- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Despite finishing the season 7-3, Hilliard (Ohio) Darby missed the playoffs and watched its season come to an early, October end.
To make sure it doesn’t happen next year for his senior season, Darby junior Caleb Day is passing up the full-court press for the bench press, turning away basketball for the weight room and gym this winter. It is the first time Day won’t be suiting up on the basketball court following football season.
“I think it’s better off for me if I get stronger and faster,” Day said. “The one thing I can improve on is my quickness.”
Day plans to work on his quickness with ladder and footwork drills, but a lingering midseason ankle injury could hinder his progress. In the fourth game of the year, Day sprained his right ankle on a punt return after being tackled awkwardly. He made it through the rest of that game but missed the Panthers’ next game, a loss against Upper Arlington.
The injury only cost Day the one game, but he said he was never the same after it.
“I wasn’t as fast. I couldn’t make sharp cuts,” Day said. “It showed. I couldn’t press up on the receiver that much because I couldn’t make the recovery as good.”
Day will be sending out the tape of his junior season shortly, and he already has a top five that will definitely receive his highlight film. Ohio State, his only offer, Oregon, Alabama, LSU and Wisconsin are the early leaders for Day’s services.
No stranger to nearby Ohio State, Day has traveled to two Ohio State games this year: Michigan State and Toledo. His mother also graduated from the university and Day was in attendance for the Buckeyes’ summer camp, where he was awarded his offer.
“They wanted to talk to me after the camp, and they just said how good I did and complimented me and offered me a scholarship,” Day said. “They’re nice coaches and I like them.”
Listed as an athlete, Day plays both cornerback and receiver and said schools haven’t discussed with him where they would like him at yet. He said there is already an internal battle between two Ohio State assistants as to who will get the opportunity to mold Day if he goes to neighboring Columbus.
“[Assistant Paul] Haynes, the safeties coach, wants me at safety or cornerback,” Day said. “The receivers coach [Stan Drayton] wants to put me on offense.”
Two weekends ago, Day was one of the 50 or so recruits who visited Notre Dame for the USC game. He could only describe the visit in three words: “Oh my gosh!”
“They treat the recruits like they're part of the team,” Day said. “The fans are crazy. They want you to go to Notre Dame.”
Echoing the sentiments of many of the other recruits, Day’s favorite part was the player walk going into the stadium.
“Walking into the stadium and seeing the crowd, it gave me goosebumps.”
Day also got information on Notre Dame’s academics and graduation rates, and before leaving Day got a tour of the facilities and campus.
This weekend, Day will travel to Alabama for the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown against LSU in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He doesn’t know much about the Crimson Tide program at this point, but he hopes Saturday will shed some light on it.
“I know they’re a good school for recruits – they won a championship a couple years ago,” Day said. “They’re more of a defensive school and have a whole bunch of their players get to the next level.”
An Ohio State fan growing up, Day said he’s sort of switched allegiances to Alabama, his new favorite team to watch on Saturday afternoons. It will be his first chance to see them live, and he will also get an upfront look at another one of his top five schools in LSU.
“Their defense is real nice; I wouldn’t mind going there for defense,” he said. “They’re real good-coached and real fast players.”
At Oregon, Day sees himself as more of an offensive player and is interested in playing in Chip Kelly’s spread attack.
“They have a nice offense and a lot of speed,” he said. “I could see myself going there. Their facilities are nice, and I heard the coaching is good, too. I like their style.”
Day said he doesn’t have an order of his top five yet, but that Wisconsin is likely at the bottom of it.
450dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert