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Why Corey Dennis was right pick to lead Ohio State quarterbacks

Austin-Wardby:Austin Ward06/02/20


The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and Corey Dennis? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Corey Dennis knows how he got his foot in the door.

But if the new Ohio State quarterbacks coach hadn’t kept showing why he deserved to stick around in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, his thumbprint would have stopped working at the facility a long time ago.

Yes, a relationship with Urban Meyer gave Dennis his initial shot with the Buckeyes when he arrived as a graduate assistant. But in some ways, that only meant Dennis had to work harder to demonstrate his worth to the program, taking out a loan to pay his way, spending countless extra hours studying film and eventually learning directly under the tutelage of Ryan Day as he built up experience and knowledge.

So, when Day and former quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich were set to mutually part ways after last season, the Buckeyes could have looked anywhere in the country for the next hire. And while there is still an element of risk with a powerhouse like Ohio State giving Dennis his first full-time coaching job instead of letting him pay some dues elsewhere, the same was true when Day was promoted to replace Meyer. Maybe that’s not a perfect comparison given how early into his career Dennis is, but the thinking is the same: Why let Colorado State capitalize on Ohio State’s development of a young coach if the potential is clear?

Corey Dennis-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis is embracing his opportunity. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“I think there two things,” Day said earlier this year. “No. 1, I wanted continuity. So I knew Corey is invested here for a while. That was certainly important. But I think when you’re dealing with a quarterback, for me, it has to be done the way that we’ve done it here. And when someone else starts bringing in their different opinions or we read it this way, we don’t have time for that. We know what works here. We have a system in place that’s really efficient. We feel strongly that we know how to develop quarterbacks.

“And one thing that I felt like I couldn’t have conversations with is: ‘No, we’re going to read this differently or teach this differently.’ We have so many other things we have to focus on. We feel great about that. And Corey’s bought into that and he’s going to enhance that.”

The chemistry, the familiarity with the system Day and Kevin Wilson have built and the ringing endorsements from two Heisman Trophy-finalist quarterbacks are all more than enough to validate the move. That doesn’t mean that any skepticism is out of bounds, because all hires at Ohio State are going to be under a microscope when they’re made. Dennis is obviously going to have to prove himself all over again now that his role is more prominent.

But Day didn’t hire Corey Dennis as a favor heading into his second year in charge. Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields didn’t praise his behind-the-scenes work during their record-setting seasons just to be polite. And clearly Dennis never took for granted that he could squander his big chance if he wasn’t doing everything he could to make the most of it.

This first season is certainly going to be fascinating to watch for him, particularly because of the unique challenges of the COVID-19 shutdown and the fact that he’s going to be working with a Heisman frontrunner. But Corey Dennis clearly made the most sense to the Buckeyes when they completed the staff, and now he has a chance to validate his role for the program all over again.

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