It was another first in a year of firsts for Ohio State football coach Ryan Day when OSU went through the first day of spring practice on Wednesday.
The 39-year-old Day, who was Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach the last two seasons and its offensive coordinator last year, lived up to his reputation for being an innovative offensive mind when Dwayne Haskins passed for 50 touchdowns and 4,831 yards last season.
With Haskins headed to the NFL, who will replace him is one of the biggest questions for Day and OSU. In that area, at least, Day appears to be a traditionalist, not an innovator.
He says the competition between 5-star Georgia transfer Justin Fields and redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin to replace Haskins “is going to be a battle.”
The number of people who actually believe that could probably fit in the first two rows of a minivan with three rows of seats. But that’s how coaches handle quarterback competitions. That’s how Urban Meyer played it last spring when he had three quarterbacks – Joe Burrow, Tate Martell and Haskins.
If things get shaken up in the changeover to Day from the now-retired Meyer, the first place to look might be on defense.
Ohio State has five new assistant coaches and four of them are on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is the only defensive coach back from last season, when OSU’s linebackers and defensive backs underachieved and sometimes flat out disappointed.
One of those changes could be junior starting safety Brendon White playing a “hybrid” linebacker position at times
The son of Lima Senior legend William White was projected as a Darren Lee-type linebacker by some people when he first arrived at Ohio State.
“Brendon can do a bunch of things,” Day said in a press conference after Wednesday’s practice.
He said OSU’s coaches are trying to match up players’ skill sets with the position best suited for them. “There are a lot of guys where we’re going to test the waters,” Day said.
Offensively, the biggest change could be that the quarterback could line up behind the center at times instead of always being in a shotgun formation. Day also said he plans to continue to call offensive plays next fall.
But he says he is not going to make big changes right away. “For me to come in and make crazy changes just so I can say it’s mine, I’m not going to do that,” he said.
OSU’s second practice of the spring will be Friday. After that the Buckeyes will bee off until March 21 for spring break. The spring game will be April 13 at Ohio Stadium.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau