Fresh off his whirlwind week that included recruiting visits and trips to both Atlanta and New York for award ceremonies, OSU head coach Ryan Day met with the media on Monday to recap the week that was and to preview his most pressing task as his team gets back on the practice field in preparation for Clemson and the College Football Playoff.
Of course, before Day could get to discussing Clemson, he was first asked about the departure of his co-defensive coordinator and Broyles Award finalist, Jeff Hafley, who accepted the head coaching position at Boston College last week and was introduced on Monday.
Day said the program will miss Hafley but they wish him nothing but the best and know he will do a great job at Boston College. As for the search to fill his position, Day said, “Obviously, we want to do it as quickly as we can,” adding, ”But we’re going to get the best in America because it’s Ohio State.”
During his introductory press conference on Monday, Hafley confirmed he will stay on with Ohio State to coach in the playoffs, saying, “I wish I could stay here and begin right now, but I have to go win a national championship. I owe it to Ohio State, to Coach Day and to all the players, and I’m excited.”
Day said he built his coaching staff to include multiple coordinators and coaches with similar position backgrounds for this very reason … so a departure such as Hafley’s wouldn’t leave him scrambling to fill such a large void.
“When you bring in one guy to run the whole thing and then, all of a sudden, he leaves, that’s a problem,” Day said. “The idea of this defense is something that I had a vision of. A four-down front with cover one, cover three (coverages) and a lot of single-high safeties. That’s what Jeff fit perfectly, that’s what Greg (Mattison) and Larry (Johnson) believed in. That’s what Matt Barnes had done at Maryland and what Al (Washington) had done in his past.
“We’re going to keep that going. That’s the idea, we’re not all of a sudden going to change. Jeff came in to run that defense and he did a great job, but we’re just going to fill that in and continue to do the same things we’re doing on defense in the future.”
On Clemson, Day said, “I think they’re really good, a lot of skill, a lot of speed. (Isaiah) Simmons is the guy inside that kind of makes everything go. And they do a great job of changing up looks — three-down, four-down linemen, a lot of pressure to try to get you off schedule.”
Day said that over the last decade, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been one of the best coordinators in the country. He later said of the athletes Venables has at his disposal, “There’s a lot of good players, a lot of good talent over there. The back end (of the defense) is as good as we’ll see, they have a lot of skill.”
In talking about how his team will prepare for Clemson and the overall goal of trying to finish off a national championship season, Day said his team doesn’t need to do anything differently than what they have all season long.
“The first thing is you have to believe,” Day said of what it will take to win. “You have to believe that you belong as national champs and then you go from there. Our preparation doesn’t need to change in terms of what we’ve done to this point. We don’t need guys to do extraordinary things, we just them to continue doing what they’re doing.”
He went on to say, “I think the most important thing is, at any cost, whatever it takes to go win, you do it. Everybody has to be willing to do whatever it takes. Selfishness can’t be in the way at this point; it has to be everybody on board doing everything they can to win every play.”
Asked if he has been able to sit back and reflect at all on what he and his team accomplished this season, Day said there is no time for that at this point.
“This last week was the craziest week I’ve ever been a part of … and then we only have three weeks to get ready for this game and, really, when you put recruiting into it, you have two weeks to play this game,” Day said. “This was a week where every second mattered in recruiting … now, it’s back to focusing on Clemson and winning this game. Once we get done with the season we’ll sit back and think, but there is no time for that right now.”
Ohio State will practice through Thursday before heading home for some holiday downtime. The team will then reconvene in Arizona to begin the final week of preparation ahead of the Dec. 28 Fiesta Bowl meeting with Clemson.