COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — When Urban Meyer started thinking about retiring, he realized he already had the ideal successor right there in the building in quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. So Ohio State bumped up Day’s salary to $1 million per year after last season and promoted him to co-offensive coordinator to keep him around while Meyer pondered his future.
The 39-year-old Day, who will become the 25th coach in Ohio State history after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, has never been a full-time head coach — which is rare at a major program hiring for its top job. But he’s been known in the college football world for years as an up-and-comer, having already turned down a head coaching offer at Mississippi State before being promoted at Ohio State. Later, he said no to the Tennessee Titans, who wanted him as their offensive coordinator, to stay with the Buckeyes.
Meyer, who announced his retirement on Tuesday (Dec. 4), said Ohio State was fortunate to have kept him.
“I think in trying to build the most comprehensive premier program in America, you also want to hand it off to someone at some point so it can get even stronger,” Meyer said. “And my witnessing of the work Ryan has done made this decision not as difficult as I thought.”
Day’s stock rose even more after the spotlight was thrust upon him in August, when he guided the Buckeyes to a 3-0 record during Meyer’s suspension for his handling of domestic abuse accusations against now-fired assistant Zach Smith. Day became a mentor to quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who broke single-season passing records this season in leading the Buckeyes to a 12-1 record and finished third in the Heisman Trophy race.
The Manchester, New Hampshire, native has sizable shoes to fill now. He will take over on the recruiting trail immediately for Meyer, who compiled an 82-9 record in seven years at Ohio State and won a national championship in 2014.
“We all know the tremendous job (Day) did and the challenging time,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. “He led our program through unbelievable adversity earlier in the year. He offers us terrific, terrific skill and talent.”
Day worked as quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers before joining the Ohio State staff. This was his 17th season overall in the professional and collegiate coaching ranks.
Day is a protege of Kelly, who recruited him to the play quarterback at the University of New Hampshire when Kelly was offensive coordinator there. Day started his coaching career in 2002 as tight ends coach under Kelly at his alma mater.
Day first worked for Meyer as a graduate assistant at Florida in 2005.
He coached receivers for a year under Al Golden at Temple (2006) and for five seasons at Boston College (2007-11). Day ran the offense and coached receivers at Temple in 2012, and in 2013 and 2014 he was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Boston College before moving to the pro ranks.
Day agreed to a five-year deal at $4.5 million per year at Ohio State. He said he didn’t know yet whether he would retain the other current assistants, but it’s been made clear that strength coach Mickey Marotti, a close Meyer friend who deals with players the most during off-season conditioning, will be among the support staff retained.
Major upheaval in the program Meyer helped build is not expected, Day said.
“I think any time there’s a change in leadership, there’s a different personality, there’s a different style involved with it, different demeanor,” Day said. “But we share so much in common that there’s going to be a lot that’s carried over.
“But over the next few weeks and as we get through the bowl game and after the bowl game, we’re going to work through some of those things. But most of what (Meyer) has built here is going to stay. And as we go along, there’s going to be some changes in terms of the way we do certain things, but our beliefs are strong.”
Smith said he started having serious conversations with Day about being Meyer’s replacement a few weeks ago. When Meyer decided to step down after the Big Ten championship game, Day got the formal job offer Monday night (Dec. 3).
“Let’s be clear,” Smith said. “He’s gotta win ball games. He knows that. Gotta win ball games.”
QB Fields confirms transfer to Ohio State from Georgia
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Quarterback Justin Fields confirmed Friday night (Jan. 4) he is transferring to Ohio State following one season as Georgia’s backup.
Fields’ much-anticipated announcement gives new Ohio State coach Ryan Day a sublimely talented dual-threat passer to run his offense if Dwayne Haskins Jr. makes an expected jump to the NFL.
Fields decided to transfer from Georgia after he was unable to beat out starter Jake Fromm. Fields announced the transfer after he was expected to visit the Ohio State campus earlier Friday.
Fields issued a statement on his Twitter account in which he said his one season at Georgia “has given me the opportunity to refine my skills under great coaches and to play with incredibly talented teammates who’ve become like brothers to me.”
Fields’ arrival at Ohio State is huge for Day, who took over as coach Wednesday after Urban Meyer’s retirement. Fields was the overall No. 2 national prospect in the 2018 recruiting class and was highly sought after he announced his intention to transfer last month.
Fields helped give Georgia coach Kirby Smart the nation’s top-rated signing class last year.
The Kennesaw, Georgia-native deepens Ohio State at quarterback and sets up an intriguing competition with Tate Martell.
NCAA rules would require Fields to sit out next season if he transfers, though he could request a waiver to become immediately eligible.
Fields was the target of a racial slur from a Georgia baseball player during a football game in September.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Field was relegated to backup for the sixth-ranked Bulldogs behind star sophomore Fromm this season. Fields played in all 12 games, completing 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards with four touchdowns, and running for 266 yards and four touchdowns. His most significant playing time, though, came in lopsided victories against non-conference opponents.
“I appreciate what coach Smart and the UGA football coaching staff have done to help me progress as a quarterback and for their patience and understanding while I thoughtfully considered my future as a student-athlete,” Fields said on his Twitter account.
Fields’ most notable play of the season came in the SEC championship game loss to No. 1 Alabama, when he was used on a failed fake punt in the fourth quarter that set up the Crimson Tide’s go-ahead touchdown.
Haskins, who broke several single-season Big Ten and school rushing records and was third in Heisman Trophy voting, said after the Rose Bowl on Tuesday that Fields had contacted him about whether he planned to enter the NFL draft. At the time, Haskins said he hadn’t made a decision.
Fields said he would make no further comment on his transfer and referred any questions to the Ohio State sports information department.
UPDATE: Wednesday, January 16
Jeff Thomas says he’s returning to Miami
Wide receiver Jeff Thomas says he’s returning to the Miami Hurricanes and not transferring after all. The speedy wideout, who was dismissed by the Hurricanes in November and was set to enroll at Illinois, said in an Instagram post on Tuesday night that he’s going back to Miami.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Jeff Thomas says he’s returning to the Miami Hurricanes.
The speedy wide receiver, who was dismissed by the Hurricanes in November and was transferring to Illinois, said in an Instagram post on Tuesday night that he’s going back to Miami.
The Hurricanes had no immediate comment, though new coach Manny Diaz tweeted out a game-action photo of Thomas shortly after the receiver’s post.
Thomas finished 2018 as Miami’s leading receiver, with 35 catches for 563 yards and three touchdowns.
His announcement came hours before quarterback Tate Martell posted on Twitter early Wednesday that he was headed to Miami. Martell completed 23 of 28 passes for Ohio State this past season.
OSU QB declares for NFL draft
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Dwayne Haskins is NFL bound after one spectacular season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.
The third-year sophomore who rewrote the school record book had been expected to enter the draft and is a projected first-round pick.
Haskins said on Twitter on Monday (Jan. 7) he would forgo his final year of eligibility “after many thoughts and prayers with family and close friends.” He wrote that just as it was a boyhood dream to play for Ohio State, he also dreamed of being an NFL quarterback.
His sturdy, 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame, quick release and exceptional accuracy make him a top prospect. He smashed most Ohio State and Big Ten passing records, throwing for a nation-leading 50 touchdowns. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting behind Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
The announcement came on a busy day for the Buckeyes. New coach Ryan Day hired a pair of new defensive coordinators — one of them from hated rival Michigan. Greg Mattison, who spent the past four years as defensive line coach under Jim Harbaugh, joined Day’s staff along with veteran NFL assistant Jeff Hafley. Greg Schiano, the defensive coordinator for the past three seasons under Urban Meyer, is out of a job.
The Rose Bowl win over Washington on Jan. 1 turned out to be the last game for both Haskins and Meyer. Haskins was named MVP after completing 25 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns in the finale for Meyer before retirement.
Day, who worked with Haskins as quarterbacks coach, likened him to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and former Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. Day coached both in the NFL.
“Those are the two guys I’ve been around that are in that same category right now — their anticipation, their accuracy, the way the ball comes off their hand,” Day said. “I’d compare him to those two guys.”
Haskins’ NFL decision was telegraphed by Justin Fields, the Georgia quarterback who announced Friday (Jan. 4) he was transferring to Ohio State. Haskins said the two talked first, and it was seen as unlikely Fields would have transferred unless Haskins was moving on.
After a redshirt year in 2016, Haskins backed up J.T. Barrett in 2017. After Barrett was injured during the Michigan game, Haskins entered and led the Buckeyes to a comeback victory.
He battled Joe Burrow for the starting job in the spring and secured it when Burrow transferred to LSU last summer. He proceeded to change the Buckeyes into a pass-first team, throwing for more than 400 yards five times, including a career-high 499 in the Big Ten Championship win over Northwestern. That came after he threw for six touchdowns in the 62-39 rout of Michigan the previous week.
He was the Big Ten offensive player of the week a record six times. The only blemish on Haskins’ resume is the inexplicable 49-20 loss at unranked Purdue Oct. 20. Haskins passed for 470 yards in the game, primarily because the Boilermakers had shut down Ohio State’s run game and forced the Buckeyes to throw 73 times. The loss kept Ohio State out of the College Football Playoff and hurt Haskins’ Heisman bid.
His departure will make for another intriguing quarterback derby beginning in spring practice between Fields, a dual-threat player with a big arm, and fleet Tate Martell, who already has two years playing under Day’s tutelage. Redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin also will be in the mix.
Martell, who was the heir apparent before Fields’ arrival, said he is determined to stay at Ohio State and win the starting job.
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