Chris Ash Will be in Charge of Entire Defensive Backfield

By Kyle Rowland on January 31, 2014 at 9:11a
Chris Ash will coach safeties and cornerbacks at Ohio State.

The mystery as to what Chris Ash's duties will be are becoming clearer. Athletic director Gene Smith told the Columbus Dispatch that the new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach will take over the entire secondary. That will leave Kerry Coombs, the cornerbacks and special teams coach, in an advisory role when it comes to cornerbacks and the full-time instructor for special teams. 

“Chris is going to coach the entire secondary — safeties and corners,” Smith said.

As for who will call defensive plays — Ash or Luke Fickell — the answer remains unknown. Smith said he and head coach Urban Meyer have not discussed specifics. 

While Smith won a national championship at Notre Dame as a player and later coached the Irish, his comments give the appearance of the same kind of meddling Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has recently been criticized about. Both ADs have been successful and share a history of having played in college, but it doesn't sit right with legions of fans when they hear ADs talk about coaching personnel decisions. 


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USMC11917's picture

"Why not" is my stance. Hope we see some improvement.

razrback16's picture

Sure would like to hear he'll be calling plays and designing the defense. Not sure if we'll ever get that kind of clarity though.
Saw a post yesterday talking about Ash's blitzing styles with stand-up lineman bunched around the line of scrimmage which sounded somewhat exciting to me. Not sure if we'll get to see anything creative if Fickell is still calling plays and designing the defense.

OSU_ALUM_05's picture

Because all I know about football is what I see on TV and learn from video games, I still don't understand how all these coaches work together.  In other words, when we say the defense coordinator is calling plays or creating the "scheme," what does that mean exactly?  Do the position coaches give their guys specific ways to play within that play call or scheme?  For example, let's say its 3rd and 4, Fickell expects a pass, and decides that playing man to man is the best call in that situation.  Is it automatic that the corners play a certain amount of yards off of the receiver or bump the receiver or what?  Or, alternatively, does the secondary coach make that call within the play call that the DC calls?
My question might not make sense ... and that might be because I don't understand how it works.

Yeti's have feelings too.

FitzBuck's picture

Not surprised at all.  Things could only get better.  When you see Roby regress it does not give a ringing endorsement for Coombs as a DB coach.  He did a wonderful job with special teams and recruiting so he still earns his paycheck and then some.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Jugdish's picture

I am one of those fans who is confused with the AD announcing which assistant coach will coach what. It would have made it better if he conditioned his statement with "According to Coach Myer...." I would suspect this pissed off Urban more than me.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

One Bad Buckeye's picture

Beat me to it....."Brilliant minds....." :)

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

otrain2416's picture

He's the vice president now too so this was his first power play card 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

One Bad Buckeye's picture

My first thought was: Why is Gene Smith and not Urban Meyer making this announcement?

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

BuckFly's picture

Because Urban has gone fishing in the Bahamas with his son?

cal3713's picture

Probably because it's not "an announcement."  I suspect it went something like this... CD:  "Gene, what are Chris Ash's position coaching responsibilities on the team this year?" GS:  "He will coach both safeties and dbs."  
Just a man answering a question, not holding a fucking press conference to "reveal" some special private information.

brandonbauer87's picture

They haven't talked specifics about play-calling but they have discussed position coaches? C'mon Gene. 

NitroBuck's picture

I think Smith just didn't want to talk about the specifics of play calling.  There are many good reasons for it too.  I have no doubts that Urban and Co have discussed the issue at length.

Ferio.  Tego.

brandonbauer87's picture

That's basically my point. Gene knows the answer to the question. Rather than saying he won't comment on it, he said they hadn't talked specifics. He could have answered with a more carefully worded "that's none of your business".

Crimson's picture

This thought crossed my mind when his title was unofficially announced as DBs coach.  If he's already coaching two position groups (plus STAR/DIME), can he handle all of the play calling and planning as well?  As long as Fickell and Ash are on the same page, I don't see why Fickell couldn't take on more responsibility than just LB coach.  I really think that at least one of Fickell or Ash is going to take on too much next year but hope that I am wrong.  Obviously, the defense will be better next year, but by how much?

kingjamborah's picture

I doubt Ash was brought it and given complete control of the secondary without also being handed a heavy dose of authority in choosing the overall scheme(s) and calling the defensive plays. Crimson, you're right. As long as they're on the same page they can succeed. I don't know what happened last year but it sure did not appear that Withers and Fickell were on the same page or, sometimes, reading out of the same book.



Mr. Smith had better tread lightly here. He meddles too much and causes Urbz to resign the fanbase and the university won't take too kindly to that. There won't be a rock Smith can hide under. Meyer knows what needs to be fixed and he's fixing it. Leave the coaching to the coaches.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

NitroBuck's picture

This is not necessarily a sign that Gene Smith is meddling.  If Smith is merely relaying a decision made by Urban Meyer, I have no problem with it.  Yeah, I'd rather hear it from Urban, but given that this is crunch time for recruiting, he probably does not have a whole lot of spare time to talk to the media.

Ferio.  Tego.

PAWEST1202's picture

This doesn't sound much like meddling to me. Smith didn't say that he gave Meyer a directive that Ash would coach all DBs. Chances are this conversation took place in the process of identifying Ash as the guy for the job. I assume a job scope was defined early in the process and then refined during negotiations with Ash to leave Arkansas.
I would expect that Smith values Meyer took much as a coach/employee to go around his head and tell the media how Meyer will deploy his staff without Meyer's consent. Seems like Smith was asked a question and he answered with the information that has already been agreed.

cal3713's picture

I know, everyone on here is so anti-Smith is ridiculous.  Public perception aside, the man is one of the most powerful, important, and successful athletic directors in the country.  This is a simple fact.

andretolstoy's picture

Calling the Defense will be a D-staff collaborative effort with a Meyer nod as it was in the past. So, let's not get hung up on this point again.
I too found it a bit odd that Smith made this announcement. But we live in an age of cronyism, and unworthy promotion along with rampant executive overstep. So, I guess The Ohio State U isn't immune ... 
In any case, I'm excited about our Defense. Go Buckeyes!  

bigDbuck's picture

If Luke was going to continue calling plays they would have come out and said it. By saying "need to discuss with Meyer" says two things to me. One Meyer will tell Smith who will call plays (nothing to discuss here). And two, that decision has already been made, Ash will call plays. No need to hurt Luke's feelings right now.

-1 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

They never came out and said Luke called the plays last season. I think that information is private to the coaching staff. 

SgtMdx's picture

My read exactly. I think, Urbz has too much class and is too much of a professional to disrespect Fickell by publicly announcing what in essence, is a demotion through loss of responsibilities.

The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.
Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, U.S. Army

bigDbuck's picture

And I have no idea if play calling was the problem or not. I do know that execution was a huge problem. DB's and Safety's were always out of position and rarely played aggressive. This IMO is not a play calling issue, but rather a coaching issue. Lack of discipline and not playing fast has to do with not being coached up months ahead of the actual game.

-1 HS
smith5568's picture

Can't read the article but I don't think this statement means anything other than that Ash will be responsible for both position groups. Did Gene state this in response to the question "what will be Chris Ash's responsibilities, will he coach the corners and Safeties?" If he was responding to a question similar to that, I don't see how this is a big deal. Maybe Urban told Gene that these will be Ash's duties and Gene is just forwarding that information along because Urban has been unavailable.
In my opinion, this seems much more likely than "there is executive overstepping and Gene is interfering with Urban Meyer's decision making."  

bucknut94's picture

I don't know how much of the defensive problem was play calling and how much was on the players and execution. The right defensive calls without execution by the defense could be a problem. I will wait and see this fall. I'm sure the defense will show considerable improvement over the past 2 years. Watching the defensive backfield this year was painful to watch. Ash looks like the guy who can fix the problems with the right linebackers, corners and safeties.

NitroBuck's picture

Hallelujah!!!  I suspect there was a disconnect between Coombs and Withers last season. This showed on the field as there was not much cohesiveness in the secondary.  Considering the frequent coverage breakdowns we all witnessed, it was obvious they were not all on the same page.  Having one coach responsible for the entire secondary should produce far more seamless results.  I also like Ash's more aggressive approach to pass coverage.

Ferio.  Tego.