Presser Bullets: Ryan Day Addresses Jeff Hafley's Departure and Previews Ohio State's Trip to the Fiesta Bowl

By Dan Hope on December 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm
Ryan Day

With less than one week to go until Ohio State travels to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day met with the media on Monday to discuss their preparation for the College Football Playoff semifinals and answer other questions from the media.

Monday's press conference was the first time Day met with the media since Boston College announced the hiring of Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley as head coach, so of course, many of his questions were related to Hafley's impending departure, how he will finish out the season with the Buckeyes before leaving for his new job and how the Buckeyes will move forward looking ahead to next season.

A quick bullet-point recap of what Day had to say:

  • On filling Jeff Hafley's place on the coaching staff: “Obviously we want to do it as quickly as we can,” but they're going to take their time to make sure they hire the right person.
  • Day confirmed that there is nothing in the coaches' contracts that stipulate they have to stay at Ohio State for two years. That was a gentleman's agreement under Urban Meyer, but no obligation.
  • “We're going to get the best coach in America to go coach that position.”
  • Day said the Buckeyes won't make any major changes to their defense with Hafley's departure. They'll continue to have four defensive linemen and run cover 1 and cover 3 with a lot of single-high safety looks, because that's what he believes in and what the other defensive assistant coaches believe in.
  • Day said it was by design to have two co-defensive coordinators and two defensive backs coaches this year so that if someone left, they could maintain continuity. “That's exactly it.”
  • Day says he told the defensive backs at this time last year that they were gonna go get the best guy in the country to coach the secondary. “They didn’t know who Jeff Hafley was,” but everyone grew to love him and they’re gonna miss him.
  • “This last week has been the craziest week I've ever been a part of,” referring to how he had to balance recruiting, awards shows and preparation for the College Football Playoff.
  • Day said he isn't worried about needing to have curfews for his players or keeping them focused in Arizona. If he has the team he thinks Ohio State has, the players should be fully focused on their mission of beating Clemson.
  • Day on the possibility of Al Washington leaving for a defensive coordinator position at Boston College: “If that's something he wanted to do, I'd be very, very surprised ... I don't see that happening at all.” He said he would be surprised if any of Ohio State's other full-time assistant coaches. He did not explicitly confirm that Corey Dennis is joining the staff at Colorado State because Colorado State hasn't announced it yet, but he said he knows Dennis "has a chance" to get a job there.
  • On Heisman Trophy winner and former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow: “Joe going down there and playing the way he did doesn't surprise me.”
  • Day said Justin Fields' transfer to Ohio State was different than Burrow and Jalen Hurts because they were graduate transfer, whereas Fields was in just his second year of college.
  • Asked if he saw ESPN ranked Urban Meyer as college football's 46th-best coach of all-time, Day smiled and said, “I didn't see that, no.”
  • On approach going into the College Football Playoff: “You have to believe that you belong as national champs.”
  • Day said he is proud of the way Ohio State has adapted its offense to its quarterbacks over the past three years, which he believes has been key to its improvement since the 31-0 debacle against Clemson at the end of the 2016 season.
  • “Jeff's a pro. He understands how to compartmentalize things.” He said he thought Hafley handled things the right way. Didn't start going after the Boston College job until after the Big Ten Championship Game was over.
  • On Boston College, where Day was previously an assistant coach himself: “He's going to a great place.”
  • On Gene Smith's decision to hire him as a first-time head coach: “It was a little risky, let's call it for what it is. I can't say enough about what he did.”
  • “Jeff's going to be going into a situation that's very different than the situation that I walked into. It doesn't make it easier, doesn't make it harder. It's just different.”
  • On recruiting: “It's my job to go find the best in the country. I did it last year, I'm going to do it again this year.”
  • Day said he doesn't expect Hafley's departure to have a big effect on who Ohio State signs Wednesday because Ohio State is bigger than one coach. “These guys chose this school for Ohio State.” Day said he expects all five currently committed defensive backs to sign on Wednesday.
  • “I promised them I'm going to give them the best situation possible to help them reach their dreams and goals.”
  • On Fields' sprained MCL: "I think with this rest, he's going to be at 100 percent."
  • On quarterback recruiting: “We want to make sure we have four quarterbacks in that room, at least three.” He said he doesn't know yet whether Ohio State will sign two quarterbacks this year (likely depending on C.J. Stroud's decision, though he couldn't refer to anyone by name.)
  • Day said he did not have an update right now on Brendon White, who entered the transfer portal on Friday.
  • Day said Shaun Wade is “getting a lot of rest” as he recovers from the injury that kept him out of the Michigan game and forced him to leave the Big Ten Championship Game, but he's “been doing a good job” and they'll get a better idea of his health in practice this week.
  • On Joe Burrow's Heisman speech: “To be there and experience that is one of those things I'll remember 'til I'm 80 years old ... that was just him being himself. For him to go through what he's been there, play the way he's played ... unbelievable. You talk about class, there's not a classier guy. I was just humbled to be in the room and be a part of his journey.”

A multitude of Ohio State players are also set to meet with the media following Day's press conference on Monday, so stay tuned with Eleven Warriors for further updates from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

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