Ryan Day Knows It’s Time for Him to Delegate Offensive Play Calling, Will Have Contingency Plan if Bill O’Brien Leaves Ohio State for Boston College

By Dan Hope on February 7, 2024 at 2:51 pm
Ryan Day

Ryan Day doesn’t want to give up offensive play calling, but he knows it’s what he needs to do.

When Day became Ohio State’s head coach in 2019, the former OSU offensive coordinator felt he should continue to call plays because he knew his prowess as an offensive coach was a big reason why he got hired in the first place. Day has been Ohio State’s offensive play-caller for his first five years as head coach, and that proved to be a functional strategy for his first four years as Ohio State’s offense ranked in the top nine nationally in total offense every year from 2019-22.

Ohio State’s offense took a big step back last year, however, ranking 48th nationally in total yards per game. The job of a college football head coach, meanwhile, has become more chaotic than ever before with the proliferation of NIL and the transfer portal across the sport.

As such, Day feels the time has come for him to hand play-calling duties to a new offensive coordinator.

“I know that that is an ideal situation moving forward. I know that it has to happen,” Day said. “There's so much that's going on right now in college football. Do I want to? No. I don't. I love the football part of it. I love calling plays. I love being in there. But, you know, I'm getting pulled out (of offensive meetings). And I'm just not, on a Wednesday night, thinking about what to call on 3rd-and-4 on the 21-yard line in the third quarter of a game. 

“Those are all the things you rehearse in your mind, and it takes a lot of work. And I know that my energy and time and all that stuff needs to be in other areas. And especially with everything going on right now across the board, just with the team and the portal and NIL and just all those types of things. So I know that's the right thing to do. But now making sure the right person’s in place was critical.”

Day openly contemplated the possibility of giving up offensive play calling at this time a year ago after promoting Brian Hartline to offensive coordinator, but he ended up keeping play calling duties for the 2023 season. By the end of the season, however, Day knew it was a change he would have to make in 2024.

“I knew as the season was going on what needed to happen. But again, the key is finding the right guy. Because it's one thing to make that move, but if it's not the right person in the right spot, that doesn't do us any good,” Day said. “The expectation here is that we score 60 every game. When we don't, it’s like, ‘Well, what happened?’ So that's a very unique person who has a tremendous background.”

“I know that it has to happen.”– Ryan Day on giving up offensive play calling

As of Wednesday, Day believes he has the right person to call offensive plays in Bill O’Brien, who Ohio State hired as its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in January. While O’Brien is a candidate to be the new head coach at Boston College, no departure appears imminent yet, as he was inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and working alongside the rest of the coaching staff on Wednesday.

Day is excited about what O’Brien can bring to Ohio State’s offense this year. Day said he wanted to hire an offensive coordinator with an NFL background, and he believes O’Brien’s combination of experience as both an NFL head coach and offensive coordinator and as a college head coach and offensive coordinator made him a great fit for the job.

“I've always watched Bill and what he's done,” Day said. “I watched him with the Patriots, I was like obsessed with that and what they did there. But also what he did with the Texans and Deshaun Watson there, those first couple of years, and I studied about their empty package and what they did. And then obviously watched very closely what he did at Bama. So there's just a very diverse background there, and a lot of respect over the years, I think on both ends.”

If O’Brien does end up leaving for Boston College, Day will need to find the right replacement to remain comfortable giving up offensive play calling. He wouldn’t have to start that process from scratch, however, as Ohio State interviewed other candidates for the job the first time around before hiring O’Brien.

“It isn't just one of those situations where you just take out one guy and put another guy in there and it's like, ‘Okay, move on.’ It doesn't work that way,” Day said. “But yes, we did talk to different people for that position, and we'll have contingency plans in place. Hopefully, we don't have to go down that road. But if we do, then we’ll adapt.”

Regardless of who ends up being the offensive coordinator this fall, Ohio State’s offensive scheme isn’t going to change drastically. The current uncertainty surrounding O’Brien is reason enough for Day not to let a new coordinator come in and completely revamp the offense. But Day is looking for Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator to bring new ideas to the table, and he says that process has already started with O’Brien since his hiring in January.

“It's more of continuing to do what we've done with the Ohio State offense, but then blending some of Bill's ideas and being in there to make sure that we can connect the dots,” Day said. “So we've had those types of conversations. We’re not all of a sudden going to change the terminology or what we do. I think that's important as well, because you just never know when a coordinator’s going to be here when he leaves. So we can’t go changing the offense, because you just don't know how things are going to shake up. But at the same time, it's great to have some of that collaboration.”

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