Almost six weeks after Ohio State's loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, an assistant coaching spot remains open for Ryan Day to fill.
Under the current NCAA rules, head coaches are allowed to employ 10 full-time assistants during a given season. Even after several key staff moves this offseason, Day currently has nine assistants on his staff.
There are myriad directions Ohio State could go with the final position – three that stand out in particular – but no decisions have been made to this point, Day said on Wednesday.
"We have some flexibility there," Day said."We've had multiple conversations. I think we can go in a couple different directions, but we're not ready to make a decision there yet. We certainly have talked to people."
Day has already parted ways with safeties coach Perry Eliano and hired Matt Guerrieri to replace him. He also let go of special teams coordinator Parker Fleming and saw quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis become an offensive analyst at Utah after he transitioned off the full-time assistant staff.
Bill O'Brien was brought in as the team's new offensive coordinator, and regardless of whether he leaves for Boston College's open head coaching position, the OC role is still one of the nine Buckeyes staff slots that will be filled in 2024. The question is what Day does with slot No. 10.
One of the options that seems most logical is to promote James Laurinaitis to be a full-time linebackers coach. The former Butkus Award winner at Ohio State and eight-year NFL veteran returned to Columbus as a graduate assistant from Notre Dame before the 2023 season. He's made an impression on the coaching staff in that time. On Dec. 26, Jim Knowles said it's "really important" for the Buckeyes to keep him in 2024 and beyond.
Day has enjoyed seeing Laurinaitis operate and has given him chances to do some full-time assistant coach-type duties, like hitting the recruiting trail, but he may remain in his graduate assistant role for now.
"I have been very impressed, and I think he's got a really bright future in coaching," Day said. "He's only been doing it a couple of years, but playing has allowed him an opportunity to get perspective. He also has credibility with the guys. That was a part of it, too, is being able to get on the road for a couple of weeks (recruiting). He had never done that before because he didn't come up as a coach. So that was good for him to get out there, and he's done a really nice job and he's a big asset. We'll kind of figure out what that all looks like moving forward."
Another option on the table is to add an assistant defensive line coach.
Long-time stalwart Larry Johnson is in his early 70s, and retirement has been a topic of conversation with him for a few seasons now. Bringing in someone to learn from Johnson and take over the spot for Ohio State whenever he decides to hang up his whistle would be a great move for the future of the program.
Lastly, Day has had a special teams coordinator each year he's been the Buckeyes' head coach. With Fleming's firing, there is currently no one on staff with designated special teams duties.
Day said he could possibly oversee special teams himself, but he's also considering hiring a new special teams coordinator.
"There's a lot that comes into that last (assistant) spot, and I think both of those options (special teams coordinator or another defensive assistant) are on the table," Day said. "I feel comfortable going either direction, but finding the right guy is gonna be what's important."
Whoever the new assistant coach is, Day said Ohio State is "probably about a week away" from making its final decision.