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Championship expectations don’t bother Ryan Day one bit

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First-year Ohio State coach Ryan Day has a team capable of defending the Big Ten trophy again this season. (Jim Young/Imagn)

Question Of The Day

Championship expectations don’t bother Ryan Day one bit

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the championship standard Ryan Day is facing with the Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Ryan Day didn’t inherit a rebuilding job. He isn’t a first-year hire being tasked to overhaul the culture. And while his experience as a head coach is currently limited to an interim three-game stretch, he’s well aware of what it takes to steer the ship and has already been busy showing he understands the responsibility.

Will Day meet the standard established by his legendary predecessor and old boss Urban Meyer? Training camp starts Friday and the opener is a month away, and the real answers will be known then. But Meyer himself endorsed Day as the best guy for the job to keep the Buckeyes competing for championships, and betting against him would seem like a bad idea — especially considering the stockpile of talent on hand.

Yes, coaching is critical and Ohio State has a bunch of new guys blowing whistles. But most of the overhaul on Day’s first staff came on the defensive side of the ball, and a shakeup was clearly overdue in a few of those roles given the historic ineptitude of a unit that was statistically the worst in school history. Change can only be a positive for the Buckeyes there, and the offense should remain one of the most potent in the nation because Day still has his fingerprints all over it after upgrading the passing attack over the last two seasons as a coordinator.

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Ohio State is expected to have Justin Fields leading the Buckeyes as the new quarterback. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

It’s become trendy again this offseason for prognosticators to pick potential Big Ten champions who don’t play home games in the Horseshoe — maybe out of boredom from simply tabbing the back-to-back winners and clear-cut most talented team, maybe just because the polls don’t matter and it makes good offseason fodder. It’s also somewhat understandable from the perspective that Day is unproven, Ohio State is breaking in a new quarterback and the Silver Bullets haven’t actually had a chance to show any improvement on the field yet.

But Day has everything he needs to keep winning at the highest level. And given the choice between sustaining that success or suffering a drop-off right away in Year One, the safe pick would actually seem to be on more trophies.

“A lot of people come up and they say, ‘A lot of pressure,'” Day said. “They start talking about the expectations, and that’s a big thing that I get a lot. It’s been the same [response] for me all along, because you can’t worry about that.

“What if you don’t beat the Team Up North? What if you don’t win the Big Ten championship or a national championship? Well, what if I do? That’s the mentality I’ve always had. … Let’s go play and let’s go maximize the day the best we can. We’re not going to be hesitant about anything, we’re not going to be apprehensive, we’re going to go after people and be aggressive. To start getting anxiety or worry about losing is not going to happen.”

Day still has to go out there and prove it, and those new coaches he hired are going to be a key part of that process. But it definitely helps to have one of the most talented rosters in the country in the short term, and in the long term Ohio State is on the way to assembling a recruiting class that has a shot to be one of the best the program has ever seen.

At this point, betting against Ryan Day or the Buckeyes just seems like a waste of money.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.