How are you supposed to know? There could be some graduate assistant or assistant line coach or deputy recruiting coordinator right now toiling at Temple or Villanova or working on video for the Eagles who will leave here under the cover of darkness and one day end up at the heights of the sport.

That’s Ryan Day. Ohio State’s head coach has his Buckeyes playing Monday for a national title, taking on some guy named Saban, after they annihilated a team coached by some guy named Dabo.

Twice, Ryan Day left Temple’s football offices after one-year stints, in 2006 and 2012, and there was no big parade in his honor, no thoughts on how the Owls better make this guy Day the head coach to keep him from leaving. It wasn’t like that. Day showed up, he did his work, he did a perfectly fine job. Then he left. Worked one season as wide receivers coach for Al Golden, another as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach for Steve Addazio. You don’t remember?

Day actually was in town a third time, as quarterbacks coach in Chip Kelly’s last Eagles season, which made sense since Day had been a star quarterback at New Hampshire when Kelly coached up there.

You don’t know. Football is a sport where everybody works everywhere climbing the ladder. Day wasn’t just the right man in the right spot at Ohio State when Urban Meyer stepped down in 2018. Day has proven he was the right guy to keep going.

“It has been kind of fun to track his career, all his different places,’' said former Temple quarterback Chris Coyer, who started for the Owls in 2012, then switched to an H-back role under Matt Rhule the following season. “You saw his career really take off upon leaving Temple.”

Day moved on to Boston College with Addazio, then did stops with the Eagles and 49ers as Kelly’s quarterbacks coach before moving to Ohio State.

Coyer said his relationship with Day was a good one but not the normal one for a QB, since in addition to being Temple’s offensive coordinator for that one season, Day was the wide receivers coach. So that was the position room Day was in all the time.

“A little different experience,’' Coyer said, since all other times, if his offensive coordinator had a position to worry about, QB was the position. But Day was the play-caller.

“I believe it was his first OC job,’' Coyer said. “And he came in, he didn’t want to change too terribly much from the Scot Loeffler offense we had the year before. The terminology stayed the same, the route concepts. He tried to bring as much life out of the offense as he could.”

As for his personal approach, Coyer said, “We had plenty of high-energy coaches. I’m not going to say he wasn’t high energy. But he was definitely a step back from all the guys who were rah-rah and in our face. … You got this air from Day that he was a little more on the cerebral side. He liked to see what was going on. He raised his voice when he felt he needed to.”

Temple QB Chris Coyer and coach Steve Addazio in 2012.
Temple QB Chris Coyer and coach Steve Addazio in 2012.

It is interesting to see Day continue to evolve, Coyer said.

“When he came to Temple, he was probably still figuring who he was as a coach,’' Coyer said.

Just because so many of these coaches work all over the place, you don’t know, the road can lead up or down.

“There are a number of guys out there who had the ability to be great at their craft,’' Coyer said. “But don’t necessarily make the right decision at the right time. I think Ryan Day has done a masterful job of crafting his career, listening to the right learning from the right people.”

Coyer didn’t mean Day was some careerist, just looking to advance, more that he probably took the appropriate philosophies from men he worked under. Addazio, for instance, “I think anyone who has spent some time with Addazio learns a ton. What I learned about reading a defense was from a mix of Matt Rhule and Scot Loeffler [now Bowling Green’s head coach.] But there’s no doubt I learned everything I learned about the run game from Steve Addazio. Then under Chip, Day learned about the passing game and tempo. Then he goes and learns from Urban Meyer, who is one of the more creative minds in college football. All have different management styles – very, very different.”

Coyer, now in the construction business in New Jersey, worked as a high school assistant in Virginia for a couple of years, and doesn’t rule out joining a staff again, but doesn’t have the time these days. He said he can’t really speak to how Day coaches at Ohio State.

“But I would venture to guess he allows his position coaches and coordinators to be a little more hands on,’' Coyer said. “He did have a pretty good relationship with the receivers in the room. I’ve never heard any of those guys say a bad word about him.”

It’s not like anyone really had a handle on Day after his season with the Eagles. That was the year Sam Bradford did all right, then got hurt, replaced by Mark Sanchez. Chip Kelly was let go with a game to go.

Which coaches are capable of making it big? How are you supposed to know? Coyer’s probably dead on about starting with an ability to learn, to not think you invented the sport.

“It’s pretty wild,’' Coyer said of seeing his old play-caller lead a storied powerhouse into the national title game against Alabama. “It reminds me from time to time, all of the guys who I’ve played under who have gone on to do some pretty cool things.”