Ryan Day hasn't yet confirmed that Ohio State will have a new defensive play caller against Tulsa, but it certainly sounds like things are moving in that direction.
On Thursday afternoon, during his final media availability with Ohio State reporters before Saturday's game against Tulsa, Day said he had not yet made a final decision on who the Buckeyes’ defensive play caller would be against the Golden Hurricane, but that he expected to make that decision on Thursday night.
“I’m still gonna kind of see how practice goes today, and then we’ll probably make a decision here later tonight,” Day said.
Asked about the possibility that Coombs would no longer be calling defensive plays even though he holds the title of defensive coordinator, Day indicated that was a move he would be ready to make.
“I think that what we have to do is what makes the best sense for us in terms of organizing the game plan and then calling the game on Saturday. And that’s all that we’re focused on right now,” Day said. “We can’t worry about feelings, we can’t worry about anything other than giving our guys the best situation to be successful. And that’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
While Day didn't specify who would call defensive plays if not Coombs on Saturday, the presumptive candidate would be secondary coach Matt Barnes, the only other full-time assistant on Ohio State's defensive coaching staff who's been a lead play caller. In a similar situation at Maryland in 2018, Barnes took over defensive play calling responsibilities even though Andy Buh was the Terrapins' defensive coordinator in title.
In Ohio State's first two games of the season, Barnes was the only full-time defensive assistant who coached from the press box while Coombs, defensive line coach Larry Johnson, linebackers coach Al Washington and special teams coordinator Parker Fleming (who also helps out on defense) all coached from the sidelines. Day said Thursday “there most likely will be changes” in terms of who coaches from the booth and who coaches from the field this week.
Ultimately, Ohio State's defensive coaching staff needs to be able to do a better job than it has done of making adjustments in games, and Day plans to make whatever changes he believes will best enable that to happen.
“I think the key is going to be how do we put the team in the best position to call the right defense for what we’re seeing, but also identifying what’s happening in game,” Day said. “So usually, you have somebody who’s looking at the back end and somebody who’s looking at the front. And say, OK, what kind of schemes are we getting in the run game, and then what’s going on in the back end in terms of coverage and how they’re trying to attack us in the pass game. And so that information has to get filtered down to the field, and then we have to get those things to the sideline to our players, and then make adjustments.
“That’s the bottom line. That’s not brain surgery, but that’s just what it is. So figuring that out as we head into Saturday is what we’ve been focused on all week.”