The biggest storyline ahead of Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game is head coach Nick Saban going for his seventh career national title. Saban has led his Alabama Crimson Tide to a 12-0 record en route to becoming the No. 1 team in the nation and now bidding to become national champions. For the state of New Hampshire, however, there should be a heightened level of interest for the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday night.
Ryan Day, second-year head coach for the Buckeyes, hails from Manchester, N.H. and spent much of his young life in the Granite State playing and coaching for UNH after high school. Along with Day, OSU quarterback Justin Fields has connections to one current Wildcat. Sophomore quarterback Max Brosmer has spent a lot of time training alongside the potential top selection in this spring’s NFL Draft.
Day spent his high school days at Manchester Central High School where he quarterbacked from his sophomore season in 1994 until 1996. He led Manchester Central to a state title in the 1995 season and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year a year later as a senior. He left Manchester as the state recordholder for passing yards and touchdowns with 4,099 and 57 respectively.
Current UNH head coach Sean McDonnell named Day as the starter his sophomore season which was McDonnell’s first year on the job. McDonnell recounted that first game in an interview with the Union Leader.
“I’m looking right at the ball. First victory, 35-14 [over Rhode Island]. [Day] threw three touchdown passes. Made me look a little bit smarter than I am,” said McDonnell.
McDonnell went on to explain how it wasn’t a difficult decision for Day to make the transition into a coach after his playing days were up due to his intelligence, ability to understand concepts and leadership.
This is high praise from one of the most highly regarded FCS coaches in the nation, but Saban – regarded as one of the best football coaches of all-time – echoed McDonnell’s notion during the team’s media availability on Thursday afternoon.
“He does a great job of coaching,” said Saban. “He’s got a great scheme on offense. Certainly, does a great job of coaching his players to execute that scheme. They’re very well-coached in every phase, and their team plays with great intangibles, discipline, toughness, play hard. Seem to have great togetherness on their team.”
After leaving Durham as a player and a tight ends coach for the 2002 season, he went on to spend time at Boston College, Florida, and Temple before breaking into the NFL. Day was hired as the quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly – fellow New Hampshire native and Day’s offensive coordinator at UNH – with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.
Day’s NFL experience was something that Fields cited as one of the reasons he’s connected with him so well during his time at Ohio State.
“He’s been to the level that I’m trying to go,” explained Fields.
Fields was a 2019 Heisman Trophy finalist and a 2020 preseason second-team All-American. Much of his success to this point can be attributed to his work ethic according to Brosmer. Fields and Brosmer are both Georgia natives and train with the same coach in the offseason, Quincy Avery.
“During our training sessions Justin [Fields] treats every single rep like it’s an exact replica of a play or situation that will happen on Saturdays, “ explained Brosmer. “I think what drives that is his mindset – it’s just different. He works his [expletive] off for his team and his school.”
Brosmer also noted during the summer how beneficial it is for his game to be working side-by-side with such an elite talent.
“He gives me something to look at and compare myself to,” said Brosmer. “The throws he’s making, I’ve got to be able to make those throws too. He provides a lot of good insight defensively as well…Just seeing the field through his eyes really provides a good look for me.”
Fields will look to give NFL scouts one last good performance on tape before entering the draft this April. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is expected to be selected No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars but Fields likely won’t stay on the board much longer than Lawrence.
As for Day, he hasn’t allowed the moment to get to him yet. He mentioned during the team’s media availability that he hasn’t really taken a step back to let it all sink in that he’s made it to a National Championship Game in just his second season; for now, he’s narrowed in on Alabama.
Photo Courtesy of Adam Cairns