COLUMBUS — By all accounts, Ohio State’s defensive performance against Oregon on Saturday was a debacle seldom seen in the long and storied history of Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes routinely looked out of sorts, not unlike their performance in the season-opener at Minnesota, and were gashed for 505 yards of total offense by the Ducks en route to their first regular-season loss since 2018.
Following the game, head coach Ryan Day left nothing off the table when addressing persistent questioning about the immediate future of the defense and changes that could be in order. During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Day carried a noticeably irritable demeanor as he fielded even more questions about the status of defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and the direction of the Buckeyes defense.
“I think now it’s not just a single game. It’s a little bit of a pattern,” Day said Tuesday of the issues on defense. “So, I took a long, hard look the last 48 hours at everything that is going on. And I’m certainly going to make some adjustments not only on how we’re attacking other offenses but also just structurally how we’re doing our day-to-day operations.”
Day said he came to the conclusion that he needed to make structural changes after the game and in the days since, but would not expound on what those changes will look like.
“You want to act but you don’t want to overreact,” Day said. “You have to make sure that you do things the right way, and you allow people to do their job. I guess at a certain point, you have to get things fixed. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Day characterized the conversations he is having with his defensive staff as “honest” and “real,” saying he has no problem having those types of conversations with his coaches. Asked why he was comfortable not making changes defensively prior to the season starting, despite last year’s dreadful showing, Day said the additional challenges that came with the 2020 season made pinpointing those shortcomings more difficult than usual.
“I think there were a lot of things coming off last season, especially with COVID and everything like that, that it was hard to identify exactly what the issues were,” Day said. “Moving forward, I felt confident that we would get them fixed and addressed. When we made the adjustments to help in the passing game, certainly, it wasn’t adjusted in the run game. It’s a different issue but the same outcome. So now here we are, and we have to get some things fixed.”
Of course, much of the honus for Ohio State’s defensive struggles has fallen squarely on Coombs, who is now in his second season as the defensive coordinator after having never previously been a coordinator at the college level. When asked to describe his level of confidence in Coombs, Day said only, “When you look at the results over the last couple of games and then coming off of last year, it’s not what we expect. It’s not our expectation. That’s all part of looking at how we need to move forward.”
Day said he didn’t want to “get into the specifics” when asked if Coombs would continue to call the defense on Saturday, saying that decision isn’t one that is going to be made “right now” and that “no hard decisions have been made” as of now.
Fittingly, as the press conference wrapped up with Day having said so much yet so little regarding the changes that will be coming to the defense, he was asked for one final point of clarity regarding Coombs.
“Yes or no, is Kerry Coombs still the defensive coordinator,” a reporter asked Day. The question drew a smile and a laugh from Day in a moment of comedic relief before he responded, “Yes, he is still the defensive coordinator. But we’re going to look at everything and keep working toward Tulsa and figure out how the staff is working together, how the scheme works together, and we’ll go from there.”