Ohio State Names Chris Ash Co-Defensive Coordinator and Safeties Coach

By Kyle Rowland on January 23, 2014 at 3:12p
Tom Herman noted that Chris Ash's defense was the toughest OSU faced in 2012.

Chris Ash is coming back home to the Midwest and the conference where he experienced his most success – the Big Ten. The one-time Wisconsin assistant and Bret Bielema confidant is joining Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State as co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach.

Ash, most recently Arkansas’s defensive coordinator, replaces Everett Withers, who accepted the head-coaching position at James Madison. Despite a poor one-year stay in the SEC, Ash’s reputation as a coordinator and secondary coach is high.

“We’ve competed against a Chris Ash defense before and I have respect for him as a coach,” head coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. “I like the fact he has experience in the Big Ten Conference and that he is a great recruiter. He was highly recommended by everyone I spoke to.”

Said Ash: “I was attracted to this position because it is Ohio State, and I had to wonder if I ever would have this opportunity again. This is one of the top five college football programs in the country. It has tremendous history and tradition, and it is a great academic institution. The opportunity to work for Coach Meyer and to learn as a part of his staff will absolutely enhance my knowledge of the game and my coaching experiences.”

Ash’s coaching talent will be tested immediately. Ash’s first order of business will be correcting Ohio State’s woeful pass defense. The Buckeyes ranked an abysmal 110th in the nation last season, allowing 268 yards through the air per game. They bottomed out in the final three games when Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson combined to throw for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Ash’s lone season at Arkansas won’t inspire enthusiasm – the Razorbacks ranked 89th in scoring defense, 79th in rush defense, 76th in total defense and 73rd in pass defense. But the pass defense did improve from the previous season when it gave up 286 yards per game. Arkansas lowered that number to 235 in 2013. However, it’s Ash’s time in Madison that draws praise.

During his three seasons at Wisconsin, the Badgers finished in the top three of the Big Ten in total defense each year. It equated to three Big Ten championships and three trips to the Rose Bowl.

In 2012, Wisconsin ranked 13th nationally in total defense, 19th in scoring defense and 23rd in pass defense. The Badgers led the Big Ten and ranked third in the country in three-and-out percentage.

The stats were even more impressive in 2011, when Wisconsin limited opponents to just 163.3 yards passing per game, fourth-best in the NCAA. Only four teams scored 17 points on a Badger defense that ranked 13th in scoring and 15th in total defense.

Ash’s first season at Wisconsin – 2010 – saw three of the starters in the secondary earn all-Big Ten honors.

“You can recruit anywhere in the country,” Ash said of Ohio State. “You can recruit players that are talented, that have character and that believe education is very important. When you have all three of those attributes in players, then you can build upon this outstanding program.”

In three games against Ohio State, Ash’s defenses held the Buckeyes to less than 120 yards passing per game, though Wisconsin only recorded one victory. But it took the undefeated Buckeyes to overtime in 2012, a game Herman said he was outcoached by Ash.

“He was very simple. He did not call one blitz on first or second down,” Herman told BTN. “He called one front and one coverage. Within that front and coverage, he could adjust to any formation or motion we gave him. And he had his kids extremely well coached up on recognition of plays and alignments.

“We were trying to run the ball into a nine-man front. I did a poor job in not having confidence in our throw game. You have to throw it over their heads and our guys have to make plays if they are going to commit both safeties to the run the way that they did. Even though we won in overtime (21-14), Chris had his guys more prepared than I did. I learned from it. And it’s better to learn from a win than to learn from a loss, I can tell you that.”

Ash made $550,000 at Arkansas, according to USA Today’s assistant coach salary database. Luke Fickell made $610,000 and Withers made $585,000.

A 1996 graduate of Drake University, Ash has coached at his alma mater, Iowa State (alongside Tom Herman), San Diego State, Wisconsin and Arkansas.

Ash followed Bielema to Arkansas following the 2012 season. Bielema said after the Razorbacks hired him that a factor in his move was the inability to pay assistant coaches at Wisconsin.

Soon after the announcement that Ash was leaving for Ohio State, Bielema tweeted, “Have always felt transition on my staff has allowed us to get even better. Have had success hiring right people and will again. Very happy for former coaches that decide to move to new challenges, the respect our staff gets nationally will continue to grow.”

“To me, to be successful, I think you have to be detailed,” Ash said. “You have to be able to coach and teach the fundamentals of the game, and that’s how you develop players. You have to have a consistency with how you prepare yourself so you can prepare them and then get them to play hard.”


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MJT's picture

From my perspective not an encouraging mix of responsibilities for Ash. Co-defensive coordinator and safeties? Would have rather that he coach all DBs at least.

"Paralyze resistance with persistence."  -Woody Hayes

W-burgbuck's picture



+1 HS
avail31678's picture

Read the second sentence.  Doesn't it say defensive backs, or am I missing something?

MJT's picture

Unless I'm missing something, the second sentence says: "The one-time Wisconsin assistant and Bret Bielema confidant is joining Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State as co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach."

"Paralyze resistance with persistence."  -Woody Hayes

avail31678's picture

LOL - it was changed.

W-burgbuck's picture

Sounds like a simplify and perfect kind of coach, should be a great match for our young talent


tennbuckeye19's picture

I guess this means Coombs will still be working with the corners. 

buckifishr's picture

That is disappointing news.

FLAMikey's picture

dreadful revelation.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

FROMTHE18's picture

time to bring it up a notch Coach Ash. Fight tooth and nail to ensure we dont have that absolute joke of a defense ever again. 

Killer nuts's picture

How did nobody warn us this was going to happen?

jkrk's picture

I'm excited because not everybody is excited. Seems like every time everybody is excited our expectations are not met. 

dwcbuckeye's picture

^^ this so true and also true in life

GoBucksToledo's picture

Responsibility wise, it "sounds like" Ash is slotted into the exact position that Withers left.

Nashville Buckeye's picture

I'm guessing this means he will NOT be calling plays as some have reported he might.  I'm okay with that, so long as he does his job and improves our safety play.  Kind of a bummer he won't have complete control of the secondary though.

bethesdabuck's picture

Where do you get that? it's been confirmed by media in Arkansas that he would have play calling duties while here. Urban had co-defensive coordinators at Florida - that does not mean he will not be calling plays. 

Wesleyburgess1's picture

On the official website it says the Fickel is THE Defensive Coordinator and Ash is a Co Defensive Coordinator/Safeties coach. Sounds to me like he is the DC in waiting(which sucks). I was hoping he would be THE MAN but I guess we will have to wait until he coaches Fickel up enough so someone will hire him away. Idk maybe im wrong but this sounds like he will be in Withers old slot. Not to mention he took a paycut in coming here. Lantern says he will be paid 520K a year here. I believe he got more than that at Arkansas. Crazy. I do love the hire though, great get.

bassplayer7770's picture

The website also still has Vrabel, Mehringer, and Fleming still listed, but they're all gone.  I wouldn't freak out just yet.  I have a feeling we'll get an official answer on who will call the defensive plays in the coming weeks.

bethesdabuck's picture

I think we can take great heart in Urban's coordinator hires while at Florida. Plus, Ash embodies everything we, as a fanbase, have been clamoring for: solid fundamentals, aggressive on 3rd down, and press coverage by the secondary. It's obvious, too, he 'coached-up' defensive talent while at Wisky. Given the raw talent he will have at OSU, I'm very excited by this hire. 

tcm1968's picture

If Ash isn't calling the plays tells me Tat-gate is the gift that keeps on giving until next year. Most DCs would be fired let alone demoted after the past few seasons. If Luke is still calling plays come next year it's because he has it in is contract that he can't be fired/demoted etc. until after the 2014 season because he took one for the team when Tressel was let go. Nothing else makes sense. We ran Heacock's defense. Withers was not calling the plays. Luke was.
Hopefully we'll find out here in the spring Ash is indeed calling the plays from the pressbox and I can come back off the ledge.
Go Bucks!

bethesdabuck's picture

Here is a reporter from Arkansas who says Ash will be calling plays here despite his title (see 14th paragraph): http://www.sportinglifearkansas.com/jim-harris-departure-of-chris-ash-ea...

bleedscarlet's picture

Looks like a face saving, good riddance write up by an Arkansas beat writer. Reads like he's saying "Ash isn't very good and now we've pawned off him and his play calling". Certainly wouldn't read it as gospel........

Slingin' swag since 1970


gumtape's picture

I hope he does as well as the last guy we brought in to fix a dysfunctional unit.

High and tight boo boo

JOhio1560's picture

I, for one, think we got a good (not great) hire here.  Ash's official title is kind of disappointing (not "cornerback coach") but we'll see how it all pans out.
I know the toughest weekly Tuesday practice is know as "Bloody Tuesday."  Will that turn midweek defense practice into "Ash Wednesday"?

I'm not finished!  Before we let you leave, your commander must cross that field, present himself before this army, put his head between his legs, and kiss his own arse.

ScoobyKnows's picture

I'm not Catholic but that's funny right there ^^

Oyster's picture

I'm Catholic and that is very funny.  Even the comments by Gee were funny.  People need to lighten up sometimes and just laugh. 

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Oyster, you wouldn't make a very good Notre Dame fan.

TMac's picture

Which is a positive attribute!

ONE Not Done!

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

It was definitely meant as a compliment.

bwh's picture

I see what you did there... and I love it!

-1 HS
thunderhawks51's picture

Beat me to the ash Wednesday joke! ... guess the big ten offenses will be the ones fasting.

We should be careful though because the last OSU man to make Catholic based jokes got the ax.

thunderhawks51's picture

Beat me to the ash Wednesday joke! ... guess the big ten offenses will be the ones fasting.

We should be careful though because the last OSU man to make Catholic based jokes got the ax.

W-burgbuck's picture

Gee, wonder who that was.


Oyster's picture

We have a winner!  Nicely done.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

BoFuquel's picture

Good luck Coach Ash. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

RunningFree's picture

This is one of the top five college football programs in the country.

Excuse me Mr. Ash, I think you mean THE top college football program in the country.  No bias or anything...

kmp10's picture

Yeah... hopefully this turns into a great hire, but as of today it's not overly exciting. It sounds like Fickell will still be The Man on that side of the ball, and Kerry Coombs will continue to coach the corners. I'll be interested to know what Ash's salary will be. If he's making less than Fickell, well, that says an awful lot about who has the ultimate authority on defense.
I'm not sure if the defensive staff has taken a step forward or not. LJ for Vrabel???  Johnson is, by all accounts, a great hire... but I'd have rather kept Vrabel for many reasons. Over all it feels like the defensive staff is, at best, treading water. 
Two quotes from the article referenced above sum up my feelings about this hire AS OF NOW:

"How many times did Arkansas have teams in third-and- short and play the corners 8-10 yards off the ball?"

"For Ash, the much younger of the two coordinators, it was a move of survival. He had to feel that another year coordinating Arkansas’ defense to the depths it plunged in 2013 would ruin his reputation as a coordinator. The guy has professed a desire to be a head coach soon; he’d be lucky to be a BCS position coach if Arkansas repeated last year’s results."

bethesdabuck's picture

Again, where are you and others getting that Fickell will be "the man"? The same article you quote from says Ash will be calling plays. 

kmp10's picture

Again, where are you and others getting that Fickell will be "the man"? The same article you quote from says Ash will be calling plays

It's my feeling based on information available to us via Ohio State. As I understand it, Fickell still has the title of "DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR." Ash, "Co-Defensive Coordinator." In addition, someone above said they read in the Lantern that Ash is to make 520K. That's almost a six figure difference between Ash and Fickell. The coordinators are, almost without exception, the highest paid on staff. The article I reference was written by an Arkansas beat writer. That he thinks Ash will be calling the shots at Ohio State means little to me. The fact that he didn't seem overly impressed with Ash after covering the team last season carries some weight IMO...

Furious George 27's picture

With Arkansas being on their 3rd coach in 3yrs I doubt they had much talent to work with on the defensive side. What did happen was that they did improve on pass defense which is what we need. Just because he is not making as much does not mean he will not be calling the plays. Its more likely that he can land a HC job faster through OSU than Arkansas and if he can turn the D into a top 10 it will likely happen in a few years.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

Wesleyburgess1's picture

Lantern reports that Ash will make 520k a year and I think Fickel makes like 610k a year sooooooo yea

bethesdabuck's picture

Luke's inflated pay is based off the amount he made as HC. I still don't think that means he's calling plays. Ash doesn't make a lateral move where he was calling plays to NOT call them. Plus, Ash's salary could have incentives in it. 

USMC11917's picture

So, what is everyone's opinion on the hire?
A) Love it.
B) Hate it.
C) Waiting to see.
I am a C guy myself.

bassplayer7770's picture

I'd say C as well largely until I know whether or not Ash will be calling the plays.  Fick has proven to be a good LB coach in the past, but he's come nowhere close to proving he can be the defensive playcaller.

Wesleyburgess1's picture

I absolutely LOVE IT. He is a badass coach but I just hope he runs this shit instead of same ol' fuckel defense

TMac's picture

A) Love It
(Hopefully never proved otherwise)

ONE Not Done!

2002osubuck's picture

I like this hire and think he'll make an immediate i pact on the D. Over the last few years , until MSU this year, Wisconsin had one of the toughest defenses in the B1G. They were very hard hitting from the safety and LB spots. Not to mention, they had guys with a lot less talent and he had them playing at all-B1G levels. Look forward to seeing the DBs make plays this year.

WOLFofOHIO's picture

 Top Recruits!! I choose you!!!

there is no greater joy than watching Michigan get slammed. in anything

BME_Buckeye's picture

Gotta catch them all.

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


bull1214's picture

i guess some of you only trust in urban when he agrees with you. ash is listed as safeties coach but he's also the co-DC which means he'll have plenty of input on the secondary as a whole.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I like it, though the whole co-DC thing that we had before makes me nervous.  I guess we'll find out for sure who was more to blame for bad defense - Fickell or Withers.  If the defense still struggles, then it's Fickell.  If it gets better, then it was Withers.  This of course does not account for any changes or improvements in players from last season to this season.

Class of 2010.

Dublin68's picture

Austin Ward ‏@AWardESPN 24m
Just spoke with Chris Ash: He didn't say one way or the other that he would call the defense, said "it’s going to be a staff defense."
I guess Fickell will retain his title and calling the defense until his contact run through 2015...tell you the truth I am shocked that Meyer is giving Fickell a third year to be in charge of this defense...but we still trust UFM

JDunc686's picture

I think we all would love for someone "in-the-know" to actually lay out how exactly play calling duties were laid out last year and how they will be this year. But I doubt that ever actually happens.

W-burgbuck's picture

I really believed fickell would be at least demoted if not let go, but I believe after the last 3 games they all know they have to change something and if we can see it then they do and I'm sure as bad as this sounds some boosters are screaming in their ears already


BuckRock's picture

Coombs and fickell holding on, like an old girlfriend/boyfriend.  Stalking and hoping and praying tOSU will not let them go.  Never liked situations like this.
They both needed to go in 2012.
We will be the 90th rank pass defense next season, and improvement, but not a top five national team, like we are. That is why I am completely floored by the concept that these 2 guys are still hanging around...

Oyster's picture

I'm still shocked that you were not hired.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

bethesdabuck's picture

Not sure how you deduce from that that Fickell is still calling the defense. Sounds like a cover for him, actually, when reality is something else. And, by the way, we are all hung up on the "co-" stuff when this is exactly what Urban had while at Florida. 

W-burgbuck's picture

I don't like the way it looks right now with the titles. That's because it appears that it's going to be same that it was last year. That being said I have to believe that our coaching staff as a whole starting with urban realizes that change is needed. I hereby decree that we should remove all titles and just call Meyer grand master flash and the others shall be the funky bunch. In the end title them whatever you want just please fix our defense mr. Flash


Blackbeards Delight's picture

No Funky bunch. Grand Master Flash also had a crew with a more on point title, The Furious Five. I'm a wait and see on this hire. If he can teach tackling and that's all, it will be an improved Defense on the back end.  

"Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr, it's what's for breakfast"

- Me


W-burgbuck's picture

Definitely works better than the funky bunch


ChazBuckeye's picture

Love the hire and I really hope Ash's philosophies are utilized more than what we've seen the last two years.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

buckskin's picture

The excitement level for this hiring is at about the same level as when we hired Tress. Hopefully this hire pans out just as well.

fanfarris's picture

Or when Woody was hired.I heard that he wasn't liked much his first year.That's when OSU used to be called the graveyard of coaches.


Oyster's picture

My memories of the reaction by most people when Tressel was hired was "Who is he?" 

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Knarcisi's picture

"And he had his kids extremely well coached up on recognition of plays and alignments."
This is refreshing 

Seattle Linga's picture

Can't for the aggressive defenders to come back to life like I think we are all use to seeing

southbay's picture

Not sure why just yet, but I'm excited about this guy.  Good luck to Coach Ash!
BTW, looking at that picture, I see what I think is more than a little facial resemblance with Urban.
Karl Urban, that is.

SoDakBuckeyeFan's picture

I'm cautiously optimistic. The year in Arkansas makes me a little nervous though. Hopefully the play calling situation gets cleared up so at least we know at whomevers feet to heap the praise/blame. With the weapons we have coming back on offense even an average defense should be good enough to play our way into the playoff. 


Humbuck's picture

Arkansas was a mess last year.  Dantonio and Narduzzi would have struggled with their personnel.  Now, give those guys 5 years to build a system and it might be different but Arky was like MSU when those two took over, not what they have now. 
They are chock full of 2 and 3* players trying to compete in a league full of 4 and 5* offensive players. 
Ash might as well have been coaching a C-USA D to play against the SEC all year long.  Petrino never had much use for defense and the roster shows how bad he was at recruiting D. 
Judging Ash on Arky last year is not a reasonable thing to do. 

saltybuck61's picture

I am not disappointed to hear that he will not be coaching the cornerbacks. Now yes, they underachieved last year, but they were much better than the safeties were. I would rather have him focus on an area where the defense needs the most help. I thought the cornerbacks weren't horrible last year, but much of that may have just been Roby putting the unit on his back. I thought more than anything the coverages that were called would put them out of position. 
I think the secondary as a whole suffered from confusion with the coverages and inability to cover people within a zone. Far too often last year defenders would guard open space while a receiver was wide open in front or behind them. Hopefully Ash can help stop these problems.

Furious George 27's picture

Just a thought but seeing as how he is the "Co" DC, I think if he doesn't like the way the CBs are being coached he will say something.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

bull1214's picture

its hard to play a lot of man coverage when u have a swinging door at lb'er and safety. you have to be well above average in the front 7 also to do it well. we were not well above average and the cb's were exposed when we tried. i think next season looks a lot better unless the injury bug bites again. youth movement with some new juice from a new coach sounds promising to me.