Here are five takeaways from Day’s first meeting with the media in Columbus since that loss to the Tigers cost the Buckeyes a chance to play for the national championship:
1. Justin Fields is on the mend.
Day neglected to go into great detail about the knee injury that slowed the Ohio State quarterback in the last three games, but he confirmed it was a significant situation for the sophomore signal-caller.
“Without getting into too many details, it wasn’t something that was catastrophic, but at the same time he wasn’t 100 percent,” Day said. “And there were times this year where he missed practice. And so the whole arsenal of stuff was not there.
“But I’ll tell you what, he’s tough, and he worked through it and he competed and he played hard. And it’s a tribute to how tough he is and his ability to work through things. Really leading into the Big Ten Championship game he really didn’t practice much at all, wasn’t able to do much.”
The staff is being cautious with Fields as workouts ramp up.
“If his knee is still there as we start into the running phase of things then we'll be smart about it, but we're hoping by the time we get to that point he's rehabbed and he's 100 percent,” Day said.
Day added he still has no second thoughts about asking Fields to drop back to pass with a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter against Penn State on Nov. 23, exposing him to a hit that caused the injury after a scramble.
2. He was mum on who will be the next coach of the secondary.
Although multiple reports indicate Kerry Coombs will replace Jeff Hafley, Day held firm no hire has been made.
“Still going through it all,” Day said. “We’ll just go from there. I’m not going to go through that right now.”
If Coombs is to rejoin the Ohio State staff, it will not be until his current employer’s season is done. He and the Tennessee Titans are gearing up for a trip to Kansas City for the AFC Championship game Sunday.
Hafley was named head coach at Boston College in December.
3. The approach in the secondary will stay the same, but the unit’s most-experienced player will be in a new role.
Day reiterated he intends for the Buckeyes to remain a single-high safety defense no matter who becomes the new secondary coach.
That means they will continue to line up with one man deep, two outside cornerbacks and another defensive back in the box OSU calls a “slot corner.”
The latter was Shaun Wade last season, but Day said he will move outside this fall after putting off the NFL Draft.
“Huge,” Day said of that decision. “Just like when Damon (Arnette) came back (in 2019). Having somebody who has that much experience, played in big games, that was a big, big deal for us.”
“And Shaun is now going to become a leader. He’s got to take that next step. And we’re going to move him to corner full time. He’s going to play out there. We think he’s going to be — he should be a Thorpe Award finalist right off the get-go. He’s got a chance to be one of the best corners in the country and hopefully a first-round draft pick next year. That’s huge for us.
“We’re going to have some younger guys playing back there, so having his experience will be really important.”
“Since I got here (in January 2017), Corey’s kind of been my right hand man,” Day said. “And right from the beginning, from when I got off the plane that first time, we were kind of together. And we’ve spent a lot of time in that meeting room together. And he knows exactly how we teach things. And he’s got a tremendous relationship with the quarterbacks here. He’s done a good job in recruiting and has had a hand in a lot of stuff.”
5. He has been in touch with Joe Burrow since the national championship game Monday night.
The LSU quarterback completed a storybook season by accounting for six touchdowns as the Tigers beat Clemson 42-25 in the College Football Playoff National Championship game, and his former quarterbacks coach was among those who sent him congratulations.
“We talked to Joe obviously several times on the award circuit and stayed in touch with Joe, and then obviously talked to him after the game and just congratulated him and how happy we were for him,” Day said of the player who transferred to LSU after not being named Ohio State’s starter at the conclusion of spring football in 2018.