Comparing Ryan Day and Lincoln Riley

Submitted by m_go_T on December 4th, 2018 at 4:36 PM

I think it is always unwise to underestimate your opponent/competition, and I think Harbaugh and staff must assume Day will be a great coach starting next year.  One thing that I keep hearing, however, is that OSU has found its Lincoln Riley.  I, being the nervous fan that I am, decided to take a closer look at their histories when it came to points per game at their previous stops (OC and HC only).  I understand that these numbers may include some defensive and special teams touchdowns and that I don’t know rely on the fancy S&P stats, but I think they provide some data when people make this specific comparison.   

Ryan Day’s resume:

OSU OC under Urban Meyer (2017 and 2018): Averaged 41 and 43 points a game respectively (Great Offense). He did give OSU a bump in scoring from the 2015 and 2016 seasons (35.7 and 39.4 respectively), when Warinner was the OC, but their offenses averaged more points when Herman was the OC in 2013 and 2014 (44.8 and 45.5 points a game respectively), despite not having the benefit of Urban's recruiting dominance.  He also had Kevin Wilson as his Co-OC, which he'll likely have anyway. 

BC OC under Steve Addazio (2013 and 2014): averaged about 27.7 and 26.2 points a game respectively (which is meh). Addazio has more of a defensive approach, so perhaps they were going for body blows instead of head shots. After departing, BC's offense was putrid and averaged 17.2 points per game in the year after his departure.  Once Loeffler joined the staff, however, they went 20.4, 25.7, and 32.0 points per game over the next three years. 

Temple OC under Steve Addazio (2012): averaged 24 points a game.  Again Addazio was the coach here, so maybe going for body blows here too. In the two years preceding Day, Addazio's teams averaged 25.0 and 30.6 points per game. In the four years after Addazio and Day left Temple, they averaged 24.9, 23.1, 29.8, and and 32.4 with Matt Rhule at the helm. 

Lincoln Riley's resume:

Oklahoma HC (2017 and 2018):  45.1 and 49.5 points per game respectively (and virtually no defense)

Oklahoma OC under Bob Stoops (2015 and 2016): 43.5 and 43.9 points per game respectively.  Obviously, Stoops was the head coach. Prior to his arrival, OU's offenses averaged 38, 32, and 36 points per game in his previous three years.  

East Carolina OC under Ruffin McNeill (2010-214):   36.8, 26.2, 31.5, and 40.2, and 38.8.  Ruffin McNeill was the head coach.  The year he left, they went back down to 27 points a game with McNeill still as HC for one more year.  In the year before McNeill and Riley arrived, East Carolina averaged 27 points a game under Skip Holtz and 23 points a game the year before that.

So what does this mean? 

Probably not much.  Lincoln Riley had seven years of OC experience before taking over as OU's coach, while Day has about five years OC experience. Riley had a lot of success under an unsuccessful coach (McNeill), while Day has enjoyed success under great to good coaches (Meyer and Addazio). 

Outside of his OSU years, Day's offenses didn't exactly light it up.  This could be because Addazio wanted to pound the rock and rely on Don Brown’s defense (sound familiar), or it could be that his tweaks to Urban's offense helped net them an extra touchdown a game and almost bring them back to the Tom Herman levels.  His impact on Temple wasn't much although a very small sample size, and they did perform better without him than with him.  At BC, they seemed to slip pretty bad when he left, but Scot Loeffler took about one year to get them back to the Day level offenses.  At OSU, he crushed it, but he was tweaking an offense of one of the best offensive coaches over the last fifteen years.  He added 2 points of output from Warinner’s last year as OC, and another 2 points the following year, but never eclipsed Herman’s numbers when he was OSU’s OC.    

Riley, on the other hand has always been pretty impactful.  Outside of 2011 and 2012, all of his offenses averaged more than 35 points a game.  Moreover, he did this with Ruffin McNeill as his head coach, who was only a head coach one more year after Riley left, only to never get another head coaching position.  ECU lost about 11 points a game after his departure. At OU, he took them from a team that put up about 35 or 36 points a game, to an offense that never averaged less than 43 points a game and that put up nearly 50 a game this year.   


While Day may very well be a very good head coach, I don't think it's fair to put him in the same category as Riley.  Riley has always had better offenses, even when working for a mediocre head coach.  Day hasn't really had prolific offenses, except when he worked with Meyer, who already had prolific offenses.  



December 4th, 2018 at 5:26 PM ^

Day is basically from the Meyer tree ... Florida grad assistant, Addazio was Meyer's OC for Tebow, Day was Addazio's OC at Temple and BC.  Grew up in the Meyer power spread offense, so good fit for Meyer's players.  We will see if he has the chops to recruit like Meyers to reload the pipeline to keep the level of players as elite. Schiano is probably gone after the bowl game and his first new-hire test will be to find a quality DC. 

Hard to believe Ryan Day is replacing Urban Meyer.  Day is not very experienced and a place like OSU as a first time HC could get overwhelming quickly.  The offense loses Haskins and elite WRs to the NFL, with a defense that seems average for the B1G.  Could be a challenging year.


December 4th, 2018 at 6:39 PM ^

Temple Alum.

I saw Ryan Day's work up close and was not impressed, at all, with his work with Addazio. In fact, Temple under Al Golden (who left for Miami, YTM) was a far more enjoyable and productive offense that made better use of the talent. You could blame Addazio except that Temple under Golden played a particularly Temple Tuff run the rock kind of game. 

Jury is out without Urban around.


December 4th, 2018 at 6:54 PM ^

Unfortunately there isn't a ton of data to compare these two yet beyond prolific offenses led by great QBs, neither of which they recruited.  Lincoln by all accounts has done well with both seasons of his HC duties, but neither season had very good defenses and both offenses were led by electric QBs of which he didn't recruit.  Day has even less data with only coaching 3 games.  He did well in those 3 games and had a great offense with Haskins, not as great with Barrett.  He also didn't recruit Haskins. 


I think the real question is who will he retain on the current staff and will he be able to recruit like Meyer.  I think Larry Johnson is a big piece of this.  Even if he "only" recruits at Oklahoma's level, that would a drop off from Meyer and put him more in the 7-10 range (like JH) vs the 3-6 range in the recruiting rankings like Meyer.  I think we would happily take a few years to be ranked ahead of OSU in the recruiting team rankings.


December 4th, 2018 at 7:06 PM ^

Lincoln Riley’s offenses at East Carolina weren’t really that good; I think their highest offense I’ve S&P+ finish was mid twenties while he was there and mostly in the 40-70 range. They scored points but against who?

To me an important distinction between Riley and Day is that Riley was around the program he took over much longer than Day was. Riley was QB coach for both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and was there to recruit them. As an aside, Dabo Swinney had a similar profile to Riley in that he was on Bowdens staff for a while and had established himself as a fantastic recruiter at Clemson before ascending to head coach. By comparison, Ryan Day has accomplished very little in his own right than either of those two.

Maybe he “works out” for OSU but that doesn’t mean he’ll a good as Urban Meyer or even Jim Tressel. Brian Kelley worked out for Notre Dame; will Ohio State accept that level of success? That’s a significant step down from where they’ve been for almost 20 years... we’ll see.

Ghost of Fritz…

December 4th, 2018 at 8:36 PM ^

"Will Ohio State accept that level of success?" 

Man that is always a fascinating question for any top program.  

Very likely that OSU will have to deal with a lower win percentage than under Meyer. 

Meyer won 90% of his games as OSU, highest of any OSU coach, and among the highest all time.  Tressel was second highest at 81%, then Woody at 76%.

Very unlikely that Day would win 90%. 

So how will OSU react if Day wins at the 75% rate? 


December 7th, 2018 at 2:09 PM ^

But if he loses his first game against Michigan, let's see how he handles the pressue and how the fanbase supports him.  It will be interesting.  I can definitely see the fanbase bringing up the positives of Urban Meyer over Day if/when he loses to Michigan.  Couple that with another loss next year, and he will have already matched Urban Meyer most losses total in 1 season.  I very much believe one of the reasons Urban Meyer stepped down is because of the pressure that goes with a job like coaching Ohio State football is.  Let's see how Day handles this pressure when things aren't peachy all the time.


December 4th, 2018 at 7:09 PM ^

I can also provide some insider information on this as I was a GA in Oklahoma's athletic department and knew people close to the team. When Riley was at Oklahoma as an OC, he had complete control over the offense as well as full play calling duties. He would also give frequent leadership esq pep, ra ra type talks to the team on a frequent basis, the type of talks you would expect the coach to make. Funny story, Bob Stoops would frequently break up the offensive and defensive units for film study and had the coordinators run them. According to a connection, Riley would frequently give his guys prep talks and motivational speeches while you could here faint screaming and obscenities coming from Mike Stoops in the other room. I heard from several players that they all thought he would be an awesome coach. He had complete playcalling duties as well at ECU. So for several years, Riley WAS the offensive mind at several schools.

Another thing. Recruiting took a noticeable jump at OU once Riley got his feet wet. I truly believe Bob Stoops decision to step down had to do evenly with the fact that he was ready to live life and he knew there was great coach there already on staff. 

Day by all accounts seems like a very good young coach. But with Wilson there, I don't know how much of the playcalling was him. Even if it was all him, he definitely doesn't have as much playcalling experience as Riley. 


December 6th, 2018 at 3:25 PM ^

To clarify, I wasn't a GA for the football team, I was a GA in the athletic department and did more business stuff, but knew other GAs that worked with the football team. 

Nowhere close to the juiciest story I have (and probably not that interesting), but my personal favorite story is that Joe Castiglione (the athletic director at OU) co-taught a leadership class in the graduate program most of the athletic GA's were enrolled in. For the last day of class, he said that he was bringing pizza, but asked everyone to bring $5 to help pay for it. Keep in mind, these are all poor graduate students and this was a couple days after he made a $40,000 bonus for the football team making a NY6 game. 

snarling wolverine

December 4th, 2018 at 8:10 PM ^

He also had Kevin Wilson as his Co-OC, which he'll likely have anyway. 


Does Wilson plan on being there long-term?  I assumed this was a stopgap to rehabilitate himself before a new gig.


December 4th, 2018 at 11:24 PM ^

My takeaway from your analysis and the conversation here is that there are enough unknown and/or questionable factors in play to suggest that Day might not be as successful as Meyer has been. Just pointing to next year, with Haskins gone, I think that we will again vie with OSU for division championship. 

Suddenly I am very eager to know if Shea sticks around. 


December 5th, 2018 at 1:56 AM ^

We have not seen many 1st time HCs this young and inexperienced take over for a major program at a high point in production.  

He has every opportunity you could want with no guarantees.  

Lan DIm Sum

December 5th, 2018 at 5:01 AM ^

I don't get why so many of you are polishing Lincoln Riley's nutsack.  He's still riding on Stoops's coattails.  Have none of you ever heard of Mark Helfrich?  He went 11-2 then 13-2 and lost in the NCG, with Chip Kelly's teams.  From there, defense started to collapse and he quickly headed for the drain.  Back home, Gary Moeller went 29-5-3 with Bo's legacy, then took two consecutive 8-4 dumps before getting canned being a drunk-ass.  

OU could easily have finished 7-5 this year had their 4 one-scores (Arena League) wins seen 7-5 luck come their way.   Not to mention Riley coaches in possibly the weakest power 5 conference.  Please start talking smack about him at the end of 2020.  

Magnum P.I.

December 5th, 2018 at 7:07 AM ^

A cat could coach OSU to 10 wins.

Grab bag football coach of any caliber could coach them to 11 wins. 

Unless recruiting goes down, it doesn't matter who's coaching them.


December 5th, 2018 at 7:40 AM ^

Magnum nails it.  You or I or virtually anyone could coach them to 10 victories without even showing up until game time.  They are a national draw with no one in their football crazed state to challenge them and the disgusting term, “Buckeye Nation” is always there to lend a helping hand.


December 5th, 2018 at 9:21 AM ^

I don't buy this.  Every major blue-blood program has spent some time as mediocre or worse in the last 30 years, typically due to a bad coaching hire.  OSU is kind of an exception to this, because it only happened to them for one year, when they spent a single season with a bad interim coach who went 6-7.  OSU is not immune to a bad coach, they simply have made good choices when hiring coaches (off-field caveats apply). 


December 5th, 2018 at 12:20 PM ^

People keep defying history with their takes.  In college football, it always starts with the head coach, then it's school name/brand, then it's academics/alumini/fans, then it's location/recruiting, then it's facilities.  Bagman can fit in their somewhere and have a large effect for a brief time. 

But it always starts with the head coach.  If you get that wrong, forget it.  How does the Michigan fan base of all fan bases not get this? 

Magnum P.I.

December 5th, 2018 at 4:23 PM ^

U-M, unfortunately, is not the same as OSU in this regard. Our margin for error is much smaller given our poorer in-state talent base and competition in-state with another Big Ten school. If OSU hired Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke tomorrow, they would go 11-1 next year. Their recruiting might fall off a little, but that wouldn't affect results for a couple years.


December 6th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

This is a weird take. How's LSU looking post-Saban? They have arguably better in-state talent than OSU on a year-to-year basis, and no other P5 team in state to compete with. They've won two titles since 2003, and played for another, but haven't done better than 10-3 since 2011. In fact, they've been under 10 wins the past 4 seasons, and could make it 5 if they happen to lose to UCF.

What about Texas? Sure, there's a lot of P5 competition in state, but they're the elite program in Texas and generally have their pick of the litter. When's the last time they won 10 games? Hint: it's 2009, and that streak will continue unless they find a way to beat Georgia.

What about Florida? 2 titles under Meyer, and 3 of his last 5 seasons they finished 13-1. Since then, they had one 11-2 season, one 10-4, and two seasons where they finished under .500 and missed a bowl entirely.

What about USC? Pete Carroll had a juggernaut going, and in the 9 seasons since he left they've won 10+ games 4 times and missed a bowl this year. You could argue sanctions helped that downfall, but those are long gone by now and they just wrapped up a 5-7 season.

It doesn't take much for a head coach to fail spectacularly. Don't just assume that any old schmuck can lead a team to 10+ wins solely on the name of the school. Remind me, how did that Luke Fickell coached team end up in 2011?


December 9th, 2018 at 11:46 AM ^

It's hard to replace a guy who went 82-9 and 7-0 vs. his rival.

It's hard to find a program since the 1990s that has done that.

I'm just glad the game is home next year and we have plenty of motivation from The Embarrassment. 

The real challenge for Day will be if he struggles (10-2, 9-3, with a loss to UM) - the fans will be howling in Columbus. Heck, Urban got a lot of crap from the fans after 31-0 vs. Clemson, the Iowa and Purdue beat downs the last 2 years, etc.

Lloyd looked great until Cooper was replaced by Tressel. The same may happen in reverse here.

Lost in all this is that I think we've finally ended the 8-2 record "it'll never be over" losses to Dicktonio. That was far more annoying living in the state than the OSU losses. 


December 7th, 2018 at 2:22 PM ^

Completely disagree with this take.  Yeah, if everything stays the same anybody could coach them to 10+ wins but that is the point.  Things will not stay the same because the Head Coach just retired.  I bet USC and Florida State fans thought 5 years ago that anyone could coach their team and they would win at least lets say 8 or 9 games per year.  How is that working for them?  There is no doubt OSU has a leg up when it comes to in state talent and no other Power 5 school competing against them to get top in state talent, but they aren't invincible.  There may not be any other coach that would have been able to do what Meyer did at OSU (record wise).  I would even go as far to say that Tressel could have had up to 8 more losses than Meyer had.  Think about some of the wins Meyer was able to accomplish.  It is because he is an elite coach that has proven success at every program he has been to.  I am not buying that the position is a plug and play one which is basically what you are suggesting when you make the statement it is a guarantee 10+ wins no matter who the coach is.


December 5th, 2018 at 4:42 PM ^

Oklahoma would be PSU in the B1G east.  2 or 3 losses every year.  Michigan would be in playoff for second time if they played in the Big 12.  Alabama is going to crush Oklahoma.  I watched the OK vs TX game.  Alabama will win by at least 21.


December 5th, 2018 at 7:37 PM ^

I think the variance in that game is extremely high. Bama's defense looked pretty mediocre for most of the SEC Championship Game and OU has a very good OL. I think Oklahoma COULD, and I say could, win a shoot out. Oklahoma could also lose 70-14 with Kyler Murray taken off the field in a bodybag. I think each of those options are viable.


December 6th, 2018 at 9:19 AM ^

I think Day will be more hands on (the three game effort to start this season was a great primer). Not too surprised at the move, now, and eager to see what other staff changes come about.


December 7th, 2018 at 2:55 PM ^

I am sorry, but like you said Riley was an OC for 7 years. He worked the recruiting trail for 7 years+. Besides 2 years at OSU I doubt Day has spent much time recruiting as he spent a few years in the NFL. He isn't Urban and most kids don't know his name. He will grab some kids based off the OSU brand, but while Urban would pull kids based of his resume Day has to sell kids on himself.


December 8th, 2018 at 10:13 AM ^

Ive heard this comparison from Fuckeye fans on reddit and think it’s hilarious. Before he was even head coach I said Lincoln Riley should get hired as an NFL HC. Ryan Day wasn’t even a great college candidate, and has only succeeded with a better head coach above him.


December 9th, 2018 at 11:38 AM ^

There's a lot at being the top guy representing the program. Riley has done well, but with Stoops recruits. Larry Coker looked good for a few years too at Miami. Solich replaced Osborne. 

As long as Schiano is DC, we have a chance if we go into the game with an unforgiving and relentless Purdue-style offense and pace.

The real test for these guys is about year 3-4 in the program.