Ohio State University Football Media Conference
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
RYAN DAY: Excited to get back to work today. Got another big challenge ahead of us, one of the most well-coached teams not only in the country, in the Big Ten, but for a long time. Got a lot of respect for Coach, his staff and his history, and one of the best coaches in the last couple decades in college football.
We’ll get back to work today. We’ve got our hands full. It’s a very good team. They don’t give you anything. They’re very sound, and obviously the history of what they’ve done against Ohio State is something that all of our guys are going to be aware of this week as we go to work today in practice.
Q. Urban used to talk about how he would ask his assistant coaches for a two-year commitment when he hired them, not etched in stone but kind of a gentlemen’s agreement. Do you ask your guys for a two-year commitment?
RYAN DAY: We talk about it when people bring their families here that we’d like them to be here for a long time, and I’d rather not them come here for one year and leave, but guys have opportunities, and I don’t want to get in the way of that. But at the same time, when you’re building relationships and you’re recruiting, we expect at least two years, sometimes more.
The good news is our coaching staff is really entrenched in this community now, which is great. We love it here, and they’re happy. I don’t expect anybody to leave anytime soon.
Q. It would be a good problem to have if you have — your coaches are very much wanted across the country maybe for bigger jobs and stuff like that but still maybe a little bittersweet for you I would imagine?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I would imagine that’s part of the game and understanding that as you go. I’ve had to move around as things went through my career, and sure, certainly don’t want that, but things like that happen. But again, I just don’t see that with our staff right now. I think guys for the most part have just got here, other than a few of us on offense, but I expect those guys to be here for a while.
Q. How do you balance when to get Justin out of the game, understanding that every rep he gets he’s getting better as a quarterback? How do you balance getting him out of the game, and do things like style points and margins of victory ever factor into your mind?
RYAN DAY: No, certainly not style points or anything like that, but getting him better, yes. It’s not easy. I can’t sit here and tell you there’s a magic formula to figure that out. You trust your gut.
In that game, I’ve been in those games before, you look at some of the college games that go on on a weekly basis, games can flip really fast, and they come down and score, we get that fumble that Jameson had on the kickoff, and all of a sudden they score another touchdown, you’re in it. You’re in the game. So there’s a fine line there, but I also hear what you’re saying, you don’t want to get them exposed too much. So we try to do the best we can and make those decisions as they come up.
Q. When you see an offense have success against a defense with a certain type of player or something like that, do you expect that that defense generally will have that buttoned down when you see them?
RYAN DAY: You’re talking about when we watch a defense on film?
Q. Yeah, for instance, when you watch what Indiana did and it worked for them, do you imagine Michigan State will have that buttoned down?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, that’s a great question. Great defenses do that. They see what got them on film and they make corrections that week because they know it’s very much a copycat league and copycat game. Yeah, that’s what defenses do for sure.
Q. We hear coaches all the time refer to I need to look at the tape. How often do you watch film and see a vast difference between what you thought you saw live and what you actually see on video? How different is your perspective?
RYAN DAY: It’s very different. It’s very different. It’s usually never as good or as bad as you thought. There’s a lot of things that typically you don’t see. You see the big plays, you’ll see the stuff that your eyes got glued to, but it’s happening so fast. We’re in a game where — or an industry where you watch film over and over and over again, and when you get in the game it happens once and you’ve got to make really good decisions, and that’s why everybody’s eyes have to be right during game day so the information is correct.
But there’s really so many angles you can watch and different things you can learn from film the next day.
Q. Is Jeff Okudah a lot better this year, or is the defensive scheme putting him in a lot better positions to be better?
RYAN DAY: Hard to say. I think that Jeff has had a really good off-season, and he’s gotten with Jeff Hafley and our defensive scheme, and seems to be a good fit right now. They’re off to a great start. Anytime you come in, you’re another year experienced, another year in the program, I think that really matters. But I think it’s a combination. I think he’s another year older and he’s really embraced the style of defense.
Q. You talked after the game on Saturday about how Tuesdays and the rough practices — the tough practices you have have been so instrumental. Could you kind of elaborate on that? I know Urban Meyer had it was Bloody Tuesdays; it’s not a new concept, but what is it about Tuesday practices that are so instrumental to what you’ve done on Saturdays?
RYAN DAY: Well, I believe that if you’re going to play hard and play tough on Saturday, it doesn’t just happen magically. You can’t just give the team a really good speech and get them all fired up to play the game. It comes back to their training. I’m not the only coach in America. That’s not new news to anybody, but it’s something we talk about every week, and we’ll do a team meeting today and we’ll talk about how important practice is, and if we train really hard, we train really tough, we practice that way, then that’s how we’re going to play. It’s going to be tough today, really hot today, and we have to work through all of that stuff. But that’s really what it comes down to.
I think sometimes guys think, well, I’m just going to get all juiced up before the game and then I’m going to go play really hard. It doesn’t work that way. It’s all about how you train and the practices during the week and the decisions that are made during the week, and those type of things are what matter on Saturday.
Q. How close to game simulation is it? And can you talk more about the decisions to go ones on ones?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, that’s hard to do. Sometimes when it fits schematically it makes more sense than others. We try to do it some, especially on Tuesday, a little bit on Wednesday, and that’s trying to catch up with the speed of the game. Sometimes when the scheme doesn’t fit, it actually doesn’t work great, so we try to make that fit on a weekly basis, do some 7-on-7 that day, do some pass rush against each other, so a little bit more individual of an emphasis that way.
But it’s something that we constantly try to figure out, how many ones on ones we want to do this week, and then sometimes we’ll get our next best guys going against them later on in practice, too.
Q. It’s somewhat rare for an individual offensive lineman to be the player of the game. What was it about Josh’s performance that elevated him on Saturday, especially without Brandon?
RYAN DAY: Well, the whole offensive line graded out a champion, and I thought that Stud did a great job, Kevin did a great job of getting those guys ready during the week and giving them all the looks that we got, and I thought we handled the pressure really well, the different fronts really well. But Josh Alabi played well, and it was a tribute to his attitude and what he’s done up to this point. In the world of people just wanting to go to another school or transfer and go into the portal and try to run to someplace else, this is a guy who stuck with it, kept a great attitude, and when the team called on him he stepped up and played really well. I thought we all felt he deserved to be player of the game.
Q. Nobody likes to change up a lineup due to injury, so Brandon is probably going to come back at some point and compete there, but does Josh change the equation at all, the way he played on Saturday?
RYAN DAY: Well, last year he proved that he could play at a high level and did a good job late in the season for us, and he did it again.
We talked about how we’ll play those guys as much as we can and try to play depth, and if that means on a rotating basis, we will. We’ll see how those guys feel this week, but he’ll play. He’ll continue to play.
Q. At what point in the week did you know that he was going to have to be the guy that landed at right tackle, and how many snaps was he able to get in practice at right tackle?
RYAN DAY: Pretty much all week we knew.
Q. Was he involved back in the preseason as far as competing for that job, and where does Nicholas Petit-Frere now kind of fit into this mix?
RYAN DAY: The good news is Josh can play both positions. He can move back and forth from right to left, and that makes it — he’s much more versatile than maybe he was when he first came over from defense, and that’s a tribute to him, being able to move from the right to the left. He had mostly been practicing at left, and then he goes over to right and can play like he did. Again, hats off to him.
And then Nick is in the mix, too. He’s mostly at right, and he’s working in late in the game. He’s gotten in a lot of these games, and he’s improving. But again, especially as offensive linemen, the more experience you can get in games, the better off it’s going to be in the long run.
Q. When you’re coming up with an offensive game plan and you have to go against somebody like Chase Young, how much time does that take? How much focus do you guys spend on just an individual like that when he can do so much?
RYAN DAY: Well, I think that’s a great question because I think if you spend too much time thinking about it, you can get yourself all distracted. If you don’t spend enough time, it can beat you.
I think that’s kind of the art of coaching, again, is how much do you spend time on a great player. There’s a couple great players on Michigan State; how much time are we going to spend figuring out how to neutralize those guys because they are the difference makers. In college football, great players have to play great, and Chase is one of those guys that demands a lot of attention.
Q. And then with respect to your injury policy, is there a chance that Taron Vincent and CJ Saunders won’t play this year?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know about that. We’ll have to see.
Q. You’ve become head coach at Ohio State, and suddenly people care about what you think on national issues; lucky you. Pay for endorsement, where do you stand on it? Are you in favor of athletes getting paid for their likeness? I know it’s a sticky issue, but where are you —
RYAN DAY: I’m very much aligned with Gene on this issue, and I understand that it’s very complex, and I think it’s an exciting issue for student-athletes. But I’m interested to see kind of where it goes and the talks that happen.
I do definitely think that there’s opportunity out there for these guys, but at the same time, it’s not that easy. There’s a history of college football that has been around for a long time, and I know everybody is sensitive to not turn that off into a bad road.
But again, my focus right now is really just on the season, so it’s hard to get too much down that road, but Gene and I have had great conversations, and I’m very much aligned with his thoughts on that.
Q. You’ve been on the other side of this where you were a huge underdog, maybe Boston College, and you’re taking on a team that on paper is vastly superior. Are there principles when you’re that team to try to win that game, when you’re that big of an underdog?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I think absolutely. I think any time you come into a game, you just go back to what you believe in, what you’re plan to win is, and don’t change that. And you’ve just got to be physical. I know those guys are going to do the same thing. They don’t turn the ball over, they control the game, and if we come in and do anything other than what we’ve done in the past, we’re going to be in it up to our eyeballs.
And so these guys, they’re not going to be intimidated by Ohio State. Are you kidding me? They’ve been in here plenty of times in the stadium and done a great job, and one of the more storied histories in all of college football at Michigan State. Those guys know the recipe, and we’d better come to play, or else we’re going to be in it.
Q. There’s obviously plenty of guys on this roster who have played both sides of the ball in high school before they got here, but you’ve got a recruit right now who is a defensive end but he’s playing quarterback, as well. Is there a benefit for him being able to see that position from both sides, I guess, of how they go at each other?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I can’t really comment on any specific recruits, but I can say that any time somebody plays multiple positions or multiple sports, we look at it as a positive because it just — it allows them to compete and work through different things and learn skills that maybe they haven’t learned at another position, so we love that, yeah.
Q. Because of maybe the positions, does it matter what the position is? If it’s a cornerback and a wide receiver playing, maybe you can kind of implement what they do here, but if it’s a quarterback and a defensive end is there any benefit for you having —
RYAN DAY: Again, I just think that anytime you get to play another position or another sport, you’re increasing your ability as a total athlete, just whether it’s spatial awareness, or let’s say you’re a quarterback and someone puts you in on defense. I love that because now they’ve got to learn to be tough and stick their face on people. Again, anytime they can do multiple things I think it’s great.
Q. Question about the offensive line: Last year from a run blocking standpoint they struggled a little bit, and now this year from a statistic standpoint it’s one of the best in the country. How much does the play calling affect that? How much does who the quarterback is have an effect on the run block?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know, I don’t think it’s any one thing, but I think when you look at what Stud has done and Kevin and everybody on our staff and then when you look at what the guys are doing, taking ownership, Josh and Wyatt, Jonah inside and then on the outside Thayer and Brandon and Josh, they’ve all taken a lot of pride in what they’re doing. We talked about being tough and running the ball and more important that was this year, and they’re embracing it.
Again, off to a good start, but now we just have a bigger bull’s-eye on our chest, so we’ve got to do a great job every week because now people are seeing that we’re running the ball, so we’re up against one of the best run defenses in college football in the last two decades this week, so we’re going to have to bring our “A” game.
Q. Are you surprised at how well it’s been, especially this many new parts this early in the season?
RYAN DAY: No.
Q. A lot of unforeseen things happen here at the quarterback position. How tough is it when you have a quarterback committed for years and you need to take two in the same class? You knew you were going to have to take two; how much of a challenge is it to do that?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, the quarterback situation in college football is sensitive as it can be. You try to do the best you can. We always want to have four on scholarship, and you do the best you can to adapt year in and year out and make the best decisions you can. You know, nobody is more aware of that than we are, just what’s happened. Think about what we had a few years ago, you had J.T., Joe, Dwayne and Tate in the room, and they’re all kind of gone off. J.T. graduated, Joe is at LSU, Dwayne is in the NFL and then Tate decided to leave. You have a whole new group of guys in here. And that was just a couple years ago.
So it happens quickly, and especially at a high-profile place like Ohio State. We’ll do the best we can to adapt to it and make sure we have four guys in a room.
Q. As a recruiter, how do you handle that, when you have somebody who’s been committed for a while? It’s a different position than every other position because there’s only one that plays.
RYAN DAY: I think what you tell them in recruiting is all we can guarantee is that there’s going to be three other guys in the room with you, and you’re going to be part of an unbelievable program, have all the resources you need, be part of a great culture, and you’re going to get coached up at the highest level. And all we can guarantee is that, and the fact there’s going to be three other guys in the room with you, whether they’re freshmen, seniors, transfers. You just don’t know because you don’t have a crystal ball.
Q. Michigan State’s secondary, their pass defense has long been considered one of the best in the country. Statistically they’re not where they normally are this year so far, but I’m curious what kind of challenge they present for Justin.
RYAN DAY: Yeah, they have a defensive system that has been challenged for years and years, so they have answers. So if you run a play against them, they have the answer right away. They’re really good at knowing what the defense is. They’re not super complicated, but they have answers to everything that you do. So the minute you run a play, they’re on top of it and they’ve got it defended the next play. These are guys who have played in this system for a while and there are coaches who have coached in this system for a while, so it’s a tremendous challenge.
Q. So for a first-year starter six games in who hasn’t faced something like that before, what do you do to get them ready?
RYAN DAY: Do the best you can to teach him the style of defense and system of defense and give him a good clean game plan where he can play, and then he has to learn as time goes along the adjustments they’re making and anticipate what the defense is going to do the best you can.
But you don’t have a whole bunch of time on that. You have a week. You have three practices really, and that’s the challenge of being a quarterback is being able to take a whole new style of defense and put a game plan on the field in one week.
That’s going to be the challenge this week.
Q. On the other side of the ball, your defensive line obviously, we’ve seen what they’ve done, but how much are they helping the secondary with the way that they’re getting quarterbacks forced out of the pocket quite a bit? How much does that make it easier on the secondary or do they have to cover longer —
RYAN DAY: Yeah, they work together, and it’s kind of hand in hand. If you’ve got a great rush and you can get the quarterback off his platform, that makes a huge difference, and maybe he’s getting the ball out a little bit sooner than he wants, and then vice versa. If the secondary is covering and he can’t get the ball out on three in a hitch and on time, now he holds it for an extra second, that allows the defense to get to the quarterback, and that’s team defense right there.
Q. You mentioned in your opening comments about the history of this game, Michigan State-Ohio State. Why is it important to address that with the team? Like these guys can play on those teams — some of them weren’t born in some of the years it’s happened, but why do you feel it’s important?
RYAN DAY: I feel it’s important to understand what you’re getting into every week, and every week is a whole new season, and it matters, I think. It’s the coaching staff we’re going against. It’s Michigan State. It’s the people. It’s everything. It’s important to know the history of the two teams, and when they’ve played, what’s happened, and what you’re up against each week. I really think that’s important to teach these kids. They’re 18, 19, 20 years old. Some of them don’t even really understand the history. I think it’s good for them to hear that and understand that and know what they’re getting into each week.
So we do that. It starts with the team meeting today at 2:30 and then we kind of hammer that message throughout the week.
Q. I want to ask you, Kenny Willekes on their defensive line, what jumps off the tape when you —
RYAN DAY: Production. He’s really productive. I feel like he’s in on every play when I watch a clip of film. His hands, he’s got to be really, really strong because he gets off of blocks better than anybody I’ve ever seen in the last couple years on film in this conference. He plays really hard. His motor is off the chart. He’s very difficult to block. A really good player, really tough and strong. I mean, he’s in on every tackle it seems like.
Q. Are you surprised at all at how well Justin has played to this point? Not even being on campus for a year, kind of struggled here during the spring, going through a new system for him?
RYAN DAY: I try not to have too many expectations because all that matters is getting better every day and seeing where it goes. He’s played well. Haven’t played four quarters yet, but we’ll see. He’s been growing, and the more experience he gets, the better he’ll be. But again, trying not to put too many expectations on it other than the fact that let’s get better every day and try and take care of that ball.
Q. When it comes to Michigan State’s defense and he’s still young, is there anything that you have to hold back compared to other games going against a defense like this with him?
RYAN DAY: No, I don’t think you hold back. I think you have to be aggressive. You can’t not be aggressive. That’s kind of the way we are. We like to be aggressive.
But he’s got to — he can’t just go into the game and think he’s all set. All of a sudden he’s played in a few games here and he’s going to go against a great defense and just start going away from what’s got him to this point. That’s discipline. That’s being tough, making those decisions. And I think he’s done a good job of that.
I think he’s had decisions where he could have maybe forced it in there and he’s thrown the ball away. He’s done that. A couple times where he did, like the end of the first half, he kind of scrambled around and made a play to Luke, but that was dangerous. That was dangerous. That could have gone the other way, so he’s got to learn that off of film.
Sometimes we call a good play and people are open, great. Sometimes the defense calls a good play and it’s not open. Well, throw it away, we’ll live to see the next down. I thought he did a great job of that in the second drive. It was 2nd and 10 in the red zone, we called a play to the tight end, it wasn’t there, he threw it away. The next play we get the 1st down, and on the 3rd down end up scoring. And I thought the play of the drive was the throwaway on 2nd down, and I told him so. So again, those are the kind of things he’s growing with.
Q. During fall camp what was the biggest difference you saw how he was adapting to your offense?
RYAN DAY: Just the experience and understanding it. When you learn a language, when you learn something new, when you learn plays and you have to think about it, then it’s not there. Now I think it’s second nature. I think he understands it.
Q. Just to follow up on Justin, he’s got over 100 pass attempts and he hasn’t been picked off. You mentioned one of the throws that was close he had, but I’m curious if you look at all his 100 throws, it seems pretty rare for a quarterback not to be picked off yet. Is that some luck involved? Are you overall happy with decision making? I’m curious from other quarterbacks you’ve worked with how rare that is.
RYAN DAY: No, I mean, he’s done a good job of taking care of the ball. I think there’s a couple that he threw in harm’s way that maybe could have gone the other way, but they didn’t, so he’s got to keep making those good decisions, keep taking care of the ball.
Q. One thing Scott Frost said yesterday he had you guys No. 1 on his coaches’ poll ballot. You have a vote this year; I’m curious where you’d rank your team?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I don’t really give away where I rank the teams and all that. But we’re getting better every week, and what matters is what the ranking is at the end of the season.
Q. I would describe that win Saturday as very businesslike. There were a lot of things that could have distracted you, Gameday, on the road and all that stuff. I wonder, do you put much stock in a pregame read on your team? It may not be right before you go out on kickoff, it might be on the plane, it might be on Friday. Just what’s your frame of reference on getting a vibe on your team and when they’re ready to just go out and do business like that?
RYAN DAY: I think you get a vibe during the week for sure with the way they practice, but there’s definitely a feel the day of. It’s hard for a night game because you don’t just want to wake up and have them start running through walls for you because the game is not until that night. I think you can usually tell if it’s a noon kickoff if they wake up with energy and juice, they’ve got a good look in their eye, they’re probably fresh and ready to roll. A little bit harder on a night game. But again, I think it goes back to if they practice hard during the week, they’re going to play well.
Q. You clearly have themes you emphasize, toughness, tackling, the fundamental-type stuff, but I know you’re probably cognizant as a coach of your message not getting stale. How do you emphasize the same things without it becoming the same message and they just tune you out?
RYAN DAY: I think that’s another art of coaching this generation is that I talk about we have to be tough, and to your point, I think maybe they get tired of hearing it — they can’t get tired of hearing it because that’s what’s got us to this point, and we’re building that toughness. But toughness isn’t just on the field, it’s all these other things that are going to come in. It’s sustaining. That’s what toughness is. Can you sustain it throughout a season, then you are tough. If you can’t, then you aren’t as tough as you thought you were. That’s all the stuff that on a weekly basis we have to just keep hammering away.
We’re not going to get away from that. I think there will be some other things along the way to your point where we have to maybe focus this week on something a little bit more than others, but at the end of the day it’s going to come down to how tough we are. If we can sustain it throughout the season, then we are tough. If not, then we’re not going to be.
Q. Is that coach driven or is it player driven?
RYAN DAY: Well, it starts off coach driven, but then as the leaders can pick that up and start hammering that message home to everybody else, that’s when you have something special, and the best teams I’ve been around, the players are the ones who hammer that message home. So if the coaches leave the room and they’re still saying the same message, now you’ve got something special. If it’s just coach driven, then it’s just okay. But we want to be elite.
Q. At this point is Master Teague III a surprise to you anymore? What do you see that’s come along big time in his game, and there was that one series Saturday night it looked like — I called it the Fa-Teague program, where you went to him three straight times for a touchdown. What’s come right with him?
RYAN DAY: Well, he’s a great change-up to J.K. He’s different. So I think that matters in a game. But I think to answer your question, I think Master has done a great job of taking care of the ball. That’s the first thing. Because as hard as he runs and as big as he is and all those things, if you don’t take care of the ball, you can’t play running back here at Ohio State. Now he’s taking care of the football.
He gave it up a couple weeks ago, but that was it. For the most part he’s hung on to the ball.
I think he’s running hard. I think he’s downhill. When he sees it, he’s rolling. So the different schemes that we’re doing I think fit his style really well, and he may not be pretty, but he’s pouring it up in there, and he’s practicing. There was a time there in the spring and the preseason he wasn’t practicing, so that’s hard to get better.
Q. I think it was at Indiana it looked like you guys ran left side a lot. May have been just the plan and stuff, but Saturday night are you getting feedback from upstairs that Josh Alabi is having a hell of a game because y’all seemed to run right a lot, on occasion, Saturday night. Do you work a game like that?
RYAN DAY: I think we get some feedback of are we handling them. I think you can usually tell that within a game. Were we blocking them or were we struggling to block them? And then if we’re struggling to block them, why that is and try to solve that. But typically we don’t typically go like one side more than the other. I think it’s just kind of the way the game plays out.
Q. When you left San Francisco, did you tell Hafley I’m going to hire you when I become a head coach?
RYAN DAY: No, but we had several conversations about coaching in college, and that’s where we both wanted to end up. I told him on Sunday, we were going to coach together. I didn’t know I’d be the head coach here, and that’s how it would work out. But I always knew I’d coach with him again. He’s somebody I had a connection with right away, had a lot of respect for. I think he’s a tremendous coach, relates well with players, and he’s a great recruiter, and that was somebody I always wanted to be around. I knew I’d coach with him again, I just didn’t know where.
Q. When you were an assistant, did you have the list of guys that I will hire when I become a head coach someday?
RYAN DAY: No. I mean, I had a list of guys that I was colleagues with and people I respected, but you just never know where people are at in their careers and where things are at, and you try to piece it together the best you can. But he was always a guy that I obviously wanted to have on staff.
Q. And all the things you had to do when you took over this program, that part of it, figuring out the 10 guys that you wanted to have on your first staff, were you nervous about that? Were you super confident, man, I’m going to go 10 for 10 on these hires? And as you’ve watched these guys coach through the preseason through the first five games, how do you think your staff has done?
RYAN DAY: I think our staff has done an excellent job. I think when you piece it together, it’s not that easy. There’s so many different things that come into play, recruiting, experience, energy, football knowledge. I mean, all those things when you try to piece it together, it’s really important. And I think chemistry. If guys don’t get along well, it doesn’t work. I talk to our guys about that. Our team can feel the staff chemistry. If we love each other as coaches, then they’re going to feel that, and that was just as important as any. For the most part, guys kind of knew who each other was. Jeff and Greg really didn’t, so that was something we had to work together, but I think they’d tell you the chemistry on that side of the ball right now is excellent, and we’re doing a great job. Now, again, the challenge is to sustain it throughout the season.