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Ohio State's Day has ability to handle spotlight


    Ohio State quarterbacks coach Ryan Day watches quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) throw during warm-ups prior to the NCAA football game against the Army Black Knights at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Sept. 16, 2017. Ohio State won 38-7


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    Ohio State Buckeyes quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, right, instructs quarterback J.T. Barrett, left, before a drill during the first day of spring football practice on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio.



COLUMBUS — The common theme surrounding Ryan Day is that he’s stumbled upon a meteoric rise.

That’s not entirely correct because Ohio State’s acting head coach has been a football prodigy since he first strapped on shoulder pads in Manchester, N.H., and he’s been destined for coaching stardom since Chip Kelly became his mentor.

Day was the state of New Hampshire’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 1996 while playing at Manchester Central High. From 1998 to 2001, he rewrote the University of New Hampshire record book as a quarterback with Kelly as his offensive coordinator.

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Both were complete unknowns, except in a tiny pocket in New England. Now, Kelly is viewed as one of most creative, efficient offensive minds in college football history. His protégé, already considered one of the game’s bright, young minds, could soon get an opportunity to prove he’s among the sport’s best coaches.

When Ohio State announced Wednesday night that Urban Meyer had been placed on administrative leave, Day’s name immediately became well-known across the country. The Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach now is the interim head of OSU’s program, a lofty perch for a 39-year-old.

What many might not realize is that Day thrives under high-pressure situations that would cause significant stress for most people. When he suffered a severe shoulder injury during the 2000 season, he played through it, throwing for 426 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Delaware.

BLADE BRIEFING: Kyle Rowland talks about Ohio State’s Urban Meyer 

Last year, Day — along with co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson — was brought to Columbus to fix Ohio State’s haggard offense and help quarterback J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes improved from 81st to 36th in passing offense, Barrett had career highs in passing yards and completion percentage, and the Buckeyes ranked sixth in the nation in scoring.

It’s no surprise that Day turned down two high-profile jobs in the offseason — head coach at Mississippi State and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator. His salary was bumped to $1 million by Meyer and he was given the title of offensive coordinator.

“Coach Day had an opportunity to potentially be a head coach in the SEC but decided to stay at Ohio State,” Meyer said in December. “He’s done a phenomenal job for us.”

Day coached alongside Kelly at New Hampshire as the tight ends coach in 2002 and in the NFL in 2015 and 2016 when Day served as the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. He first connected with Meyer as a graduate assistant at Florida in 2005. Day also spent several years as offensive coordinator for former Meyer assistant Steve Addazio at Temple and Boston College.

Wilson and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano both have head-coaching experience. But Wilson left his previous position as Indiana’s head coach after allegations of player mistreatment, and Schiano endured an offseason controversy when Tennessee withdrew its head-coaching offer because intense social media backlash alleged Schiano was aware of Jerry Sandusky's actions at Penn State. Schiano was a Penn State assistant in the 1990s.

Those controversies, whether based in fact or perceived, may have caused Ohio State to tap Day as the acting head coach.

Suddenly, he’s been thrust into a spotlight that’s burning bright.

OSU BEGINS CAMP: Day will lead the Buckeyes onto the practice field for the first time this fall on Friday afternoon, but there won’t be reporters there to see it.

Ohio State had planned to open the beginning of practice to reporters and stage interviews with coaches and players afterward. However, the school announced Thursday that coach and player interviews have been canceled “until further notice” and that all practices will be closed.

Contact Kyle Rowland at krowland@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @KyleRowland.

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