Ryan Day Makes Case Ohio State Lacks Respect It Deserves


Ryan Day is 40, so for the position he has as Ohio State's head coach, and the lack of experience on his resume for a similar job when he ascended to succeed Urban Meyer, he's a very young coach.

Day's offense is state of the art, the highest-scoring in the nation, inventive and cutting edge.

You can tell he's an old-school guy with a new-age approach when Day continually talks about toughness and physicality and tackling as the cornerstones of what he emphasizes with the Buckeyes, but on the whole he comes off far more like an innovator than an out-of-dater.

Until recently, when Day started thumping a theme as old as leather helmets, a theme he foreshadowed the day before the Big Ten championship game that he's likely to accent again in pre-game for OSU's 8 p.m. Saturday kickoff against Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Yes, he's broken out, and likely will again, the, "They disrespected us," card.

That may sound a bit silly near the finish of a regular season where Ohio State has been and still is on top of the College Football Playoff rankings, and during a year where oddsmakers favored the Buckeyes by 18 points at home against No. 9 Penn State and 11 1/2 points on the road at No. 13 Michigan.

The No. 1 ranking, and that kind of expectation from the gamblers, typically isn't accorded teams lacking respect.

But remember, when it comes to motivating players, what a coach says doesn't have to be true. The players just have to believe it's true.

After all, pep talks don't come with polygraphs.

Michigan, not Ohio State, was the consensus pick to win the Big Ten East in the preseason.

The Buckeyes were ranked fifth -- two spots ahead of Michigan -- in The Associated Press preseason Top 25. Still, the jury was out on how good they could be because many expected a drop-off from Urban Meyer's seven-year run of always winning 11 or more games and never losing more than two.

Besides, OSU had an unproven quarterback with no career starts, an offensive line incorporating four new starters and a defense with lots of veterans from a unit that played almost as poorly as any in school history in 2018.

Tempered expectations seemed reasonable to everyone but Day, who's turned those August projections on their ear and now is re-purposing them into the oldest motivational ploy in the coaching archives.

"Early in the pre-season, coming into the season, they didn't think much of us," Day said. "Then we do what we're doing now, a lot of people don't give these kids enough credit in my opinion.

"A lot of people say they're very talented. If they're that talented, why didn't you pick us that way early in the season? These guys deserve, in my opinion, a lot of credit for what they've done this season.

"We re-tooled the whole defense, re-tooled an offensive line, had a quarterback who never had a college start walking into the season. Right now we're undefeated going to play for the whole thing. I think these kids deserve that."

Day is making parallel points.

One underscores why he's frosted about the, talented, label.

The other shows why people had doubts about the Buckeyes, given all their unproven areas.

"When I hear people say they're just talented, they're not just talented, this is a team with great leaders, great toughness, great chemistry," Day said. "The way they're playing disciplined football, there's so much that goes into that. They've worked really hard to have this opportunity. I think they deserve the credit."

Labeling the Buckeyes, talented...is that an insult?

"A little bit," Day said. "When I hear that, it's the same talent that was here early in the season. They had us ranked low. What's the difference now? But we do have a lot of talent. We have some great players on the team. They deserve the credit that's coming their way."

Day didn't back off that stance Friday afternoon in Indianapolis when asked about OSU running back J.K. Dobbins,  who fell short to Jonathan Taylor in Big Ten running-back-of-the-year voting.

"I  know it it were me, I'd ask, 'What else do I need to do,' " Day said. "I think he deserves to be considered the best running back in the country. That hasn't really necessarily been the case. I know that bothers him and I know he runs with a chip on his shoulder because of it, but you'd have to ask him how he feels. I know it bothers me."

Notice what Day didn't say?

Anything about Taylor being a great back, one very deserving of the award, blah, blah, blah.

The statistical case between the two players is close this season. Taylor has the better career numbers, the higher national numbers and the greater historic precedent than Dobbins to what his team does offensively.

But it galls Day that Dobbins got edged for the award -- as it should, because Dobbins had the slightly better year than Taylor in 2019 -- and he's not afraid to say it.

Expect that to continue once the Buckeyes get into the Playoff.

It may rile some people, maybe even some opponents.

But Day hasn't pressed a wrong button all season.

It would be foolish to question his instincts now.

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