Ohio State Buckeyes: Ryan Day embracing return of routine, bracing for endless change in college football

INDIANAPOLIS -- The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Except in today’s college football.

Ryan Day — who had no connection to Ohio State whatsoever five years ago and now controls the fate of the Buckeyes football team — admitted Friday afternoon he is not a fan of the relentless waves of change hitting college football over the past few years.

“No, I don’t like it,” the head coach of the Buckeyes said Friday afternoon at Big Ten Media Days. “I don’t like a lot of change, but you have to embrace it. I mean, I think there’s a lot of good things going on — don’t get me wrong — but when there’s so many changes, you feel like you’re driving with no brakes.”

But he’s also not looking back.

“It’s just something you try to get used to I guess,” Day said. “That’s the world of college football right now. You just have to manage it the best you can. So yeah, I mean, it’s just nice to know what’s coming next, I just feel like year-in and year-out, you just don’t know what’s coming next.”

During his one-hour press availability — which took place on a football field in Indianapolis instead of a ballroom in Chicago, as traditional — Day spoke about numerous topics.

Some were typical — depth chart, injuries, transfers, preseason plans — but many were not.

The latter group includes players profiting off name, image and likeness, the likelihood of the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams, loosened transfer rules and the potential for another round of conference expansion.

Day supports the players ability to make more of a living for themselves, but he said he was not aware how many have deals yet.

He said he is for some expansion of the playoff is appropriate if it guarantees the Big Ten champion would make the field (seemingly the case), but he wasn’t sure about the best way to do it.

“I think that the winner of our conference should be in the playoff,” Day said. “Now what that means, I’m gonna kind of leave it up to the experts. I don’t know if 12 is the right number, but I think the things to consider are the number of games certainly — wear and tear on 18- and 19-year-olds — and the venues. We would love to host the University of Miami at the Horseshoe on Dec. 13, but I’m not sure if that’s the best experience for our student-athletes.”

As for the NCAA move to allow all transfers to change schools without sitting out a year, Day said it creates a challenge for coaches to instill proper expectations in players during the recruiting process.

“College football has been through a lot of change in the last year, and that’s a big one,” Day said. “College coaches have to be more transparent in the way they communicate. It’s inevitable guys are going to leave and go to other places, but I think if you set the expectations on the front end of exactly what it’s going to be, that gives you the best chance to keep your team intact. We’ve had guys who have left and we’ve taken some guys as well, but I think we’ve been as solid as anybody.”

Another change this year is more subtle.

Ohio State enters another season as the favorite to win the Big Ten East and the conference championship game, but the Buckeyes’ status is perhaps shakier.

Recruiting rankings and recent results point to Ohio State still having the best roster in the league.

“They are the gold standard, and that is who we’re chasing,” said Indiana coach Tom Allen, whose team finished second in the division last year and is expecting to be one of Ohio State’s better challengers this fall.

The Buckeyes will be young and/or inexperienced in multiple important spots, most of all quarterback, and the schedule is also somewhat front-loaded.

Ohio State starts with a trip to Minnesota, a potential contender in the Big Ten West projected to be a top 40 team nationally. Then the Buckeyes come home to play an Oregon team that could be ranked in the top 10.

That is not exactly easing in a young squad.

“I think I have a feeling on where we’re at in certain areas,” Day said. “We have some really talented position groups, but several of those just haven’t played a lot so it’s hard to say. I’m hoping somewhere around midseason we’ll have a better idea of that, but if it is what we think it is, we’ll have something special.”

As for depth chart discussions, Day remained mum on who might win the quarterback derby and insisted he still sees little distinction between redshirt freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller III or true freshman Kyle McCord.

The Buckeyes start preseason camp Aug. 3, and Day would like to have a starter in mind within the first two weeks.

However, that does not mean the race will be over.

“I’m not going to put a date on it, but you’d like to have a guy within the first two weeks so you can start to get him the reps ready to play the first game, but even still we’re going to spread the reps because there’s gonna be three guys in this thing all the way to January or as long as we’re able to play,” Day said.

He confirmed that veteran receivers Jaylen Harris and Ellijah Gardiner had decided not to play anymore after graduating with eligibility remaining, and he said he hopes a handful of walk-ons can add depth at that position.

He was able to report a handful of returning or potential starters who were out or limited during spring practice will be ready to go for the start of preseason camp.

That includes cornerbacks Cam Brown and Sevyn Banks, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, linebacker Dallas Gant and receiver Julian Fleming.

Those were the types of discussions coaches typically don’t like to have those discussions (lest they give too much information to the opponent), but they are also typical for this time of year.

Day also acknowledged he is looking forward to a normal year after the challenges presented by the COVID-19.

“The whole program thrives on routine, and getting back into that routine is what we missed desperately,” Day said. “I don’t think we all really appreciated how much we missed the routine until it was gone.”

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