COLUMBUS — The Ryan Day Era at Ohio State is officially underway, and he’s been plenty busy in his first month on the job.
From working the transfer portal, hiring coaches and hitting the recruiting trail, Day has been a busy man since taking the torch from Urban Meyer after the Rose Bowl.
Need to catch up on all the major developments? Lettermen Row has it covered with a timeline now heading into February and Day’s second month in charge.
Jan. 1: The Buckeyes defeat Washington in the Rose Bowl, earning Urban Meyer his first-ever win in the bowl and final victory at Ohio State. Meyer then, quite literally, handed the whistle over to Ryan Day in the locker room following the game — officially kickstarting the Day era of the program.
Jan. 2: Day makes his first move as coach of the Buckeyes, bringing former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich on the Ohio State staff as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. At 43, Yurcich comes from a Cowboys offense that was consistently ranked among the nation’s leaders in offensive efficiency in each of the last three seasons. With Ohio roots, he should fair well on the local recruiting front.
Jan. 3: Ohio State received some good news on the defensive side of the ball, as safety Jordan Fuller announced he would be returning to the program for another season. A captain, he led the team with 81 tackles while adding an interception and two fumbles this season. After a rough year for the Silver Bullets, the return of Fuller is huge along with Malik Harrison, who said after the Rose Bowl that he would also be coming back for his senior year.
Jan. 4: The next day, however, Ohio State learned of two departures from the program — one on staff and one on the field. Co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Alex Grinch left the Buckeyes for the defensive coordinator position at Oklahoma while center Michael Jordan announced his intentions of entering the NFL Draft.
That was offset by one massive addition, though, as former five-star recruit Justin Fields officially announced his transfer from Georgia to Ohio State. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Fields was the country’s No. 2-ranked overall prospect in the recruiting class of 2018 and is now the highest-rated player to ever play for Ohio State. If granted immediate eligibility, he will bring an elite arm and NFL talent to an already excellent quarterback room as well as impacting other aspects of the team.
Jan. 5: There was not a bit of news on the coaching or NFL Draft front, but the men’s basketball game against Michigan State was full of special guests. Former Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer was honored during a timeout in the first half of the game, and after walking off the floor, he made his way over to Dwayne Haskins and Fields who were sitting courtside.
Jan. 6: Early enrollees from the 2019 recruiting class made their way onto to campus to get things rolling for them at Ohio State. The eight new Buckeyes will be getting ready for spring ball in March and April by jumping right into the offseason conditioning program. The group includes Ronnie Hickman, Noah Potter, Ryan Jacoby, Garrett Wilson, Marcus Crowley, Zach Harrison and Justin Fields.
Jan. 7: By far the busiest day of the first week on the job for Ryan Day, Monday brought a handful of coaching changes in hopes of improving one of the worst defenses statistically in all of college football this past season. First, it was announced that Day hired former Michigan coach Greg Mattison and San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley as co-defensive coordinators. In turn, Greg Schiano, Bill Davis and Taver Johnson were all given the green light to pursue other opportunities — with Schiano and Davis already saying their eyes are on the NFL ranks.
It will be interesting to see how Hafley and Mattison work together on the field, but how they recruit around the country will also be something to keep an eye on.
Jan. 8: One more coaching addition and one returning asset on offense capped off Ryan Day’s first week as head coach at Ohio State, as he announced the hiring of Michigan linebackers coach Al Washington to tighten up that position for the Silver Bullets. He was known as an excellent recruiter while with the Wolverines after coaching there for one season following stints at Cincinnati and Boston College. At Ohio State, he’ll not only rejoin Mattison but also be returning to his hometown of Columbus.
Additionally, the Buckeyes learned that a Zone Six veteran would be back for one more season in the Scarlet and Gray after K.J. Hill announced he was returning. Now instead of needing to replace all of their four top wide receivers from a season that produced record-setting passing numbers, a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory, the Buckeyes will be able to build around one of their most consistent weapons over the last two seasons.
Jan. 10: The Buckeyes add another member to the defensive coaching staff, as former Maryland assistant Matt Barnes joined the staff as the special teams coordinator and will also serve as an assistant coach in the secondary. Barnes spent the last three seasons with the Terrapins coaching linebackers, and he helped develop a couple of the most productive tacklers in the Big Ten — including standout Jermaine Carter. He also added a role leading the special teams last season, continuing some of the work that initially launched his career when he was a graduate assistant at Florida.
Also the same day, Tate Martell listed his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Jan. 11: That secondary received more great news that week when redshirt junior Damon Arnette announced his decision to come back to the program for his final season of eligibility in 2019. His departure certainly wouldn’t have come as a surprise to the program, but leading up to the Rose Bowl it started to appear like there was an outside shot of getting Arnette to return for one more run with what is shaping up to be a defense loaded with experience.
Now it will include Arnette, and that’s a significant boost for the Buckeyes even if Arnette has dealt with some bumps along the way during his career.
Jan. 14: Ryan Day, however, received bad news regarding the secondary just three days later when it seemed that Kendall Sheffield was heading to the NFL Draft.
The enigmatic junior didn’t make a personal declaration as the deadline loomed on Monday, but EXOS Sports listed him as part of its NFL Combine Training Program, a fitting end for a player who shunned the spotlight with the Buckeyes during a two-year run that included plenty of ups and downs on the field and lots of silence off it.
Jan. 16: Then, just two days later, Martell officially announced on his Instagram just after midnight that he was headed to Miami (Fla.) as a transfer. He’ll join former Las Vegas Bishop Gorman teammate Brevin Jordan, a tight end for the Hurricanes, as well as former USC safety Bubba Bolden, who played with Martell at Bishop Gorman and announced his transfer to Miami a day before Martell’s name was discovered in the transfer portal.
Jan 18: Another Ohio State name was entered into the NCAA transfer database on this day as reserve linebacker Keandre Jones pursues his options for the next step in his career.
Once one of the most coveted recruits in the country and still one of the most respected leaders on the roster for the Buckeyes, Jones was part of a crowded unit with no clear path to playing time. And sources familiar with his request to be added to the transfer portal indicate that it’s possible he could stick with Ohio State, but after three years in the program without a chance to show what he can do, Jones was open to a departure.
Also on that day, the short career of running back Brian Snead at Ohio State came to an end.
The school confirmed that the former four-star recruit from Florida was no longer on campus or participating in workouts with the Buckeyes, ending months of uncertainty about Snead’s status moving forward after playing in two games before an undisclosed disciplinary issue sidelined him for the rest of his freshman season.
Jan 21: After a few days of what just seemed like departures, the Buckeyes received some good news when Cincinnati Elder 2020 offensive lineman Jakob James committed to the program.
Jan 23: After losing Martell, a possible light at the end of the quarterback tunnel arose here for Ryan Day. According to a report from Travis Brown of the Bryan Eagle, Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel said he would be moving on to a new program and said he was interested in Ohio State.
Jan 26: No news on this day, but a former Buckeye was trying to build his draft stock. Former wide receiver Terry McLaurin made his name know to NFL scouts after playing in the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl. The Indianapolis-native caught four passes for 53 yards in the game and registered a 20-yard gain on the ground to assist the North team to a 34-18 win.
McLaurin may have been on the other end of the most exciting play of the day, as the North team ran a flea flicker losing by two in the third quarter and the former Buckeye rose up through traffic to haul in the reception for a 25-yard gain.
Jan 29: The Keandre Jones transfer speculation lasted just over a week with the Buckeyes confirming the talented linebacker was no longer part of the program. Jones is headed back to his home state and will enroll at Maryland.