INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Wednesday’s media sessions at Lucas Oil Stadium marked the second and final day of Big Ten Media Days, and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and a trio of players were among those to speak about the upcoming season over the course of the afternoon.
Despite finishing with an 11-win season that ended in a Rose Bowl victory, there has been no shortage of dissatisfaction surrounding the program this offseason after a regular season-ending loss at Michigan spoiled Ohio State’s Big Ten and national championship hopes. Day talked at length on Wednesday about leadership and developing the “competitive stamina” necessary to finish stronger this year, two things that contributed heavily to their shortcomings last season.
“Every year the expectations are high, and that doesn’t change based on what happened the year before,” Day said. “The expectation is to win them all. I said that in my opening press conference when I was named the head coach, and that’s just the way it is. Maybe at some places, 11-2 with a Rose Bowl victory is a good year. It isn’t at Ohio State.”
Day said he and his staff conducted an “extensive study” this offseason to determine how they wanted to go about identifying leaders on the team, ultimately deciding on a leadership committee made up of players voted in by their peers.
“We had two different periods where we elected a leadership committee, and those were different positions, different position groups, different classes,” Day said on Wednesday. “They were voted on by the team. We went through the spring, and then we revoted as we came back off of the break in May, and we really intermingled the team. We tried to stay away from the position groups as much as we could, and I think that brought the team together a lot more. That forced guys into leadership positions.
“I think the thing that was neat was the first round of leadership was not the same round in the summer. So, some guys maybe took a step back, some guys took a step up. Now as we head into the summer, we kind of have an idea who the captains are going to be because we’ve already gone through it once. I think that’s something we’re going to grab onto moving forward, and it’s put guys in position to have a voice, and I’m hoping this pays off for us during the season.”
Of course, Day is also hoping the wild, comeback win in the Rose Bowl in January also served as a turning point and a springboard for his returning team. Asked if he believes there were lasting lessons to take away from the win over Utah, Day said, “I hope so. That was the goal going into it, and we talked about it going in.”
Day added, ”I think what it did is it showed in those back-and-forth games, we can go dig that game out in the fourth quarter. I think because we do end up in some of these games where we get up (big) on these teams, if we’re not up on them, some of the young guys are wondering why we’re not blowing them out.
“It’s not that easy. It’s the Big Ten Conference and these are really good teams. When things aren’t going well and adversity hits, we’re not going to have long faces … When things aren’t going well, that’s when you have to respond. That’s leadership, and that’s why we spent so much time on leadership this offseason, because those days are coming.”
Much like last year, Day and his team will need that leadership in place immediately this season with the highly-anticipated opener against Notre Dame looming large. Perhaps no season opener in the 100-year history of Ohio Stadium has carried more hype, and while Day knows the test the Irish will present, he said the buzz surrounding the matchup isn’t lost on his players.
“It’s been real. I think our guys feel it,” Day said of the hype. “I think they feel the excitement. I think they feel the anticipation. I think they just feel the community rallying around this team. But that first game being a night game, I mean, how else do you cut it? It’s going to be electric, and our guys know that. So there’s a little bit of urgency about them, and there’s going to be (urgency) this preseason.”
Ohio State will report to camp on Wednesday, Aug.3, and hold its first practice of the preseason the following day on Thursday, Aug. 4.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.