I Think Ryan Day's Level of Success As HC Will Have a Lot to Do with His Defensive Staff Hires Over Time

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earthpig's picture

I think we'll know pretty quickly if he made the right hire this year.. I agree with you whole heartedly, but he's going to have to make some good hires on the offensive side as well..  Based on early returns-I wouldn't be surprised to see guys like Hartline get hired away in 2-3 years..  Plus let's not forget about retention..  Will he get the resources to retain good assistants as well?

Pigskins & Porkrinds

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mmp15f's picture

You're absolutely right that we'll get a good look at how he handles defensive hires right away. At the same time, we're almost guaranteed to have an upgrade to some extent because last year's defensive staff was a complete disaster.

Regarding the offensive hires, part of what I'm saying is that I'm perfectly confident in his ability to hire the right guys. He knows exactly what he wants on that side of the ball

I actually would be surprised if Hartline left in 2-3 years. He played at OSU, seems to love what he's doing, and he'd only leave for the NFL because I highly doubt he'll leave OSU for another school. He's still young and might not want to go to the NFL yet though. I'm sure if he was considering leaving, Day would just give him some sort of promotion via a raise and/or some sort of "Co-Coordinator" title. I think the latter will happen at some point anyways

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Dstacify's picture

Hartline is an OSU alum and this is his first coaching job. I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon. He's not Mike Vrabel. He actually seems to enjoy and relish the recruiting aspect of CFB coaching and what other program would he leave OSU for (I'll wait)? I think we're stuck with him for now and I'm okay with that.

11 Strong.

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mmp15f's picture

Well said. Vrabel also spent a great deal of his pro career playing for Belichik, which I'm sure shaped him into more of an "NFL guy" and this doesn't seem to be the case with Hartline at all 

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Kangarooman's picture

I think that's wishful thinking.

Hartline is turning everyone's head. If we're lucky he'll stay with us with a promotion to OC in a year or two. Dude is a winner and winner's are usually ambitious at his age. OSU is going to need to reward his performance with promotions and raises to keep him. Again, if we're lucky. He's going to have HC offers next offseason

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Dstacify's picture

This is unrealistic thinking. Hartline is a position coach. He's done well so far but he's not gonna have any HC offers next season (OC offers maybe). Promoting position coaches to a HC job quickly is a highly scorned practice (both Hartline's age and experience would 100% be used against him in the evaluation process there).

11 Strong.

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Kangarooman's picture

No. Not realizing Hartline is going to have offers soon is just wrong bud. And youll see at the end of this year.

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Kujo247's picture

I'm hopeful that we'll see a Dabo/Venables situation with Day/Hartline.  Venables could leave Clemson at any time and get a great HC position but loves the school and the community so he stays around.

I'm hopeful that eventually Hartline becomes the OC and "HC in waiting" and hangs around Columbus for a long time.  Of all the Day permanent hires, Hartline and Hafley are my two favorites.

Nothing is too difficult for the person that doesn't have to do it.

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mmp15f's picture

I'm hopeful that we'll see a Dabo/Venables situation with Day/Hartline. 

Just asking because Dabo and Venables are on different sides of the ball while Day and Hartline are both offensive guys, but did you mean to say Hafley instead of Hartline here?

If so, my response is that I agree because it'd be great to know that we were in good hands on both sides of the ball on a yearly basis and not have to worry about a replacement hire at DC not working out.

I also think this isn't all that likely because most elite coordinators are receiving multiple HC offers every off-season and some of those offers might be really tough to turn down. Even when he came to OSU, Hafley said he was ready to make the move into being a coordinator and he could eventually decide he's ready to be a HC. Despite that, I don't think Hafley is gonna bolt the second he gets a tempting offer to be a head coach because of his relationship with Day, in addition to the fact that he's only 40 so he has plenty of time to wait for an offer that's truly worth leaving for (I'm still not sure why Chris Ash left being a DC at Ohio State to become the HC at Rutgers of all places). 

I'd say, IF Hafley becomes the DC we're hoping he'll be, he'll be around for a fair amount of time, but Venables is going on year 8 at Clemson and it's very rare to see elite coordinators stick around for that long. I may definitely wrong with this prediction though, which I would be perfectly okay with.

I'm hopeful that eventually Hartline becomes the OC and "HC in waiting" and hangs around Columbus for a long time.  Of all the Day permanent hires, Hartline and Hafley are my two favorites.

I'm not against the whole HC-in-waiting thing like some people are, but Day is way too young for there to be a HC-in-wating on the staff. That only happens when it's known that the current coach isn't gonna be around for much longer. However, I agree that it'd be cool to see Hartline eventually get some sort of coordinator title.

Nothing against Hafley, but my favorite hires are Hartline and Washington. Washington brings a level of intensity to the LB room that I think was definitely needed, and I honestly would've been disappointed with just about anyone being hired as LB coach besides him or Marcus Freeman because I felt like a younger coach was needed there. 

Hafley will definitely will be great Secondary coach, but there just aren't any guarantees with how he'll be as a coordinator. I like Day's decision to have Mattison around for a couple years so Hafley could learn before he takes over as the primary DC, but there's still a risk involved and I would've preferred a guy who's shown to be a good DC at the college level already (which Mattison has done but he's already 69-years-old). I still think Hafley is a good answer for improving our pass coverage issues though. 

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Dstacify's picture

As much as I like Hartline it's premature to start saying he's ready to be a HC (and he doesn't fit the experience mold OSU typically looks for in head coaches, Day was probably the first ever deviation from that). A coach-in-waiting scenario would only make sense if you think it's guaranteed that Day is going to bail on OSU to return to the NFL in a couple years (which it isn't). Even if that happened I'd put money down on Fickell returning to OSU over Hartline becoming HC.

11 Strong.

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Zonabuck's picture

Agreed, but I still worry about Stud. I’m not sold on the OL recruiting or development, and everything starts in the trenches. We need to see improvement there this year. 

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mmp15f's picture

Stud is an interesting case.

Usually the entire fanbase identifies & mutually dislikes a coach that we feel is doing poorly (e.g., Bill Davis, Beck/Warinner), but then you have Stud who we all seem to be kinda 50/50 on. Not that half the fanbase thinks he's good, but about half of the fanbase is fine with giving him another year.

I'll say this, Zona: This year will tell us the clear truth about how good or bad he is. He'll have 4 new starters and we'll see how they do.

Also remember that run-blocking wasn't a problem when he had Barrett, and I think it reasonable to say that the mediocre run-blocking last season did have something to do with the fact that Haskins wasn't a running threat when it came to read options so the defense was able to circle in more on the runningbacks.

O-line recruiting has been top-heavy, but has lacked in numbers. Hopefully we can find some sort of balance there

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TomD's picture

Since Coach Day's specific expertise is on the offensive side of the ball, IMO, he should hire a DC who is capable of running the defense and then, essentially, let him go.  Oversee, but don't meddle too much. Even give him significant input on the hiring of defensive assistant coaches, as this becomes necessary. And, while the co-OC/DC model works for game preparation, in fact, cross consultation between coaches is essential to building a sound game plan, once the game starts, a sole DC should effectively run the defense, and, perhaps most importantly, make the necessary in-game adjustments as the game progresses. The sole DC, in-game, is the defensive focal point for quick reaction and response as the game unfolds.

We will see whether Coach Mattison fits this model, but it appears that he will, depending on how the in-game role is handled.

"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it." - Woody Hayes

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mmp15f's picture

Since Coach Day's specific expertise is on the offensive side of the ball, IMO, he should hire a DC who is capable of running the defense and then, essentially, let him go.  Oversee, but don't meddle too much. 

This is essentially what I'm saying in my post. Nick Saban's ability to hire OCs he can trust with the offense has allowed him to stick with the defense as much as he wants to, and Day needs to be able to do the same (except hiring DCs instead of OCs, obviously). 

There is always one DC giving the signal from play-to-play. Those titles on defense usually just indicate that one of them is better coaching the secondary/pass coverages, while the other works more with the front-7/run fits. They both focus more on their expertise when prepping & adjusting during games, but there's one guy giving the signals.

Offensively, when a play breaks down/fails, it's usually pretty easy to tell why because the play-caller obviously knows what the goal of that particular play is. 

Defensively, it's much harder to oversee everything, and identify exactly why the offense beat you on a certain play. Helps to have two sets of eyes, especially when they're focused on one specific level of the defense. 

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TomD's picture

Defensively, it's much harder to oversee everything, and identify exactly why the offense beat you on a certain play. Helps to have two sets of eyes, especially when they're focused on one specific level of the defense. 

This is an interesting and insightful observation, which, on the defensive side of the ball, makes it all the more important to have a set of eyes in the booth, constantly communicating with the primary signal-calling defensive coach on the field.  In this sense, the co-DC role works. They closely interact as the game unfolds and it's best, IMO, and as you say, if Coach Day generally limits himself during the game to overseeing what's going on, intervening only when absolutely necessary.  I have a sense, especially since hiring Coach Mattison, that that's how Coach Day will handle it.

"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it." - Woody Hayes

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Hovenaut's picture

Nice read, Mmp. 

I like Day's style and coaching acumen, but you're right to point out (well, at that) that the highly successful head coaches have to have a coordinator they can rely on with whichever side of the ball the HC they don't necessarily are attributed to. 

Saban as an example is presented well here, it's not lost on how well he's managed personnel over the years. 

Also think Day is sharp enough to understand this - he's absolutely going to need to rely on an effective staff...and not hesitate to make any adjustments/changes as needed. 

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mmp15f's picture

Thank you, it was just something I was thinking about given our slow start to defensive recruiting and knowing that that Mattison and LJ don’t have too much time left. Wanted to share because I think the ability to hire the right assistants on a yearly basis is doable and it doesn’t have to be a “Swinney/Venables” type of situation. 

His goal (both short-term and long-term) with his defensive staff changes seems pretty clear and could work out great. It also might not work out, and the action(s) he takes if this is the case will tell us a lot about him. 

Agree that he’s prepared to make any tough decisions if they’re necessary though.

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Hovenaut's picture

Right on.

With Urban, and I am thankful for all he did at OSU, was so well established that I think there was some stubbornness on his part when it came to key decisions (staff, players, playcalling).

As Day is younger and a new HC, I think we'll see greater flexibility to make necessary adjustments over time. Not to say he should drop a coordinator, a quarterback, etc. at the drop of hat when things dont go well, but I just think he'll  have that drive to adapt when needed.

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mmp15f's picture

Agree with both statements.

While I have a slight concern about any head coach calling plays, Day has already shown to be good at it. I'm also convinced that Day is happy to have Kevin Wilson helping him out from the booth in that aspect and will definitely take Wilson's advice throughout games because the two of them working together has already proven to be successful.

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stxbuck's picture

IMO, Hafley is Day's "guy" on the defensive side of the ball-he is the only defensive staff member that Day brought in as "his" guy, from their days w/ the 49ers. All the rest of the defensive coaches are well known B10 commodities-and weren't hired based on their past connections w/ Coach Day.

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Buckeyejohn's picture

Couldn’t agree more. I was impressed with how he cleaned house on the defensive side of the ball. He had worked with some of those guys for 2 years. He showed them the door. Day is a smart guy. He watched Urban Urban drop the ball with the Billy Davis hire. He watched as Urban hired old pals and then was unable to let them go. Day is only going to hire on merit. The two coaches we got from TSUN are great recruiters and coaches. Hafley was a steal. He aced this round of hires, but in 3-4 years we can probably expect LJ and/or Mattison to be retired. That is where it will get interesting. Day is hyper focused on offense so I think he will need a real field general to run the defense moving forward. He will need his Venables. A defensive whiz who is a big time HC in waiting. It’s hard to keep these guys on staff, but when you can the continuity is a massive bonus. 

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mmp15f's picture

I agree that it was beneficial for Day to watch Urban hire some guys who he had previously coached with/had a personal relationship with and saw it fail first-hand. It should serve as a sign to be careful when hiring coaches you know well on a personal level. Just because you do know a certain coach personally, it doesn't mean that he shouldn't be hired obviously. When you do hire a friend, however, you need to be very sure that he's the best guy for that position. In the event that his unit/position group doesn't perform well and shows little-to-no improvement, you need to be able to part ways with him. 

Bill Davis is a great example that you gave. Given his coaching history going from one team to another without ever being retained long and the fact that he had never coached at the college level, there was no reason to believe he was the best guy we could get. After watching mediocre LB play during 2017, which included Jerome Baker and Chris Worley underperforming when compared to how they played in 2016, and virtually no improvement throughout the year, he should've been let go. It's crazy to think that we likely would've had him for a 3rd straight year if Meyer didn't retire.

Like you said, if we can get an elite DC to stay with Day as long as Venables has stayed with Swinney (and he may never leave Clemson for all we know), that'd be great. The ease of knowing that our defense will be consistently good, even if we were to lose a bunch of starters to graduation/the draft, would be great.

It's also not likely, which you pointed out, but this doesn't mean we can't consistently have a good DC. There just needs to be a lot of diligence in the process of finding a replacement, and you can't hire close friends if you aren't willing to let them go if it's what's best for the program.

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NorthBerg's picture

Even in the day and age of high powered offenses, defense still wins championships, and that is the criteria upon which all OSU football head coaches will be judged.

Too much time spent at the North Heidelberg rather than the classroom. SSD 68-72

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BuckIDave's picture

What will be interesting going forward is the philosophy that Coach Day embraces when it comes to hiring assistant coaches and coordinators. Will he hire coaches that have a lot of years being an assistant/coordinator at some level, or someone like himself who doesn't have many years of experience at a top tier program like Ohio State?  Of course one factor that could very well influence him is how much is OSU willing to pay a top assistant/coordinator? 

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mmp15f's picture

My prediction is that there will be a balance, obviously, but more young coaches will be hired on offense than defense. Again, I'll allude to Nick Saban to explain my prediction.

Whenever Saban has had to replace a coordinator, defensively, he's always picked a younger guy.

-2008: Kirby Smart 

-2016: Jeremy Pruitt 

-2018: Tosh Lupoi

-2019: Pete Golding

I have a feeling this could be to avoid a clash of egos, even though that might not be the best way to put it. I just think it's possible that Saban knows hiring somebody who's already a well-established DC could lead to some hostility due to Saban overruling his decisions when he feels it's necessary, or when Saban wants him to coach in a certain way. Smart, Lupoi, and Golding were promotions from within, so it definitely seems as if Saban likes the idea of a DC that he knows will just respect the decision whenever he overrules them.

Although Pruitt had already proven to be an good DC, he was on Saban's staff at Bama for a while before taking his first DC job at FSU, so he picked up everything he knew from Saban and was probably just fine whenever Saban overruled him because he trusted that it was for the best.

On top of all that, if Day plans to continue calling plays, it's pretty unlikely that somebody in their later 40s or 50s who's proven to be one of the top offensive guys around would want to take a job where he wasn't the play-caller. 

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tampatom's picture

I like what Day did on defense, brought in Mattison with experience who said his focus was on teaching fundamentals, and paired him with Hafley who was young but good secondary coach who is focused on turnovers and tackles, moving to scheme more like TTUN with Bullet position and blitzes..let athletes react. With a much better defense, the Purdue and Iowa meltdowns don't happen.

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InfantryBuckeye5150's picture

Hope he doesn’t hire his best man to run the linebackers? That would be just grrrrreeaaat.....

Well, Columbus wasn't looking for America, my man, but that turned out to be pretty okay for everyone.

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Anglefan's picture

I don't find Bama's list of OCs to be particularly amazing. Would we be excited for a single one of those guys to be hired as our OC? It just goes to show that talent and recruiting is by far the biggest part of success.

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mmp15f's picture

I agree that none of them are necessarily “amazing”, but I also think there are some things that need to be considered. 

1) The general view of McElwain as an OC might be a little skewed because of his time at UF, but he inherited an offense that had been a mess for years under Muschamp. He fielded a pretty good offense in his first year as an OC at Fresno State the year before he got to Bama, and he came to Bama and put in a primarily “one back” system, which was perfect for their personnel. He used a lot of pistol which they had a lot of success with, and then went on to develop a good offense his time at CSU. Also, McElwain didn’t inherit a Bama team that had been at the very top of the recruiting rankings for years prior to getting there. Saban hadn’t been there long enough yet.

2) Nussmeier also might not be looked at as highly, but he did inherit an offensive mess from Al Borges at Michigan and was part of the McElwain’s staff at UF so again inherited a bad situation.

*I still think that both McElwain and Nussmeier could’ve done a lot better at UF and I’m not trying to make too many excuses for them, but it is hard when you inherit a team who hasn’t recruited well offensively and failed to develop their offensive players for the past 4 seasons.

3) I wouldn’t say any of the others are the absolute best either, but they all had deep offensive coaching backgrounds and experience and were good enough for Saban to trust his offense to them for as long as they wanted to stay. They were definitely loaded with talent by that point in time, but our offenses in 2015 & 2016 were also pretty darn talented and our offensive coordinators still failed with them. There’s still a degree of game-planning and decision making that goes it. 

I still agree with you that recruiting/talent is the most important part of success, and anyone who thinks a team can win the CFP even if they aren’t recruiting elite talent talent is sadly mistaken. The “underrated 3-star guys” and “recruiting for your system” stuff might be good enough to be a consistent top-25 team with the right coaching, but you can’t win it all like that. 

So, yes, I agree with you at the end of the day. I just think that every hire from McElwain on was a solid choice, and the rest of the offensive staff always had good coaches as well

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YinzerBuck's picture

I don't think McElwain is a bad coach to be perfectly honest. He did a really good job at Colorado State.

Losing Will Grier was the nail in the coffin for McElwain at UF. Even Bill Walsh would have a hard time trying to win with Treon Harris as the starting QB.

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villain612's picture

Never thought I'd defend Lane Kiffin but he was actually a really solid OC hire for Saban.

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stxbuck's picture

Couple of thoughts

1-The overall success of any offensively oriented coach (he came up on that side of the ball) is determined by the extent to which he demands defensive execution-he doesn't try to outscore everyone as a strategy, and realizes this is fool's gold/B-12 ball. Tressel,Urban,Mike Leach, Dabo-they all realize this. A lot of the hotshot coordinator of the month types-I'm looking at you Mike Gundy and Kilff Kingsbury-don't buy into this on a deep level-they know they can keep the fanbase oohing and aaahing by averaging 42 points a game consistently, defense be damned.

2-Hartline is a great recruiter and a very competent WR coach. Don't over-project beyond that-it leads to disappointment.

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bd2999's picture

Hard to be much worse and still win football games. Have to hope the new crew does their job. Offense, have to hope keeping Stud was the right move too. As the offensive line was not very good last year, at least at run blocking. Not by OSU standards. 

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Independence Village 22's picture

Day has to find his Venables. I think Marcus Freeman will be that guy in a couple years. Don Brown and Brent Venables could be head coaches by now at a number of schools. We need a DC that bleeds scarlet and gray and can recruit at a high level. Mattison is a short term plug. He is here more to coach the coaches for a couple of years. Washington or Hafley could be rising star we are looking for, time will tell. We will see how Freeman's cincy defense performs in the shoe.

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mmp15f's picture

Well, even if we do end up putting 40+ points on the board against Cincy, you have to take the talent gap into consideration. Honestly I agree with your prediction about Freeman though. 

If Freeman fields another top-10 defense this year I really wish Day would just replace Mattison right away rather than keeping him for another year. I’d much rather have Freeman recruiting for us than somebody who recruits know will only be here for another year after that. I’d also hate to see another big program grab him causing us to miss out on him. I know Oklahoma was heavily considering him before they went with Grinch

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sivaDavis's picture

I think hiring Mattison and pairing him with Hafley is basically hiring a master and a student hoping that Hafley learns enough from GM that he can take over in a few years. I hate to think this or even say it but I'm hoping he is doing the same thing (grooming) someone to take over after the legend LJSR retires. That will be the next biggest challenge, replacing, IMO, the greatest DL coach ever to coach CFB. 

I think this season will be huge for the future, obviously. If the LBs show out and the defense turns into a complete unit and balls out while having a top 5 offense, there will be championship visions. My only worry with this entire team is the offensive line. Every other unit, even QB, I feel like we are in a great position with. OL will be the key to this team. 

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

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mmp15f's picture

That’s exactly what Day seems to be doing with Mattison & Hafley. It could very well work out great, but I definitely have my concerns and I hope Day will be ready to part ways with Hafley if need be. 

It also concerns me because I fear we may have made a big mistake not hiring Freeman as DC. Sure he doesn’t have a bunch of experience as a coordinator yet, but he’s a guy that could definitely end up becoming regarded as one of the best DCs in the country. The scheme him and Fickell are employing defensively at Cincy right now is actually more complex than what Fickell used at OSU. It’s more of 4-3/3-4 hybrid, with one of the D-ends being more of a Jack LB, and they even use a fair amount of looks with only 2 down-lineman. But the players are clearly very disciplined and they finished the year with the #7 overall defense nationally.

Personally, I’d love to see Al Washington be the guy to replace LJ at D-line when LJ retires and have Freeman take over as LB coach/DC. Definitely a possibility

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buckslan's picture

Al Washington is probably the one that would take over for LJ.

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mmp15f's picture

I agree, and this is also what I'm hoping for.

Washington has actually spent more time as a D-line coach than as a linebacker coach, and Luke Fickell was impressed enough by Washington to hire him as his D-line coach when he got to Cincinnati.

I also think that it would lower the chances of any D-line recruits de-committing.

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stxbuck's picture

I could definitely see this happening-as pointed out by others, Washington is a former DL and DL coach.

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All Right Now's picture

Has anybody else wondered that perhaps Mattison and Washington are scUM spies?

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gobucks1966's picture

They watch film everything comes down to execution to stop a team. After this season they will return to TTUN. I think both are glad to be out of that mess up North and Mattison might coach another year or two and hang it up. I will say that hire surprised me and he doesn't really have a position group.

Denny

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JarheadBuck's picture

Comparing Day with Saban before he ever enters the Shoe as HC...nice.  lol

That said, your point is true with every coach.  Both sides of the ball (and to a lesser extent the kicking game) have a ton to do with overall success.  And every HC has some background on one side of the ball or the other.  So obviously the hires on the other side of the ball are critical.

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