When it comes to developing quarterbacks, Ryan Day knows what works.
He’s proven that the past two years, helping Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields become Heisman Trophy finalists while they led Ohio State offenses that both ranked in the top five nationally. Day has a system for developing quarterbacks that he believes in, and he doesn’t want anyone to come in and try to change that.
So when Day – who was previously the Buckeyes’ quarterbacks coach before becoming head coach a year ago – was faced with the reality of having to replace Mike Yurcich as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach after just one season, he saw no reason to conduct a nationwide search and look for someone who might bring different ideas to the table. Instead, he wanted to maintain continuity and hire someone who he knew he could trust, which made it an easy decision in his eyes to promote senior quality control coach Corey Dennis.
“Since I’ve got here, Corey’s kind of been my right-hand man,” Day said Wednesday while meeting with the media for the first time since Dennis’ promotion. “We’ve spent a lot of time in that meeting room, and he knows exactly how we teach things. He’s got a tremendous relationship with the quarterbacks here, he’s done a good job in recruiting, he’s had a hand in a lot of stuff and so, I feel great with not only the fact that he can teach the way it we teach it, but also, it leaves some continuity in that room.”
Dennis has been at Ohio State since 2014, when he joined Urban Meyer’s staff as an intern, and he worked directly with Day and the quarterbacks for the past two seasons as an assistant quarterbacks coach. He’s only 27 years old and has never been a full-time position coach before, but he was in line to become the quarterbacks coach at Colorado State before being promoted internally, and Day is confident Dennis is ready for the responsibility to lead the quarterbacks room himself.
“Corey’s a young coach who’s got a really bright future, and I think everything that you put into Corey, you’re gonna get back and invest because he’s so bright,” Day said.
Day is also confident Dennis, who is married to Meyer’s daughter Nicki, will want to stay at Ohio State “for the long haul,” which is important to him, too.
Although multiple media reports suggested that Yurcich’s departure to become Texas’ offensive coordinator was in part because Day wanted to go in a different direction, Day said Wednesday that was not the case. He said Yurcich “did a really good job” in leading Fields’ development over the course of his year with the Buckeyes, but Yurcich ultimately “couldn’t pass up” the offer from Texas, where he is set to make $1.7 million after making $950,000 at Ohio State last season.
“I thought Mike did a great job,” Day said. “We were all in alignment. And he brought great ideas.”
Day said it was “frustrating” to lose Yurcich after one season, and he doesn’t want that to happen again. He wants quarterbacks like new freshmen CJ Stroud and Jack Miller to have the opportunity to be coached by one position coach for their entire Ohio State coaches, and he believes that will be the case with Dennis.
“I really want to solidify that room and have some stability in there, so I think that was critical too, because I know Corey is invested in Ohio State and his family,” Day said. “(Recruits) want to go to some place that is going to have that continuity, that, ‘Hey, I'm recruiting you, but I'm going to be here when you graduate. I'm going to see you through this thing.’ I think that more than anything is a huge selling point.”
“Corey’s a young coach who’s got a really bright future, and I think everything that you put into Corey, you’re gonna get back and invest because he’s so bright.”– Ryan Day on new Ohio State quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis
Because Dennis has already been in the Ohio State quarterbacks room and learned directly from Day and Yurcich, the coaching change shouldn’t create a drastic transition for Fields or fellow returning quarterback Gunnar Hoak, and that was important for Day, who wants to keep them on the trajectory they’re already on.
“When you're dealing with a quarterback, for me, it has to be done the way that we've done it here,” Day said. “And when someone else starts bringing in their different opinions or we read it this way, we don't have time for that. We know what works here. We have a system in place that is really efficient. We feel pretty strongly that we know how to develop quarterbacks. And one thing that I felt like I couldn't have conversations with is like ‘No, we're going to read this differently or teach this differently.’ We have so many other things that we need to focus on, we feel great about that, and Corey's bought into that and he's going to enhance it.”
Day will continue to work closely with the quarterbacks himself, especially on the field during games, but Dennis still has an important job. Day said Wednesday that he actually spent less time working directly with the quarterbacks last season than he thought he would, and he wants to be able to spend even more time with other areas of the team in year two, which could mean delegating some offensive play-calling duties to coordinator Kevin Wilson. So while Day will certainly help Dennis as he adjusts to leading a quarterback room for the first time, Day will trust Dennis to handle the majority of their coaching, as Day is often in special teams meetings while the quarterbacks are meeting with their position coach.
“You certainly need a really good teacher in that room because there's a lot of teaching that goes on in that meeting room that's critical,” Day said. “That is one part of being a head coach is that you have to let things go. You have to trust the guys that are around you. That's one thing that I've learned this year is that you're only as good as the guys around you, and you have to let things go and you have to trust them.”
Given that, it will be up to Dennis to lead the way as Fields continues his development and looks to take his game to even greater heights in 2020, and as Miller and Stroud begin their Ohio State careers and prepare for the potential opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2021.
That’s a big responsibility for someone who doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience, but because Day has worked with Dennis for the past three years and has already seen how Dennis works with the quarterbacks, he doesn’t believe promoting Dennis is a big risk.
“I know what Corey's capable of. And I know that he's got a great feel for those guys. He's a good teacher and he's going to do a good job,” Day said. “And Kevin will be right in there with him. I'll be right there with him. And Justin's coming back, so he's got a year under his belt. I think it's going to be a great fit. And, again, the best thing about having someone like Corey who’s young and really sharp is everything you invest in him you're going to get back. That's what I love. Sometimes when you have somebody older like that, that's not the case.”