Ohio State Football’s Ryan Day will have to consider the first change after another loss to Michigan

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State soccer coach Ryan Day may need to make another significant adjustment to the coaching staff to fix the problems that led to another loss to Michigan.

He doesn’t have to hand out a pink slip this time like he did to some assistants last winter. Day need only take his laminated game sheet and hand it to whoever he delegates as his play-calling successor.

Ohio State managed just three second-half points in that 45-23 loss to Michigan. The offense lacked much flair or creativity. Some runs seemed mistimed and some passes poorly constructed from a personnel standpoint. The tag, which once built a reputation as an aggressive game caller, instead came across as conservative at best and out of game flow at worst.

With all options on the table after a second straight loss in The Game, how strongly will Day consider stepping fully into a CEO role and handing the play-by-play decisions to someone else?

Now look at the pinnacle of college football and you’ll see that Day’s approach is an outlier. Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, LSU’s Brian Kelly, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, TCU’s Sonny Dykes, Penn State’s James Franklin — whether offensively or defensively, none of them are in the game . Some did this earlier in their careers but gave it up.

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The most prominent example of a head coach who still calls his own plays is USC’s Lincoln Riley. It’s a comparison Day often draws—young, bright offensive heads with the mystique of the quarterback whisperer. But is it the comparison Day wants? Riley’s teams are best known for retiring to the playoffs and looking for a whoopin because they are so limited defensively. That may still be true of the Trojans team, which is currently positioning itself as OSU’s playoff roadblock.

A lot happens on the sidelines from game to game. The coach who has to check an injured starter or jaw with an official and the one who has to come up with a crucial decision for the third and fourth games are one and the same. Inevitably, these duties will occasionally clash.

Many of the most successful offensive players of recent years — Clemson’s Tony Elliott, Alabama’s Steve Sarkisian, LSU’s Joe Brady — have worked from the coaching box. (However, Sarkisian now plays from the sidelines as Texas head coach. Results have been mixed so far.)

Depending on how you count national champions, the last head coach to announce games for one in 1996 was either Florida’s Steve Spurrier or Nebraska’s Tom Osborne the following season. The head coach often has the last word on big decisions – when to try fourth or not, etc. – even when he’s not calling the games. But the next full-time job title win will be the first in a generation.

One reason Day calls plays is because athletic director Gene Smith hired him to do just that. Day’s wits should help guide OSU toward a more modern approach to attack, and he did. In terms of sheer mileage and points, OSU remains at the top of the national leaders every season.

So if Day decides to make that change, he may have to be the one pushing for it.

Unlike last season, when Day had to fire the coaches and hire Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator, he already has real candidates on the staff.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson previously called games for prolific offenses in Northwestern and Oklahoma. Offensive line coach Justin Frye held the OC title at UCLA, although as with Day, Chip Kelly still held the reins. (Go ahead and add Kelly to the list of those who have achieved a lot as a coach/play-caller combo without ever really being overdone.)

Running backs coach Tony Alford is the running game coordinator and receivers coach Brian Hartline is the passing game coordinator. These titles are more about Sunday-Friday than Saturday afternoons, but if the program needs someone to make the calls in that collaborative environment, both could be nurtured.

Even offensive analyst Todd Fitch was an offensive coordinator on several stops. Day’s offense clearly doesn’t suffer from a multitude of proven votes as the game plan is being made throughout the week. But something was clearly wrong last Saturday and the program cannot afford many more days like this, if any.

This isn’t just a Saturday afternoon talk.

Palyers earning revenue through endorsements and other sources, the expansion of the transfer portal and other factors have further lengthened a coach’s attention span. Day himself admitted how much just name, image and likeness situations now take up a considerable amount of his time.

The feeling that Day might have to relinquish game call duties has only recently surfaced. As did losing to Michigan and missing out on Big Ten championships. Ohio State is no longer the top program in the Big Ten. To chase Michigan down, each position must be motivated to raise its level over the next year. Perhaps this is an inopportune time to pass this card on.

Day stepped out of his comfort zone a bit to hire a relative stranger, Jim Knowles, to make him head defense coach. However, this move is said to have allowed him to focus even more on the offensive game plan each week.

Day said a few months ago that each offseason, OSU conducts a study on various aspects of the program. He likes to say that the solution to any problem lies either in the staff, in the program, or in the coaching.

Well, OSU’s offensive staff remains the envy of the Big Ten and beyond. What is he willing to do regarding the other two halves of what happened at Ohio Stadium last Saturday?

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