CHICAGO — Welcome to the spotlight, Ryan Day.
Sure, the first-year Ohio State coach has technically already had a dry run leading the program both on the sideline and in jam-packed press conferences. Yes, he’s already used to dealing with one of the largest media contingents in the country. No, he’s not likely to be fazed by the extra attention as the hottest, newest attraction at Big Ten Media Days.
But nobody moves the needle quite like the Buckeyes, who are annually the biggest draw at the preseason kickoff event in the Windy City. It still might take some getting used to for Day as he experiences the circus for the first time leading Ohio State — and it might even shed a bit more light on what to expect from his program this season along the way.
What can Day and the three Buckeyes he’s taking with him to Chicago expect to be asked during the event? Here’s what figures to be the leading topics for him, Jordan Fuller, Jonathon Cooper and K.J. Hill as the season draws ever closer and Lettermen Row gears up for coverage of Big Ten Media Days.
What’s the deal at quarterback?
Almost nobody believes that there will be an actual quarterback competition in training camp after the Buckeyes landed Justin Fields, bringing in the most decorated recruit in school history to fill the void left by Dwayne Haskins leaving early for the NFL. But that won’t stop Day from continuing to emphasize that he doesn’t have a starter and will give Gunnar Hoak and Chris Chugunov opportunities to claim that top job. Beyond just evaluating his experiences thus far with Fields, though, Day will be asked repeatedly about the transfer portal given just how involved the Buckeyes were there during the offseason. Don’t expect Day to be nearly as forthcoming about possible ideas moving forward as he was earlier this year, no matter how often he gets asked to weigh in on the matter.
Can Ohio State fix the defense?
The Buckeyes again won the Big Ten last year despite having the worst statistical defense in school history, so it’s not like the program can’t overcome that weakness with a high-powered attack. But if Ohio State truly wants to be a balanced contender capable of winning the national title, there’s no question the Silver Bullets need to bounce back dramatically and return to living up to the program standard. Both Jordan Fuller and Jonathon Cooper will face questions about the struggles and how the new coaches are tweaking the schemes and personnel. And Day will have plenty of chances to talk about why he hired Greg Mattison, Jeff Hafley, Al Washington and Matt Barnes to get the job done.
Where is Urban Meyer?
Honestly, this will probably come up more often than just about anything else as media members from outside Columbus try to get a handle on what it will be like for Ryan Day to replace a legend — and what exactly Urban Meyer’s role around the program will be moving forward. Meyer is keeping plenty busy on his own with his responsibilities in the athletic department, a new job in television, the creation of a podcast and ownership in a local restaurant, so it’s not like he’s going to be regularly popping into staff meetings in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. But there’s still some fascination about the pressure that comes with following in the footsteps of a national champion — plus, there will be no stopping the speculation from some that Meyer wants to coach again whether there’s any validity to it or not.
Is Jordan Fuller ready for training camp?
All indications at this point suggest Jordan Fuller is completely cleared physically after offseason surgery, giving him some time to get his body ready for the grind of training camp and the start of the season. The return of the veteran safety for another season was something of a surprise, but the captain clearly felt there was unfinished business after the struggles last year for the defense as a whole. Fuller can also still improve individually, of course, but he does have a little catching up to do when it comes to live reps in the revamped defensive scheme. That shouldn’t be a problem for a player with his maturity, experience and intelligence. But he’ll get a chance to personally provide an update on that front in Chicago.
Seriously, what about Justin Fields?
Ohio State is sending a wide receiver to Chicago, so K.J. Hill should be prepared for a barrage of questions about what kind of passer Justin Fields can be, how offseason throwing sessions have gone and what it will be like without Dwayne Haskins leading the offense. The quarterback discussion will probably overshadow the fact that Hill could have easily moved on to the NFL after last season or the possibility that he could rewrite the school record books as he closes out one of the most productive careers Ohio State has ever seen from a wideout. That might be a bit unfair to Hill, but as a selfless leader for the Buckeyes, he’d probably prefer to talk about his teammates anyway.