Ohio State’s Ryan Day discusses offseason progress, Gene Smith, Ross Bjork and Big Ten changes

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Former Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes’ mantra was, “You win with people.”

The man who currently holds his old job seems to feel the same way.

“I think the first thing you do is you have to make sure you’ve got the right people in place,” Ryan Day told the Big Ten Network this week.

For the 2024 Buckeyes, that goes for both players and coaches.

From early December through the middle of January, Ohio State went from likely rebuilding to looking loaded for a national championship run as 12 starters announced the NFL Draft could wait and they would return for one more season in Columbus.

At the same time, Day and his staff added four potential starters via the transfer portal in quarterback Will Howard, running back Quinshon Judkins, safety Caleb Downs and center Seth McLaughlin.

“I think we’ve had a really good offseason,” Day said. “We had a really good spring. Now we’re going into the summer. Guys are back at it now, classes have started, so this is a big couple of months for us.”

He also hired Chip Kelly to be his new offensive coordinator, a move that might not change the Buckeyes’ much schematically but is designed to let Day act more like a CEO than a Hayes-type taskmaster involved in every aspect of crafting game plans.

“The whole dynamic of the staff changes because it allows me to take a step back, although there’s a lot of things that he and I have in common just because we’ve known each other for a long time,” Day said. “So I think there’s a lot of commonality there. He’s worked with Justin Frye before so that’s great with the offensive line, but he’s been great.

“He’s excited about working with our guys. You could see him making great relationships with our players. I think the guys really enjoyed being around him. He seemed super energetic around our guys, but it’s gonna allow me to take a step back and see things from a little bit different perspective, which I think is going to be important.”

Such a move might become more valuable to the program as the ground continues to shift beneath college football with new methods of managing rosters and compensating players continuing to evolve.

“I think it’s the leader’s job to look on the horizon and see what’s coming,” Day said. “Your soldiers are right on the front lines of everything. There’s the players, the staff doing the every-day job, and as the leader you’ve got to be able to look over the horizon and see what’s coming next. That’s kind of the way I perceive it, being able to see what’s best for Ohio State.”

Here are three more takeaways from Day’s BTN interview:

On outgoing director of athletics Gene Smith, who is retiring at the end of the month: “Hard to probably capture all that in a quick couple sentences, but I think the first thing is the impact he made at Ohio State: two decades, over a thousand athletes, 36 sports year in and year out. It’s the impact he made on on all those student athletes. The impact he made on staff and coaches, in particular myself what he did for me in my career, his counsel.

“The impact he made at Ohio State, certainly the wins and the losses and championships that he’s been a part of speak for themselves, but to me it was more about the impact he had on college athletics across the entire country, certainly here in the Big Ten with his colleagues, working through challenges. He’s been at the forefront of all that. So I think he’s had a profound effect across the country, at the conference level and then down all the way to the student athletes.”

On Smith’s replacement, Ross Bjork: “I think Ross and Gene have worked great here. There’s been a great overlap. I think the plan was well thought out, and it’s being executed well to let Ross really get an idea of the landscape of Ohio State. It’s unique in so many different ways, and so I think they’ve been able to work together and now as we look forward you know to June and into the summer, Ross really can hit the ground running.

“Had great early interactions with him. I think he’s really gotten an opportunity to see what what it’s like at Ohio State, how we operate. He brings a lot of great things to the table, a lot of great experiences. I’ve been impressed with his work ethic, with his ability to connect with people. His overall knowledge of what’s going on across the college landscape. We know there’s a lot of big challenges coming, but he’s off to a great start and looking forward to working with him.”

On the new-look Big Ten which will include USC, UCLA, Washington and Oregon this fall: “There’s certain things that have been the way they are and they’re going to continue to not change. When you talk about Ohio State, people come because of the opportunity at Ohio State. That’s been going on for over a century. The city of Columbus has got a great vibe to it. It’s booming right now. It’s an exciting place to be.

“Our program and the culture going into year six here since I’ve been the head coach, you know there’s a little momentum going into that in terms of the guys in the program. You see the guys that decided to come back. I think that was important, but also adapting with the times and really tying into the community.”

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