If Ryan Day wanted to take a step back from offensive play calling to focus on his other responsibilities as Ohio State’s head coach, he would have plenty of candidates on his staff to take the reins.
Kevin Wilson is entering his sixth season as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator. Wide receivers coach Brian Hartline was recently promoted to passing game coordinator, while running backs coach Tony Alford was recently promoted to run game coordinator. New offensive line coach and associate head coach for offense Justin Frye was the offensive coordinator at UCLA for the last three years.
Any one of those coaches, or some combination of them, could theoretically run the offense if Day decided to delegate that duty. And Day’s decision to promote Alford and Hartline while also hiring Frye naturally led to some speculation that Day might be ready to relinquish some control of the offense to his assistants.
All indications from Day at his first press conference of the offseason on Monday, however, were that he plans to remain as integrally involved in the offense as ever. To that end, that’s part of the reason why Day hired Jim Knowles to run the defense and why Parker Fleming remains on staff as special teams coordinator.
“I’m gonna run the offense,” Day said. “When this thing’s running well, there’s a head coach of the defense, there’s a head coach of recruiting, there’s a head coach of the special teams and then I’m heavily involved with the offense. If those things aren’t happening and now I take away from the offense, then the way that this structure’s built isn’t being optimized.”
Based on Ohio State’s offensive performance in his first three seasons as head coach, Day continuing to call plays certainly appears to be in the offense’s best interest. After all, Ohio State’s offense led the nation in both points per game and yards per game last season, which firmly validates Day’s belief that the Buckeyes’ offense is at its best with Day manning the controls.
Frye is bought into that plan, saying he’s unbothered by no longer being a coordinator at Ohio State.
“I'm not hung up on titles, I'm hung up on winning and losing. And anything I can do to help these guys, make sure that we win here that's really what I'm focused on and all about,” Frye said Monday. “What they've done here, the offense is pretty damn good. So I don't need to come in and revamp or change a bunch of things, I'm here to enhance and make those things better.”
Still, Day continuing to run the offense begs the question of why the Buckeyes have an offensive coordinator, a passing game coordinator and a run game coordinator if none of them are going to call plays. The real reason why Hartline and Alford were promoted, though, is quite simple: They received offers to coach elsewhere for more pay and more responsibility – Notre Dame reportedly tried to hire both of them – so Ohio State responded by giving them raises and elevated titles to ensure they stuck around.
“I think when you’ve had the success that we’ve had on offense, there’s a lot of guys who get poached by their other programs. They’re highly marketable. And Brian and Tony are two of them,” Day said. “So with the success that we’ve had, we’re giving them more responsibility. We’re giving them a bump (in pay). We’re doing a lot of things to make sure that they feel like they’re being compensated for what they’ve done.”
Frye isn’t worried about there being too many kings in the castle, as he believes everyone will put their egos aside to do their part so Ohio State can continue to have an elite offense.
“No one's wearing a shirt that has their title on it,” Frye said. “So if you want it to be a challenge, it could be, but with these guys here, it's not going to be because at the end of the day, we're all just the offensive coaches in that unit. We're just trying to get our guys better.”
But even with whatever more responsibility means for Alford and Hartline, with Wilson still in Columbus and with Frye now on staff, Day believes it is important for him to be able to spend most of his time working with Ohio State’s offense, which makes it important for the rest of the staff – from Knowles and the defensive coaching staff to Mark Pantoni and his recruiting staff and Mickey Marotti and his strength and conditioning staff – to do their jobs effectively.
“When you look again at the structure, the way things are built here, every staff is different across the country,” Day said. “The head coach is involved with different things, mine obviously is with the offense, so I think this gives us the best chance.”