class (they already have Jack Miller from Arizona).
In all the Buckeyes signed fifteen players during this early signing period. It will not be as highly rated of a class because they don’t have the scholarships available to bring in a class of 25. They’ll probably be able to get to around twenty by the time early February rolls around, and players are able to sign their letters of intent again. If you’re panicking while looking at the rankings, and seeing the Buckeyes outside the top ten while Michigan is seventh, keep in mind the rankings are determined by adding the total ratings of all of your recruits. The Wolverines signed 25 players; the Buckeyes just 15. That’s a big difference, and the reason the Buckeyes
trail them. However, if you rank teams based on t
he average rating of each signee, the Buckeyes are third nationally while Michigan is not in the top ten. The Wolverines have quantity; the Buckeyes have quality. The class includes three five-star players; receiver Garrett Wilson from Texas (high school teammate of current Buckeye Matthew Baldwin), center Harry Miller of Georgia, and Harrison. This isn’t going to be a class big on numbers, but it is long on quality. The guy I like who hasn’t gotten a lot of attention nationally is defensive end Noah Potter from Mentor. He’s built like the Bosa’s, and just reminds me of them. Wilson and Harrison will enroll early. Gotta be honest, and say not sure who else from the class will be joining them as an early enrollee.
Perhaps the hottest story in college football this week is the news Georgia quarterback Justin Fields plans to transfer, and his preferred destination is Ohio State. He was the number two overall recruit in the class of 2018, but is stuck behind sophomore starter Jake Fromm. Fields has registered with the NCAA’s transfer portal which means coaches can now contact him. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart says he is simply exploring his options, but I think there is far more to it than that. An ESPN report said Fields is interested in transferring to the Buckeyes. Ryan Day did not comment on him specifically, and only said they are open to bringing in a transfer if they think that player can help. Read that to mean Day will bring him in only if he thinks he can be the starter. There is still much to be sorted out with this situation. Two of the bigger questions to be answered are is Dwayne Haskins leaving for the NFL, and will the NCAA grant Fields a waiver so he can play immediately? I think the answers are going to be yes and yes, but there is a ways to go yet with this situation.
I’m not going to get into reviewing the recruiting class right now. I’ll save that for when the dust settles in February after signing day.
There has been a lot of talk in the past week about what some think is an impending quarterback battle this spring. For the sake of this discussion let’s assume Haskins leaves for the NFL, and Fields does not transfer to the Buckeyes. That l
eaves Tate Martell, and Matthew
Baldwin. Many think because of the success the team had with Haskins throwing the ball, Day will lean towards the 6’3” Baldwin who most feel has a better arm than Martell, and he personally recruited the Texas signal-caller. But, keep in mind Baldwin spent much of this season rehabbing the knee he injured during his senior season of high school. He wasn’t involved taking reps with the offense because he was not healthy enough to play until the season had already started. Most teams only prepare their first two, and in some cases their third quarterback when getting ready for an opponent. Baldwin spent a lot of time absorbing everything that went on, but that’s a long way from actually using it in a practice or game situation. I think he’s very talented, but feel he has a large hole to climb out of if he is to surpass Martell on the depth chart.
The Big Ten announced the Buckeyes’ game next season at Northwestern will be a Friday night contest on October 18th. I know Ohio State likes to cooperate as much as possible with the Big Ten, but I think this is a mistake. We all know how huge high school football is in our great state. By doing this I think you’re taking the focus off of those high school games. The diehards are still going to go see their local school play, but it is those fringe fans you risk losing. They’ll be made to choose between staying home to watch the Buckeyes on TV, and attending the high school game. I think it will definitely hurt the gate of the local schools. Every ticket sale helps these athletic departments, so it is important to put as many butts in the seats as they can.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney said the conference would be happy to discuss the current structure of the College Football Playoff with those involved. That’s not exactly a, “Hey! We gots ta expand!” But, it’s at least opening the door for a discussion on expansion to take place. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said it will take heavy hitters to get the ball rolling on changing the current format.
Because of my membership in the Football Writers Association of America, I had a vote in the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. I’m happy to say the guy I placed first on my ballot was the eventual winner. UAB’s Bill Clark led the Blazers to an 11-3 season, their first Conference USA championship, and first-ever bowl win. All of this was accomplished in just the second season of the program being resurrected after being dormant for a couple of years when the school did away with the football.
Buckeye offensive lineman Kevin Woidke was a finalist for the Bullsworth Trophy. The award is given to the nation’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on. Woidke has been a mainstay on the OSU field goal and extra point teams the last couple of seasons.
In an interview with 10TV in Columbus, Meyer said he may not have retired if the Buckeyes had lost to Michigan. He felt comfortable retiring knowing Day was being named as his successor.
Ex-Maryland coach D.J. Durkin has surfaced at Alabama. If you recall he had a player die under his watch last spring. The player’s family claimed negligence, and Durkin was suspended. When the school tried to reinstate him in October there was outcry from all circles, and a near mutiny by the players. He was quickly fired by the university. He showed up at Alabama recently, and Saban fell all over himself telling anyone who will listen Durkin is there for professional development, and to observe the program. Saban also said Durkin had not been hired. Yet. I expect Scumbag Nick to hire the guy eventually. ESPN barely took notice of a coach who had a player DIE while he was in charge show up at their beloved Alabama. Tide fans are blind to this as well, and continue to make wife beating jokes about Ohio State coaches. Did I really expect anything different? No, not at all. ESPN is in bed with the SEC, and Alabama fans could care less who is around their program as long as they win. The old saying about those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones doesn’t apply when those residing in the house have a lot of broken windows, and could care less.
I’m not the smartest guy around, and I don’t claim to be some football expert. So, when I went back, and read what I wrote about Dwayne Haskins in late July just before the opening of fall camp, I was kinda impressed with myself. Here is what I said:
“Looking back at a few of the throws he made against Michigan, I’m of the belief that’s just the tip of the iceberg of his passing ability. I’m not just basing that on the ball he threw to Austin Mack between two defenders. He also hit K.J. Hill twice in stride on shallow crossing routes, and because of the accuracy of the throw, allowed Hill to get up the field for a sizeable gain. In addition he threw a slant to Parris Campbell which was an absolute dart. Yeah, I think Haskins is exactly who we think he is when it comes to throwing the ball. I also think the poise and leadership he showed against the Wolverines is what you’re going to see this season as well. He takes his role as the starter serious, and has worked very hard off the field assuming a leadership role. At the Big Ten Media Day Meyer said, “...he has earned the respect of our players and staff.” How good do I think he can be? To me he’s a dark horse to be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony.”
I don’t get a lot of things right, so when I do I don’t feel too bad about patting myself on the back a bit..lol.
On Thursday the Buckeyes practiced for the last time in Columbus before taking a break for Christmas. They’ll meet up next week in California to begin preparations for their Rose Bowl matchup with Washington.
They’re Not Listening
Do you remember those people I mentioned in my last blog who scream about there being too many meaningless bowl games? Well, the people who are actually at these bowls don’t seem to be listening because they appear to be having an awful lot of fun. I saw a few clips of a dance competition between the cheerleaders of a couple of schools where they looked like they were having a grand time, fans living and dying with their team during the games, and players fighting
and scratching for all they’re worth trying to win. When Georgia Southern kicked a last second field goal to beat Eastern Michigan to win the Camelia Bowl they actually CELEBRATED. They were excited to win; Eastern Michigan was disappointed to lose. Fans were happy. Fans were sad. All because of a meaningless bowl game. Why? Maybe, just maybe it has nothing to do with national championships, or playoffs. Maybe, just maybe it’s exciting to win a bowl game. Maybe, just maybe it’s a great way for a team to end its season. Maybe, just maybe it’s a great way for a player to end his career. Maybe, just maybe it’s all three. That’s what I’m going with.
How about those Ohio Bobcats? They smacked San Diego State from the Mountain West Conference in the Frisco Bowl Wednesday night. This is a big win not just for the Bobcats, but for the Mid-American Conference as well because the Mountain West is arguably the second best of the Group of 5 conferences. Considering how much the MAC has struggled in bowl games in recent years, they were already 0-2 this year, this win is huge. The conference has three bowls left; I think they have a legitimate chance to win two of them.
Last week I wrongly stated Eastern Michigan and Georgia Southern were meeting in the Las Vegas Bowl. I was wrong. Really wrong. Fresno State added to the bowl misery of the PAC 12 by beating Arizona State, and former Buckeye Darius Slade in the Las Vegas Bowl. As I mentioned earlier, Georgia Southern and Eastern Michigan duked it out in the Camelia Bowl.
A Message From Me
This is my last blog before Christmas, so I want to take the time to say I hope all of you have a great Christmas, and thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I do this for fun, but put a lot of work into it. I try to be informative, and honest with my opinions. If you’re looking for a fanboy, rah-rah Buckeyes blog you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m going to tell you exactly what I think, and it may not be pretty at times. I’d like to especially thank two people who just may be this blog’s biggest fans. Childhood friend Ed Gosney has been a constant cheerleader, and has helped me immeasurably with my writing. Because of him what you read in each of these blogs is almost passable now. Ed has written numerous sci-fi short stories, and a novel. You can find them on Amazon by clicking here. I highly encourage you to do so; his stories are very entertaining. Friend and co-worker Kate Carpenter loves reading this blog so much she’s threatened me with bodily harm if I ever decide to stop writing it. I don’t have a lot of readers, but I seem to have very loyal ones.
Stevie Nicks has finally been elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Browns actually have a legitimate chance to finish the season with a winning record. If the Saints’ penalty total for this week is under ten, I’ll be convinced it really is a season of miracles. I’ll be back on New Year’s Eve with a Rose Bowl preview. Merry Christmas!!