Day talks about play calling, O'Brien's status and more

Feb. 7—COLUMBUS — Ordinarily, with no returning starter at quarterback and five players trying to win that job, that subject would dominate a Ryan Day press conference.

But on Wednesday it might have been relegated to third place when Ohio State's football coach answered questions for an hour at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Day's decision to give up calling plays after doing that for the first five years he has been OSU's coach and some unexpected twists and turns in hiring someone to take over that role took precedence over the quarterback questions.

Day acknowledged his decision to step away from playcalling was not an easy one.

"I know it has to happen. There is so much going on in college football now. Do I want to? No, I love the football part of it, I love calling plays.

"But I'm getting pulled out. I know my energy and time and all those things need to be in other areas, especially with all that is going on now with the team and the portal and NIL and all those things. I know that's the right thing to do."

Day said he wanted to make sure he hired the right person to call plays and thought he had found him in Bill O'Brien, whose resume included being the head coach at Penn State, head coach of the Houston Texans in the NFL, and being Alabama's offensive coordinator. Day also liked O'Brien's history of developing quarterbacks.

O'Brien was in the Woody Hayes Center working on Wednesday but how long he might be there is uncertain.

When Jeff Hafley resigned as Boston College's head coach last week to become the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator, O'Brien emerged as one of the top candidates to take over at BC.

"I wasn't just going to make this decision and say, 'We're going to go in this direction,' and throw somebody into that role. It has to be the right person. I felt like after spending a lot of time on it, Bill was that right guy in the right spot at the right time," Day said.

"If something were to change, we'd have to adjust from there. It's something we spent a lot of time on to make sure it was right.

"That was a curve ball we weren't expecting," he said about Hafley's decision. "We'll have contingency plans in place. Hopefully, we won't have to go down that road but if we do, we'll adapt," he said.

Some other thoughts from Day: — FIVE QUARTERBACKS: Getting practice time for the five quarterbacks on Ohio State's roster will be a priority in spring practice, Day said.

Devin Brown, who was Kyle McCord's backup last season, is the most experienced of the five, but not by a large margin.

Lincoln Kienholz did not get a lot of practice time or playing time until the Cotton Bowl and Kansas State transfer Will Howard, Alabama transfer Julian Sayin and incoming recruit Air Noland are all new to the system.

"We need to get guys as many reps (repetitions) as we can. So there might be some long practices," Day said. — ONE MORE COACH: Regardless of what happens with O'Brien, Ohio State still has one unfilled assistant coach's job because no one has been hired to replace special teams coach Parker Fleming, who was let go last month.

"We have some flexibility there," Day said."We've had multiple conversations. I think we can go in a couple of different directions, but we're not ready to make a decision there yet."

One possibility is elevating James Laurinaitis to full-time status. The former OSU All-American linebacker worked as a graduate assistant last season. Two other ideas that could be in play are hiring a special teams coach or an assistant defensive line coach. — STYLES TO LINEBACKER?: The addition of safety Caleb Downs from Alabama in the transfer portal could mean Sonny Styles could spend significant time at linebacker next season.

Downs, a former 5-star recruit, led the Crimson Tide in tackles last season and was the SEC Freshman of the Year.

"We've had conversations with Sonny. He has the flexibility to do different things, not only because of his skill set in terms of size but also his mental makeup. He's really willing to embrace some of those different roles," Day said.

Downs "brings a lot to the table," Day said. "To say we're all excited to have him be part of the program is an understatement. His talent is exceptional. He is very, very talented." — SMITH IMPRESSIVE: Wide receiver Jeremiah Smith, ranked as the top recruit nationally in the 2024 recruiting class, has stood out since enrolling at OSU in January.

"He has jumped right in. We're expecting big things from him," Day said. — TALENT SIMILAR TO 2019 and 2022?: Day said he thinks the talent level at OSU is similar to the Ohio State teams he coached in 2019 and 2022 which came close to playing for a national championship.

"We have an opportunity with an unbelievable team to attack this thing," he said.