How does one follow a legend?
That’s a question Ryan Day may be asking himself for the foreseeable future.
Such is life for anyone replacing a national championship coach, let alone one who, like Urban Meyer, won it all three times and will retire after the Rose Bowl next month with the best winning percentage in Ohio State history.
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The query was also a popular one for the OSU players a week after they learned Day will be take over the program from Meyer.
"Man it's a really kind of a tough question,” senior receiver Terry McLaurin said before explaining what he learned about the Buckeyes’ next coach while Day served as acting head coach during a suspension that sidelined Meyer for training camp and the first three games of the regular season.
“He didn't try to replace coach Meyer, he was just being himself, being really personable,” McLaurin said. “But at the same time, guys had respect for him because our practice was crisp, they were fast, they were up-tempo and we got off the field.
“Guys were really feeling fresh during the time during camp when you can be feeling sore a lot. The fact he was looking out for us from that standpoint, making sure we were going to be ready for that first game was really exciting.”
Without going into specifics, McLaurin also described the changes Day brought to Meyer’s offense as “monumental” and said he felt things the coach told him to anticipate if he returned for his senior season this fall came to fruition.
“He's a man of his word,” McLaurin said. “I feel like he's going to do a really good job recruiting just the person he is, and I’m excited to see what he does.”
Ohio State fans and the college football world at large will begin to find out what kind of recruiter Day is when he signs his first group of high school seniors on Wednesday.
However that goes, he seems to have the support of the guys currently populating the locker room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“Coach Day comes to work every day, and he comes with a lot of intensity and a lot of energy,” quarterback Dwayne Haskins said when asked what he would want recruits to know about the next Ohio State coach. “He makes you want to play for him. And not only that, he’s a great coach, he’s a great person. He’s a family man. I love his kids. His wife is awesome. He does a great job of making you feel like you’re a part of his family, and you feel like you’re his son. He’s always going to do his best to make sure you’re good, and that’s what I like about coach Day.”
Day came to Ohio State as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator two years ago, so Haskins has worked more closely with Day than most of the other players on the roster.
While serving as acting head coach, Day a chance to get to know more players outside the quarterbacks room, though, and he left a positive impression with many of the veterans.
“He has the same morals as coach Meyer.” senior right tackle Isaiah Prince said. “He is competitive and wants to win and has a family-like environment.”
Prince and running back Mike Weber both see a different type of energy coming from the 39-year-old Day compared to Meyer, who is 54.
“He’s like one of the youngest coaches we’ve got, I believe, and he brought a lot of energy to the program and is very vocal,” Weber said. "I knew him, but I didn’t know him as well as when he was the head coach for the first three weeks. He just brought a lot of enthusiasm to the program, and he’s a guy that’s really smart when it comes to football and how to strategize things and how to talk to players. He’s going to be a great coach.”
Weber has declared his intention to enter the NFL draft, and Prince and McLaurin are out of eligibility, so the Rose Bowl will be the last game in scarlet and gray for all three.
The same could be true for Haskins, who has so far deflected questions about whether or not he will return for another season or enter the draft.
Day has already impressed at least a couple of players who figure to be pillars of the 2019 Buckeyes, though.
“We know how he is, and we know how it’s going to be around here,” freshman receiver Chris Olave said. “It’s probably going to be the same, so there’s probably going to be no letdown. It’s going to be fun, so can’t wait.”
That also translates to the defensive side of the ball, where several players said Day made an effort to get to know them while he was the acting head coach at the beginning of the season.
“I think my relationship with him has grown,” sophomore defensive end Chase Young said. "Obviously, he was the offensive coordinator, so I didn’t really talk to him like that, but when coach Meyer wasn’t here, he would just come to my locker and talk to me. That helped now that he’ll be our head coach. I like coach Day. He’s real cool. He’s a player’s coach and I’m ready to get it rocking with him.”
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