He had heard his assistant coaches talk about their fundamental philosophies in job interviews and past meetings. This time, he decided, he wanted them to detail and defend their views in front of the staff, with their opinions potentially challenged and disassembled. The sessions went long. Asked on Friday to summarize his approach, Kevin Wilson, the offensive coordinator, responded with a monologue of nearly 700 words.
But Wilson said the exercise ahead of spring practice had forced him to think through his drills and to consider the “ruts” he might have fallen into as a coach. He also pressed his players to grade themselves and to identify fundamentals they wanted to improve on for 2021. The result was the routine emphasis on the game’s building blocks that Day sought.
“I think coming off of last year, we felt we worked the scheme hard and we’ve continued to work scheme,” Wilson, a former head coach at Indiana, said. “But we thought we missed so much fundamentals and we were going to be young enough that to have an impact on the season, we had to emphasize it more than ever.”
Coaches pitched the approach to players, who eagerly agreed.
Despite their accomplishments, Ohio State players had regarded the back-to-basics emphasis as a pathway for improvement throughout the season, linebacker Steele Chambers said.
“Everyone you play, especially with our schedule, is going to have great athletes, great talent on the other side,” said Chambers, who was previously a running back for the Buckeyes. “It’s the little things like the fundamentals that can really give us an edge.”
Day said he expected to evaluate the approach in mid-October, when Ohio State will have a week off, to consider how to coach fundamentals down the stretch of the season.
He knows his team could look different: By then, the Buckeyes are scheduled to have played more games than they did in the entire 2020 regular season.