COLUMBUS – Ryan Day has noticed a difference.
An invitation to the College Football Playoff has replaced the disappointment over a loss to Michigan with something more forward looking and upbeat.
No. 4 OSU’s practices for a playoff semifinal against No. 1 Georgia in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve have been “spirited,” Day said on Tuesday.
“I think the guys have really had good urgency about them. I think they have a good feel of what this is going to be like – just the intensity and how important every play is going to be in this game. The energy has been really, really good.
“Guys are finishing up finals and now it’s going to be all football,” he said.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is this time of year you’re usually taking a big exhale and you’re kind of catching your breath for finals. I just feel a bit of urgency when we walk on to the field. I just see a different look in their eye. When we’re on the field, we’re there to work.”
The same could be said for Ohio State’s fan base, which felt an urgency to acquire tickets to this game.
OSU sold its allotment of 13,000 tickets in two days, according to Peach Bowl president Gary Stokan, who was in Columbus on Tuesday to “officially” invite Ohio State to his bowl. A year ago, OSU returned 7,000 unsold tickets to the Rose Bowl.
While Georgia is the No. 1 thing on the minds of OSU’s players and coaches, there are several other major items on Day’s plate this month.
The early national signing day for 2023 recruits is Dec. 21. Players have been able to enter the transfer portal since Dec. 5, and he needs to replace offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Kevin Wilson who has been hired as Tulsa’s head coach.
“You just don’t sleep,” Day said about his December schedule. “We’re going to practice today (Tuesday), then be on the plane the next two days and come back for practice Thursday. That’s December in big-time football. You want to be in the College Football Playoff, you want to be involved with great recruits. It’s exactly the way you want it.”
Some other thoughts from Day:
– ON JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA: “It was frustrating for him most of all. Nobody was more frustrated than him. Nobody wanted to play more than Jaxon. I know that,” Day said about the receiver who played in only three games this season and will not play in the CFP.
“It was tough this year not having him. We had a lot of the offense kind of designed around him. We were able to adapt over time and hoped we could get him back. We kind of reevaluated in the last month and just determined that he wasn’t going to be able to go back on the field.”
– ON TREVEYON HENDERSON: The sophomore running back missed three of Ohio State’s four games in November. A few days after the Michigan game, he revealed he had torn ligaments and a broken bone in his foot.
“I’ll probably give an update on Trey in the next few days. I don’t have an update on where he is now,” Day said. “For the most part, everybody is healing up.”
– ON HIS TRANSFER PORTAL PHILOSOPHY: “I think you figure out first is it an upgrade on the field. And then there’s the culture part of it. If you feel like you’re healthy at one spot you don’t need to make a change just to make a change. But if there’s a hole in a certain area you’ve got to get it fixed. How do you do that? Do you get it fixed through high school recruits, do you get it fixed in the portal?
“Certainly the transfer portal has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. It has become like free agency, so we’re going to be a part of it,” he said.
– ON NAME, IMAGE AND LIKENESS: “It was never part of the conversation (in recruiting). Then it became part of the conversation. And it’s trending toward being The conversation for some folks,” Day said.
REPLACING WILSON: “We’ll cross that bridge after the season. He’s going to continue to coach through the bowl game,” Day said. “Keeping Ohio State on a path to the national championship is first and foremost in his mind. And he’s got a lot going on in Tulsa. It’s been a challenge for him to juggle both things.”