Editor’s Note: This summer, FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt is interviewing the biggest names in college football as part of his new podcast series, “The Joel Klatt Show: Big Noon Conversations.” The following is an excerpt from Episode 4, featuring Ryan Day. You can listen to Episode 1 with Deion Sanders here, Episode 2 with Nick Saban here and Episode 3 with Greg Sankey here.
As Joel Klatt indulged in a deep conversation with Ryan Day surrounding changes in the ever-evolving college football landscape, FOX Sports’ lead college football analyst posed a question to Ohio State’s head coach that he was confident would lead to a response surrounding one of the most conversational rules in the sport today.
“If you could fix one on-field rule in today’s game, what would it be?” Klatt asked in a recent sit-down interview with Day for his summer podcast series, “The Joel Klatt Show: Big Noon Conversations.”
The Buckeyes coach surprised Klatt with an unexpected response.
“The hashmarks,” Day responded. “I’d go the NFL model. I think those hashmarks were built for football a long time ago.”
Klatt’s belief was that Day would point to targeting because of a pair of calls surrounding that rule which led to pivotal moments in two of the Buckeyes’ recent College Football Playoff appearances.
Back in 2019, Ohio State corner Shaun Wade was penalized for targeting when he sacked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on a third-down play with the Buckeyes leading 16-0 in a College Football Playoff semifinal game. The call changed the momentum of the game as the Tigers went on to outscore OSU 29-7 after that and left with a victory and a spot in the national championship game.
And this past season, star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. was taken out of Ohio State’s College Football Playoff semifinal game against Georgia when he was on the wrong end of a hit that was initially ruled targeting. However, following a review, the call was reversed, and the Buckeyes were left without their All-American receiver, who was sidelined for the remainder of the game with a concussion. That call also shifted the flow of the game, as Georgia went on to complete the comeback and walk away with a memorable 42-41 win.
Both calls rightfully irked Day, which is why Klatt was so confident his answer would surround the topic of targeting.
Ryan Day on college football rules and targeting call inconsistencies
Ohio State coach Ryan Day discussed the rules in college football, along with how targeting calls have lead to some inconsistencies in the past.
“That’s a little too soon,” Day said as he let out a deep breath. “Too soon on that one.”
Klatt’s interview with the 44-year-old head coach, which was released Monday, dove deep into rule changes, as well as other recent developments in the sport, including name, image and likeness (NIL), and the transfer portal.
When discussing the challenges that have come with NIL and the transfer portal, Day said that there’s “no precedence” or “benchmark” set for those developments. However, he does believe the college game can take something from their professional counterparts, which was a common theme throughout the interview.
“I think we have to do something to get ourselves inline to get some sort of a structure,” Day said. “Whether it’s like the NFL … or something to compare it to … we don’t have that right now. We’re constantly going through and trying to blaze new paths. Anytime you have that, there’s going to be chaos. There’s going to be hard feelings.”
Day, who spent two seasons in the NFL, serving as the QBs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, recognized that following an NFL-like path might not be popular among those in the college game. But to him, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t follow a similar track surrounding certain aspects of the game.
“I think people are hesitant to say [college is becoming like the NFL] because we are collegiate and this is college athletics,” Day said. “But these guys know what they’re doing, and they’ve done it for a long time. They have a collective bargaining agreement. They have players associations. They have a playoff system in place. They have so many things we can grab onto.
“Not that it’s going to be like the NFL, because it’s not. But we can look to them on how they’ve solved some of these issues and that’s going to be important.”
As Day gets set to enter his fifth full season as Ohio State’s head coach, he’s already experienced a number of seismic changes throughout the game, explaining to Klatt that “the one thing that’s been consistent is that there’s been a lot of change.”
In addition to NIL and the transfer portal, the implementation of college football’s early signing day has been another monumental development that added to an already jam-packed month of December, which also includes the initial transfer portal window and the period when programs began practice in preparation for postseason bowl games.
With so many recent changes taking place, Day explained to Klatt why he is in favor of “keeping things consistent right now” before making any additional adjustments.
“I’m a firm believer that when we make a change, we don’t really see the ramifications of that change for three to four years down the road,” Day said. “Every time we make a change, it creates a whole other set of issues. So, we quickly adapt, and when you talk about the most competitive environment in the world, guys are going to find ways to get competitive advantages.”
However, another major change is on the horizon, as the College Football Playoff is set to expand from four teams to a new 12-team format in 2024. That’s a change Day is looking forward to, with the idea that early-season games might not make or break your season.
Day invoked another NFL comparison when discussing how he expects to treat the regular-season schedule beginning in 2024.
“I think the way we have it set up moving forward with the playoffs, the idea is to play your best football at the end of the season, very much like the NFL,” Day said. “I think when the Rams won the Super Bowl, they maybe lost three in a row. That happens in college football, your season is over.
“So, that’s a different approach. I think many NFL teams would tell you that they’re kind of feeling their way around in September, they’re finding their identity in October, and then they turn it on in November. Not that that’s going to be the way it’s going to be in college football, but I think it’s going to be more that way.”
Ohio State’s Ryan Day on scheduling and other coaches
Joel Klatt and Ohio State coach Ryan Day took a deep dive into college football scheduling.
While the 12-team CFP format appears to be a welcome change by most fans across college football, Ohio State fans have enjoyed plenty of success with the four-team format. Day has helped guide the Buckeyes to three CFP appearances in his four seasons as the school’s full-time head coach, although they have yet to win it all under Day, despite being extremely close on several instances.
That’s why Day quipped “that’s a little too soon” when Klatt mentioned targeting, leading to a discussion on the amendments he would like to see surrounding the rule.
“We’ve gotten so much into the weeds on it that we’ve lost where we’ve started on it,” Day said. “What was the reason why we did this? To protect young men. If somebody’s launching at somebody’s head and they’re unconscious on the ground, that’s not what we want here.
“I think, sometimes, we get into these slow-motion things, and we get so caught up in the little details of everything. Sometimes, it’s not realistic watching it in slow motion.”
Between rule changes, NIL, the transfer portal, conference expansion and playoff expansion, the sport of college football is evolving at a rapid pace. The schools that have shown an ability to accept to those changes are the ones that have been able to maintain success and will likely continue to do so as more changes are implemented.
“Things move faster now more than ever, and you have to be willing to adapt. It’s something early on that I embraced,” Day said. “Sometimes you feel like you’re driving without brakes going down the highway, but it’s part of the process.”
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