Ohio State announced Urban Meyer is retiring after the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual and offensive coordinator Ryan Day will take over as head coach in a permanent role. Day had somewhat of an audition as temporary head coach to begin the season, when Meyer was suspended three games for mishandling the employment of former wide receivers coach Zach Smith.
The Buckeyes went 3-0 with Day on the sideline, beating No. 15-ranked TCU on the road to finish Day's temporary stint as head coach. Upon Meyer's return, the team continued winning but was hampered by defensive issues all season.
While the defense struggled, Day's offense was breaking records left and right, including the Big Ten single-season passing touchdown record, which quarterback Dwayne Haskins took from former Purdue QB Drew Brees.
"I think Ryan and Dwayne, that's one of the best development jobs I've ever seen," Meyer said before the Big Ten championship last week.
Day, 39, has had a 15-year coaching career in college football and the NFL but has never been a full-time head coach. He joined Ohio State's staff in 2017 after stops at Temple (twice), Boston College (twice), the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.
He played quarterback at the University of New Hampshire from 1997 to 2001 for Chip Kelly, who was the offensive coordinator at the time. He then started his coaching career at New Hampshire in 2002 as the tight ends coach and eventually landed at Florida, where he was a grad assistant for Meyer. When Kelly was the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach in 2015, he picked Day as his quarterbacks coach. Day then followed Kelly to the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.
Day coached the quarterbacks at both NFL stops. Under Day's tutelage, quarterback Sam Bradford completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with the Eagles in 2015. The next year, Colin Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes, throwing 16 touchdowns and four interceptions while playing under Day with the 49ers. Last season, Day coached quarterback J.T. Barrett, who posted a 64.7 percent completion rate with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"I would honestly throw him in the quarterback guru category," one person who has worked with Day at Ohio State said. "[Brian] Kelly, Coach Meyer, everybody has been eyeballing him since he was a young graduate assistant. He is known for getting his guys on the right track, he's always sharp with his reads, he understands the game so well and he's so passionate about it."
A big reason for his hire at Ohio State is his penchant for running a high-tempo offense, which he's been running for the Buckeyes alongside co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Because Day coached with former Meyer assistant Steve Addazio at Boston College, he already had familiarity with Meyer's offensive scheme and terminology, which helped him hit the ground running in Columbus last season.
Day reportedly turned down a head-coaching offer from Mississippi State and the Tennessee Titans' offensive coordinator role to stay at Ohio State after last season and is now getting the opportunity to lead the Buckeyes as the head man.
A big part of being a college coach is recruiting, and Day has shown he is willing to go far and wide to find prospects. One of Ohio State's biggest commitments in the 2019 class is ESPN 300 wide receiver Garrett Wilson, the 13th-ranked prospect overall out of Texas, who said that Day's openness and coaching style were things that drew him to the Buckeyes.
"I didn't know much about him at first, but he was really open with me and my family and was up front about the program and what we would be getting into," Wilson said earlier this season. "He was the most upfront coach that we had contact with, saying that if I worked hard I could earn a spot and how I needed to work for what I wanted there."
Wilson said during Day's interim stint that he fully believes in Day's ability to lead Ohio State, and that he will be able to continue the success the Buckeyes have seen under Meyer. He tweeted Tuesday he is still committed to the Buckeyes.
I am 1000% committed to Ohio State University. Much love @OSUCoachMeyer— Garrett Wilson (@GarrettWilson_V) December 4, 2018
"I've seen him coach in spring practice and he's one of the more chill coaches," Wilson said. "He gets his coaching points in, but he doesn't do a lot of yelling. He's someone you can learn really easily from, and that shows when you have quarterbacks like J.T. Barrett, smart players, they listen to someone that knows as much as [Day] does."
Former Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, who was with Day for a year after transferring from Florida, remembers Day as a more laid-back coach as well, someone who doesn't yell unless he's not seeing effort from his players or is forced to repeat himself multiple times. Murphy said he recalls the then-coordinator was big on educating players on the game.
"I thought he was very good in the classroom, teaching me the offense and the system, breaking it down and making it very simplistic where I would be able to understand it and translate it to the field," Murphy said. "His strengths really come in the classroom and to be able to teach you and understand the game plan of what you want to accomplish and why you want to get that accomplished so you're successful."
Another strength for Day is his understanding of what each player brings in ability and skill. Murphy noticed that Day was able to adjust his playcalling, rather than asking players to adjust to him, which is part of what has made him successful at Ohio State.
Murphy noted that Day was known to be approachable off the field, no matter the conversation. It was Day's ability to organize, lead and motivate players that made him well-liked among players and his peers.
"It was interesting because I've never had him as a head coach, so my first thought was, 'I wonder how this will work out?' but I definitely think he can do it," Murphy said when Day was named interim earlier this year. "He can bring out the best in players. He has been at different colleges and the NFL and he is able to put his players in positions to succeed. He's kind of just your average guy who loves football, played football and is now trying to help teach young guys what he knows about the game, which is all you need."