Ohio State football survey: Buckeyes fans on Ryan Day and program trajectory

Ohio State football survey: Buckeyes fans on Ryan Day and program trajectory

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Last week, The Athletic published the 2022 Ohio State football fan survey. Now we have the answers. More than 1,200 fans responded (1,213 to be exact), answering questions on Ryan Day’s tenure thus far, thoughts on recruiting and OSU’s approach to NIL, which assistant coaches are best at on-field coaching and recruiting, favorite players, expectations for the 2022 season and much more.

Thank you to those who took the time to respond and especially to those who offered expanded thoughts on some of the open-ended questions.

We last did this in 2020. Although there are some new questions this time around, and some of the questions back then might have changed or been presented differently, you can compare the results now to how fans were feeling back then by accessing the 2020 survey through this link.

Now let’s get to the results of the 2022 Ohio State football fan survey.

How would you rate the state of the program? (1: poor; 5: excellent)

5 70.2%
4 29%
3 0.6%
2 0.1%
1 0.1%

What are your thoughts on Ryan Day’s recent contract extension?

• Loved it. He should be the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten. Lock him down: 71.6 percent

• Seemed unnecessary after he received an extension in 2020, but I understand the business of college football and it needed to be done: 26.1 percent

• Didn’t need to be done now, not coming off a loss to Michigan and missing the College Football Playoff: 2.2 percent

Three seasons in, what do you like most about Ryan Day’s tenure?

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the responses centered on Day’s offense and his ability to recruit and develop quarterbacks.

“He’s unlocked the OSU offense in a way I haven’t seen,” one fan wrote, “and he’s making OSU the go-to place for talented QB prospects. And as long as players of that caliber are coming in the door, I think there’s a chance to win it all.”

The Buckeyes have ranked No. 3, No. 11 and No. 1 in scoring offense, respectively, during Day’s first three seasons. He’ll soon have his second first-round draft pick at quarterback once C.J. Stroud heads off to the NFL. Meanwhile, the future of the position seems strong with Kyle McCord and Devin Brown on the roster, plus five-star 2024 prospect Dylan Raiola committed.

Even with some of the defensive shortcomings in his tenure, the high level of offensive play has most fans confident in the program’s trajectory.

“The height of the floor,” is what one fan said when asked what they like the most. “Even with the Keystone Kops on defense, they still won a Rose Bowl.”

Day also received high marks for maintaining, and in some cases exceeding, the high-water recruiting marks of the Urban Meyer era, for thus far not suffering a “bad loss” — “pounding the losers” is how one fan put it — and for his mental health advocacy.

“His emphasis on mental health and his ability to be a real person that loves his players,” is what one fan said they like the most about Day.

“His genuine care for people. I’m proud to have him as the coach and think he represents the university well,” said another.

Additionally, more than a few responses centered on Day’s decision to shake up his staff this offseason after losing to Michigan and missing the College Football Playoff.

One fan noted Day’s “ability to recognize weaknesses and adapt. Some coaches in the past were blinded by loyalty and wouldn’t make changes to the staff. Ryan Day isn’t scared to hurt feelings and make needed changes.”

And more than one was pleased with Ohio State finally beating Clemson, which Day accomplished in the 2020 College Football Playoff.

“Kicking Dabo’s ass,” is how one fan succinctly summed up their feelings on what they like best about Day’s tenure thus far.

What do you like the least about Ryan Day’s tenure?

The defense, which has been historically bad by program standards in each of the past two seasons, and losing to Michigan dominated the conversation here.

“I’m worried about becoming Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma — very very good, but not elite, recruiting that skews too heavily to the offensive side of the ball,” said one fan.

After the Buckeyes lost to Michigan last November, former Wolverines offensive coordinator Josh Gattis labeled OSU “a finesse team” and more than a few respondents to this survey tended to agree.

“Team is soft and gets pushed around,” said one.

“How soft our team played last season,” said another. “Under Meyer we rarely lost the battle of the trenches. Hopefully it never happens again and lessons were learned.”

There was a somewhat consistent theme of labeling Ohio State as too “pass happy” under Day — a criticism that probably rings more true when attributed to last season than it does Day’s first two years. Nonetheless, many who took this survey would like to see the Buckeyes get back to being a more physical rushing team, particularly in the red zone.

Much of the frustration seems to come generally from coming up short of winning a national title, which Day’s previous two predecessors had accomplished by this point in their tenures (though neither Meyer nor Jim Tressel had to endure the general weirdness that Day’s team did in 2020).

“That we had potentially the greatest team in Ohio State history and failed to win a championship,” wrote one fan, referencing the 2019 team in Day’s first season that lost in the Playoff semifinals to Clemson.

“OSU has been capable of winning it all in each of the past three seasons talent-wise, yet they have no hardware to show for it,” said another. “Whether it be the defense, failing to score in the red zone, inability to make in-game adjustments, or just not winning the big games, I am feeling unsatisfied for the level of talent that has been in Columbus. No other way to put it, we need to win a championship in the next couple of years to keep pace with Bama, Georgia, etc.”

While many were quick to praise Day for making staff changes, others criticized his hiring decisions when asked what they’ve liked least.

“Some puzzling defensive coaching hires, especially since he doesn’t spend much time on that side of the ball,” wrote one fan. “Hiring Kerry Coombs, not firing him after he was clearly in over his head, promoting Parker Fleming at the expense of experienced defensive help. I’m glad he’s seemingly learned from it.”

“He’s made a lot of missteps on the defensive side, from bad hires/promotions to scheme,” said another fan. “He’s on the right path now with Jim Knowles, but he needed to make someone the head coach of the defense prior to his fourth season.”

There were a few references to Ohio State having fewer in-state players on the roster, but that’s hardly a new reality under Day. Ohio State’s rosters started to trend more national under Meyer as well.

While the response to Day has been overwhelmingly positive, not everyone is on board with the vision for the future.

“I think he’s topped out and he’s an arrogant play caller,” said one respondent. “I’m not real high on him being able to bring a national championship to OSU. He wins because of the talent level, but he was out-coached three times last year (Oregon, Michigan, Utah).”

Do you believe Ryan Day will win a national championship at Ohio State?

How would you rate the team’s offensive performance under Ryan Day? (1: poor; 5: excellent)

Where would you like to see the offensive improve? 

As most respondents said, it’s difficult to nitpick an offense that’s operated at or near the top of most statistical categories under Day’s watch. However, this comment sums up the common thought on how the offense can take a step forward:

“More versatility in the running game and an ability to run the ball when the defense knows it’s coming,” wrote one fan.

The majority of the responses centered on the run game, run game creativity and increased physicality.

“I would love to run the ball in 2019 like we did with J.K. Dobbins,” said another fan.

That season, the Buckeyes were fifth nationally in rushing yards per game and sixth in yards per carry. Dobbins rushed for a program-record 2,003 yards, third-best in the country. The offense didn’t throw it around the yard that season like it did in 2021, but it still ranked fifth nationally in efficiency with Justin Fields throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Red zone production is also an area of concern that came up fairly often in the responses to this question. Ohio State was fifth nationally in red zone touchdown percentage (78.8 percent) in 2019 but suffered from letdowns in that area in the Playoff loss to Clemson that season. That touchdown percentage fell to 63.6 percent in 2020, and to 64.4 percent in 2021.

Some remedies people would like to see?

“More designed quarterback running plays, the offense has always worked better with that slight threat,” said one fan.

Others pinned what shortcomings the offense has had on the offensive line.

“The offensive line comes into every season as ‘could be the best in the country’ and then is always kind of ‘meh,’” said one fan. “I think fixing that would let OSU be more able to power run when necessary.”

And, of course, a few fans said they’d like to see Ohio State throw to the tight ends more.

How would you rate the team’s defensive performance under Ryan Day? (1: poor, 5: excellent)

2 48.1%
3 42.3%
1 7.2%
4 2.2%
5 0.2%

Where would you like to see the defense improve? 

“Everywhere,” was an understandably popular and succinct response.

When answers got more specific, things seemed to center mostly on the defensive line and getting back to pressuring quarterbacks on a more consistent basis.

“PASS RUSH!!!! The talent on this D- line should not struggle to get to the QB like they did last year,” one fan wrote.

But criticism of the line play wasn’t only about sack production.

“Far too many times last year they didn’t set the edge in the run game consistently while also not being threats as pass rushers. It allowed for all the other weaknesses to be exploited,” said another fan.

No position group was immune from feedback, which tends to happen when you’re as bad on defense as Ohio State has been the past two seasons.

“Linebackers are not living up to the long tradition of OSU linebackers,” one fan said. “Current group is like the recent trend of slow, invisible, and unproductive players.”

Third-down defense came up fairly often. The Buckeyes were fourth nationally in third-down defense in Day’s first season, holding opponents to conversions on only 29 percent of attempts. In 2020, that increased to 37 percent (35 nationally). In 2021, it was 42 percent, good for 100th nationally. That dip can be attributed to Ohio State being far from the most exotic defense on third down.

“I would like the defense to start playing with more aggression and creativeness. I believe Jim Knowles will turn us around,” said one fan.

Knowles’ Oklahoma State defense led the country in third-down efficiency in 2020 and was third in 2021.

“More scheme versatility,” is what one fan said the defense needs. “Way too predicable with simple Cover 1 or 3. Hopefully Knowles changes this.” 

“Teams should be scared of our defense with our talent and coaching,” said another fan.

What was your initial reaction to the hiring of Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator?

• Loved it. He was who I wanted all along: 62.7 percent

• Didn’t have one. I want to see the results first: 21.1 percent

• I liked some other coaches more, but this seems like a solid hire: 15.6 percent

• Not the hire I would have made: 0.6 percent

What is your confidence level in Ohio State’s defense being better in 2022? (1: not very confident; 5: very confident)

4 44.3%
5 39.1%
3 15.6%
2 0.8%
1 0.2%

How would you rate Ohio State’s recruiting results under Ryan Day? (1: poor; 5: excellent)

5 61.60%
4 37.30%
3 0.90%
2 0.20%

How confident are you in Ohio State’s ability to recruit in the NIL era?

Very confident 77.1%
Somewhat confident 22.3%
Not confident 0.7%

What do you like most about how Ohio State is recruiting right now?

“Ohio State has become Wide Receiver and Quarterback U,” wrote one fan, summing up most people’s thoughts on this question.

Day’s staff likewise received high praise for avoiding a recruiting dip after the head coaching change —“We’re still a juggernaut after losing Meyer. It’s still a cool place to be,” said another fan — and for finding a good balance between locking down Ohio and recruiting nationally.

Ohio State has not taken a win-at-all-cost approach to name, image and likeness, which resonates as a good thing with some of the folks who answered this question.

“They seem to be trying to be as above board with NIL as they can given the circumstances. Recruiting hasn’t seen a great drop-off and top-four classes seem to be the norm,” said one fan.

“While the NIL stuff is inevitable, I am glad that we aren’t one of those schools just throwing money around to entice recruits to come,” said another. “I guess you could say that I am glad that it seems like we’re not heavily relying on that as a recruiting pitch it seems.”

Other fans were pleased that defensive recruiting seems to be catching up with success on the offensive side in the last couple classes.

What do you like least about how Ohio State is recruiting right now? 

Just about every position group outside of quarterback and receiver was mentioned, but the few that were mentioned far more than others were offensive line, linebacker and defensive line — tackle more specifically.

“Offensive line recruiting has been incredibly inconsistent outside the state of Ohio and the interior defensive line has also not netted the results that you need to win a title,” said one fan.

“It seems like O-line recruiting hasn’t been as good as it should be the last couple years and it’s starting to show with a lack of depth. Hopefully that turns around with Justin Frye,” wrote another fan.

While some fans answered the previous question by praising the staff for taking what they need out of Ohio while keeping a national approach, there seemed to be more responses to this question that centered on the need for more Ohio players on the roster.

“Would love to see more Ohio kids on the roster, kids that have lived & breathed the Michigan rivalry since birth,” said one fan.

Ohio State signed eight in-state players in 2020, six in 2021 and six in 2022. The 2023 class, which has 10 commitments at the moment, has five from Ohio.

While some answered the previous question with favorable outlooks on how Ohio State is approaching NIL, more answered this question with concerns about how that approach can impact future classes.

“Worried OSU is too conservative with NIL. Time will tell,” said one fan.

“They could weaponize NIL a little bit more,” said another.

And there’s a desire to see more production from defensive prospects.

“Defensive stars have yet to emerge from Day recruiting classes,” said one fan.

Would you like to see Ohio State be more active in bringing in transfers?

Who is Ohio State’s best assistant in terms of coaching ability? 

WR coach Brian Hartline 52.4%
DL coach Larry Johnson 35.3%
OC/TE coach Kevin Wilson 5%
DC/LB coach Jim Knowles 4%
RB coach Tony Alford 1.7%
QB coach Corey Dennis 1.2%

New hires Tim Walton, Perry Eliano and Justin Frye didn’t receive any votes, nor did special teams coordinator Parker Fleming.

Which assistant coach is Ohio State’s best recruiter?

Brian Hartline 93.1%
Larry Johnson 4.3%
Corey Dennis 1%
Tony Alford 0.8%
Kevin Wilson 0.4%

Jim Knowles, Tim Walton, Perry Eliano, Justin Frye and Parker Fleming did not receive any votes.

The 2022 season will be considered a success for Ohio State if…

More than 1,000 people took the time to respond to this question, and some version of win the national championship or get to the national championship appeared about 400 times. The national title window should always be open at Ohio State. Whether or not winning one every year defines what is a good season is up for some debate, but a good chunk of folks who responded are at the very least expecting the Buckeyes to get back there this year — and a majority of those people are expecting a win.

“It’s hard to say it’s ever title or bust, but this does have the feeling of it. We at least have to get there,” said one fan.

This was the best offense far and away last year, should be the best offense again this year, and even an adequate defense should make the difference. Time to get it done,” said another.

For one fan, this season is a success if OSU “wins the Big Ten, makes the CFP and at least wins the semifinal game. I think Alabama is the only team that stands in the way of a national championship talent-wise.”

“Oh wow, here come the NATIONAL CHAMPS OR BUST people. They make me sick,” said one fan. Let’s be reasonable here. Win the Big Ten, be in the mix for the playoffs, and if you get in, that’s playing with house money.”

Some form of “Beat Michigan” appeared more than 200 times, though almost always in conjunction with something else beyond that.

However, some were focused squarely on that game at the end of November.

“Beat Michigan. Just like every year. The only thing that matters,” one said.

“Embarrass Jim Harbaugh,” said another.

One fan said this season will be a success if “Jim Knowles fixes the defense.”

Wrote another: “This season shapes up to be a huge one for Day. The fan base is definitely expecting to make it to the national championship game. I would call it a success if our defense keeps us from tripping while making it back atop the Big Ten and into the playoffs.”

What will be Ohio State’s final regular-season record?

12-0 53.3%
11-1 44%
10-2 2.4%
9-3 0.3%

Which 2022 opponent concerns you the most?

Michigan 42.2%
Notre Dame 31.3%
Penn State 14.2%
Wisconsin 5.4%
Iowa 3%
Other 2.2%
Michigan State 1.7%

Will Ohio State make the College Football Playoff in 2022?

Will Ohio State win the national championship in 2022?

Who is your favorite player on the current roster?

Folks listed multiple players for this answer, and I didn’t exactly make the tallying here easy on myself by making it opened-ended. So these results are approximations based on attempting to tally the results by hand:

WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba 33%
QB C.J. Stroud 19%
RB TreVeyon Henderson 15%
WR Marvin Harrison Jr. 5%
CB Denzel Burke 3%
RB Miyan Williams 2%

Other players who received multiple mentions: DE J.T. Tuimoloau, DE Jack Sawyer, TE Cade Stover, TE Gee Scott Jr., OT Dawand Jones, OT Paris Johnson Jr., WR Emeka Egbuka, LB Steele Chambers, WR Julian Fleming, SAF Josh Proctor, DE Zach Harrison.

Who is Ohio State’s best starting quarterback since the start of the Urban Meyer era?

Justin Fields 75.9%
C.J. Stroud 15%
J.T. Barrett 4%
Dwayne Haskins 2.8%
Braxton Miller 1.8%
Cardale Jones 0.5%

Would you like to see the Big Ten do away with divisions? 

Besides Michigan, which Big Ten opponent would you like to see protected if the conference eliminated divisions?

Penn State 72.4%
None 10%
Michigan State 6.1%
Illinois 4.1%
Wisconsin 3.7%
Indiana 1.4%

Rutgers, Nebraska, Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue also received votes.

Which Big Ten program will be the biggest threat to Ohio State over the next five years?

Michigan 53.4%
Penn State 32%
Michigan State 8.1%
Wisconsin 4.7%

Iowa, Purdue, Minnesota, Minnesota, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana and Northwestern also received votes.

What is your preferred kickoff time for an Ohio State game?

3:30 p.m. 36.2%
Primetime 25.6%
Noon 24.3%
Don’t have one 14%

Rate the game day experience at Ohio Stadium (1: poor; 5: excellent)

4 41.5%
5 37.6%
3 17.6%
2 2.3%
1 0.9%

What would you change about the game day experience if you could?

In fairness to Ohio State, a fair amount of people said they would change nothing about the game day experience. But the majority of respondents had some opinions on how things could be better.

The entire stadium experience needs an overhaul,” said one fan. “The dark, dingy concourses should be entirely redesigned to make it easier for fans to get their food, drinks, and stop at a bathroom before easily returning to their seats. Currently, there aren’t enough amenities despite a massive amount of unused space under A deck.”

Parking, both prices and availability around the stadium, and bathroom availability were big talking points in these answers.

Fans would like fewer noon games, but that’s more of a Fox deal.

When it comes to atmosphere, some folks said they’d like to hear more marching band, less pumped-in music.

“Why can’t the band be mic’d up and piped through the stadium during the game instead of a Lil Baby song?” asked one fan.

“Stop playing top-40 music over the loudspeakers. TBDBITL exists and is awesome,” said another fan. “We don’t need the same generic music playlist that you’d hear at any pro stadium.”

Criticisms of the WiFi signal in the stadium were fairly common, and others criticized the lack of energy from the crowd.

The crowd assumes every game is going to be a blowout win and doesn’t get involved until things start getting dicey,” said one fan. “The crowd needs to be more involved early and often.”

“Make more tickets available to students and lower ticket prices so more fans can enjoy game day with their families,” said another. “Do something to make the stadium louder. There’s too many people who sit all game, and don’t even act excited to be there, mostly the fans sitting in the higher-priced seats.”

(Photo: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.