Bad news seemed to follow the Ohio State Buckeyes’ defense the last couple of weeks.
First, it was the suspensions and injuries of some of their best defensive players for the Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers when their defense was already struggling enough as it was. Then last week they found out that defensive line coach Mike Vrabel would be leaving Ohio State to take a job with the Houston Texans. They also lost safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers to James Madison University where he accepted the head coaching position.
Some much-needed good news finally came for the Ohio State defense this week. They made a couple of coaching hires on Tuesday that could mean great things for their defense. Chris Ash from the Arkansas Razorbacks will be the new co-defensive coordinator, replacing Withers, while Larry Johnson from the Penn State Nittany Lions will replace Vrabel as the defensive line coach.
Ash only spent one season as defensive coordinator of the Razorbacks after he followed former Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema there. At Wisconsin, Ash headed up defenses that were No. 15 in total defense in 2011 and 2012. His specialty is in the defensive backfield which is where Ohio State needs the most improvement, and he has experience as a secondary coach as well. Hiring Ash was a good move since current defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is a former linebackers coach and has not had much success with the secondary aspect of the defense.
Johnson had coached at Penn State since 1996 and was the only coach left that had coached under longtime Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. Like Ash, he knows Big Ten football and is a great defensive mind. They have both coached under some great coaches and will continue to do so at Ohio State under Urban Meyer.
The hiring of both Ash and Johnson will pay dividends for Ohio State and their struggling defense. If Ash can improve upon the secondary this offseason and help Johnson improve the defense as a whole then there’s no doubt the Buckeyes will be in the running for a national championship in 2014.