CHICAGO — As Ryan Day prepares for his first season as coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, he’s following advice from another young coach who entered a similar situation in 2017: Oklahoma‘s Lincoln Riley.
Day called Riley “a great resource” during his preparation to succeed Urban Meyer with the Buckeyes, and the two talked at the NFL draft in April.
Riley followed in the footsteps of Bob Stoops, who won a national championship and 10 Big 12 titles with Oklahoma before retiring in 2017. Meyer led Ohio State to three Big Ten titles and a national championship in 2014 — his third as a head coach — before retiring in December.
“He’s one of the few guys who I thought could probably relate to the situation,” Day told ESPN of Riley. “The best advice he gave me was: ‘Don’t worry about anything in terms of changing, anything like that. Just make sure you do what’s right.’
“I thought that was a great point because a lot of people ask, ‘What are you changing? What’s this? What’s that?’ If something works, you’ve got to make sure you do what’s right. That’s what I’ve done.”
In his two seasons as head coach, Riley has gone 24-4 with two Big 12 titles and two playoff appearances. He’s had two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who have gone No. 1 in the NFL draft — Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. In 2017, Riley won his first road game against Ohio State, a team coached by Meyer with Day serving as co-offensive coordinator.
Riley said Monday at Big 12 media days that Oklahoma and Ohio State have similar expectations and pressure to win. But he said Day is equipped to handle his new job with the Buckeyes.
“He’s done a tremendous job everywhere he’s been, so I fully expect he’s going to go do well,” Riley said. “But the easy answer is, you better have success. It’s the same thing with me when I took over [for] Bob. A place like Oklahoma or Ohio State, those places, it’s not the easiest thing to do, but it’s a pretty simple answer. And do it the right way, which he will.
“He seems like a great guy. He really seems unfazed by it. I didn’t get a sense at all that he wasn’t ready for it. He seemed completely ready, confident in it. That says a lot.”
Day also talked with Riley about calling offensive plays as the head coach, which he also plans to do at Ohio State, as well as time management challenges. But maintaining continuity was a theme, as both men follow Hall of Fame-caliber coaches and take over championship-level teams.
“Don’t just change something to change something, just to say it’s yours,” Day said.
Added Riley: “I don’t think they would have hired a guy who’s going to come in and just revamp everywhere. It’s the same way at Oklahoma. If things are going well, they’re not going to try to just go hire the compete opposite of that person. So be yourself. You have to. They believed in you, and you better believe in yourself.”