Chris Ash is Off and Running

By Kyle Rowland on February 12, 2014 at 9:15a

Urban Meyer said it. Chris Ash said it. Ohio State’s newly hired co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach was in a good situation. He was working under a coach he’d developed a rapport with – Bret Bielema – his units were among the best in the conference or improving, and he had just entered a land of great opportunity – the mighty SEC.

So why did Ash toss aside Arkansas for the Buckeyes? Well, it wasn’t an easy decision. Like out-of-state recruits, attracting out-of-state coaches to Ohio State isn’t as easy as one might think. Sure, there’s the tradition, mystique and working with Meyer. But there are also real-life concerns, like uprooting your family and meshing with a new coaching staff.

Alas, Ash chose the Buckeyes, just like a recruit chooses scarlet and gray. And Ash’s presence next season could be more important than any personnel development during the months of January and February, enrollment of Raekwon McMillan included.

“In your career, you want to have an opportunity to win a national championship," Ash said. “I believe here at Ohio State that we have that opportunity.”

Ash’s track record bodes well for Ohio State, which fielded one of the nation’s worst pass defenses in the nation a year ago. Poor tackling and coverage was the downfall, contributing to the Buckeyes’ losses to Michigan State and Clemson. They allowed a combined 682 passing yards to the Spartans and Tigers, numbers that make horror movies seem tame.  

Ohio State ranked 112th nationally against the pass and 47th in total defense. It allowed 268 yards passing per game and surrendered 31 touchdown passes, second-worst in the Big Ten.

A national championship or bust campaign quickly went kaboom.

“You're going to see some significant changes in the way we approach our business back there,” Meyer said. “I’m going to be more involved than I ever have been, just to make sure that we get up to standard at Ohio State on the defensive side of the ball with emphasis in pass defense.”

So in comes Ash, who built Wisconsin’s secondary into one the Big Ten’s best during three years in Madison. And he did so with unheralded recruits. A one-year stint at Arkansas yielded zero conference wins, but the secondary saw marked improvements from the previous season.

“He’s got a serious responsibility,” Meyer said. “That’s to improve our pass defense. He’ll be in charge of the entire back end of our defense. It’s his responsibility to improve our pass defense.”

Said Ash: “We understand we’ve got to create issues for an offense, and then when we get to third down, you’ve got to create confusion, and we’re going to do that.”

“In your career, you want to have an opportunity to win a national championship. I believe here at Ohio State that we have that opportunity.”– Chris Ash

Ash hails from Iowa and has coached in the Midwest for nearly his entire career. The move to Ohio State quickly became a no-brainer. He could associate himself with Meyer while building a championship caliber defense. His viewpoint closely aligns with what Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell envision.

“When [Meyer] talked about his vision for defense, that excited me because it matched my philosophy and what I want to be a part of,” Ash said. “Second thing is, you can’t deny the history and success Coach Meyer has had at every stop. As a coach, I want to find out why. Is there something there to make me better? The only way I’m going to find out is to work there.”

According to Meyer, Fickell will still hold veto power and have final say on game days. Ash has been a defensive play caller for several years and he, along with Fickell, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and even Meyer, will devise the game plan.

Any semblance of a strained or awkward working relationship between the coordinators was swiftly put to rest.

“If I didn’t think Luke and I could have a great relationship and great chemistry, I wouldn’t have come to Ohio State,” Ash said. “The players are going to feed off the coaches. Successful teams have one thing in common – great chemistry. A lot of that comes from the staff. Luke and I share the same passion and vision, and I think it will work.”

More help is on the way. Of Ohio State’s 23-man recruiting class, eight play in the back half of the defense. Among them are four blue-chippers that will patrol the secondary. Changing the mentality and developing confidence is first on a long list of housekeeping chores for Ash. The goal is to play with a more aggressive style.

“You play fast, you play with reckless abandon, you’re physical, you throw your body around,” Ash said. “There’s no hesitation, there’s no confusion. You know exactly what you’re doing. You can react to your key and there’s only one speed – it’s full speed. That’s the way we have to play.”

Doran Grant is the lone returning starter, signaling imminent changes. Spring practice will feature a wide-open competition that’s sure to play host to a competitive spirit. Ash and Coombs will collaborate on work with the cornerbacks. Both coaches stressed teamwork and operating together for the betterment of the defense.

“You’ve got to perform to play, and I think that the expectation on the part of every player on this football team is you have to show up every day and you’ve got to perform in order to play in the fall,” Coombs said. “We’re going to work really hard on finding those guys who can compete and who will challenge in tough situations.

“Chris and I are going to function as a team in the back end. We will have one voice. We both may be saying it, but we’ll be saying the same thing. I think that’s very important.”

Whatever the terminology, Ash will have zero issues confronting what ails Ohio State. Football is a universal language. 


Comments Show All Comments

OSU_ALUM_05's picture


Yeti's have feelings too.

+18 HS
AltaBuck's picture

Up vote for a Coen Brothers film reference.

I am Groot - Groot

+1 HS
FitzBuck's picture


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

+4 HS
Furious George 27's picture

I like my D-Coordinators to look pissed off all the time....And so far Ash has won me over in that department.

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

+16 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

I second that emotion.............once they start smiling they've lost their edge!!!!

+2 HS
I_Run_The_Dave's picture

What if they are smiling while head-butting a player with their helmet on?

+3 HS
Furious George 27's picture

A little crazy is also an acceptable trait

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

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

True True - thanks for the reminder

d5k's picture

Has Dick Lebeau ever smiled?  


+5 HS
AndyVance's picture

The Venerable Dick LeBeau allegedly smiled once, but it made him feel weak, so he vowed never to do it again.

LeBeau is one of my favorite coaches of all time, and one of my favorite Ohio State legends, to boot. I wish he was more visibly connected with his alma mater as a supporter, like an Archie or an Eddie.

+2 HS
AndyVance's picture

See, once. It's like cutting Sampson's hair - it just effs with the man's mojo or something.

+1 HS
Bigbutterbuckeye's picture

As a Steelers fan I can tell you he smiles on the sideline all the time.....but it's one of those snarky "wait till they get a load of this shit" smiles.

ESPN starting the SEC channel to concentrate on the SEC is like Baskin-Robbins starting a new store to concentrate on selling ice cream.

+1 HS
teddyballgame's picture

Dantonio never smiles either

+1 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture
+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Try saying that four times.



+1 HS
97Buckeye's picture

That. That. That. That.


+4 HS
HotSauceCommittee's picture

I am excited to see our defensive backfield transform into Ash's Army!

+2 HS
CharlieBuckeye's picture

Fantastic attitude by Ash. Now perhaps we can get back to the days of having shutdown corners and safeties who know their assignments and punish those who cross the back middle of the field.


"To have a great life simply follow this rule:  Do not bring undo conflict into your life..."

Charlie Baker - OSU - 1986

+2 HS
tae1986's picture

Kyle, love the way you highlighted a cool quote from Ash in the article, like a lot of magazine articles do!

Maybe you've done it before and I might not noticed it but with the new site, it looks good with red texts standing out!

Remind yourself, Nobody built like you, You designed yourself.

Barnsey69's picture

Music to my's to the Buckeye version of Legion of BOOM!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+1 HS
bethesdabuck's picture

So, it looks like it's going to be like this (reading between the lines): Just like Herman is in the booth and calls the offensive plays yet Urban can veto from the field, so Ash will be in the booth and call defensive plays yet Fickell can veto from the field. I can live with that.


+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed as long as egos don't get in the way

+4 HS
Buckeye Elite's picture

I can't wait until the spring game to see the look of our defense. I really like how Ash said “You play fast, you play with reckless abandon, you’re physical, you throw your body around,” Ash said. “There’s no hesitation, there’s no confusion. You know exactly what you’re doing. You can react to your key and there’s only one speed – it’s full speed. That’s the way we have to play.” This is how you play defense! Go Bucks!!!!

"Clear eyes, Full heart, Can't lose!"
                                  - Friday Night Lights

whobdis's picture

If you get a chance..go watch some of Ash' videos on how he likes his D to operate. They are quite long but informative. The days of 'you cover this guy' are long gone and it can be quite complicated as to what responsibiliites are. But Ash states it's not difficult to grasp..but discipline is needed. He is more of a zone guy but he likes to play the corners up close and route the receivers. I think we all were frustrated with the 10 to 12 yard cushions. It looks like his base is off of the Tampa 2. I remember John Lynch saying that anyone can run the D and it's easy to pick up..but you have to have the athletes to do it. I prefer this type of thought process as we SHOULD have the athletes.

+2 HS
I_Run_The_Dave's picture

“Second thing is, you can’t deny the history and success Coach Meyer has had at every stop. As a coach, I want to find out why. Is there something there to make me better? The only way I’m going to find out is to work there.”

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!

Seattle Linga's picture

It's going to be interesting to see the development of Arkansas' defense next year. Losing ASH was huge and they will digress more than we know IMO.

HattanBuck85's picture

Really like this hire. Wisconsin, when Ash was there, played us tough despite not having the athletes that we had. I really think it's about slowing the game down for the players and having them focus on reacting and not thinking too much during the play (K.I.S.S.). If we can do this, with the ATHLETES on our D, we can become the Silver Bullets again. Go Bucks!

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
PittBuckeye's picture

Was his secondary really tops in the SEC?

Furious George 27's picture

No, but they improved from 109- 70-something which is impressive considering Arky was on their 3rd staff in 3yrs. If OSU has a pass D in the 70s last year they are most likely in the NCG.

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

+1 HS
youngbuck32's picture

hope that d can kick some ash in 2014

Can't is the real "C" word!

+3 HS
BoFuquel's picture

No matter how pissed he is, I don't believe he is half as pissed as I am. GO BUCKS!

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

+3 HS
gm3jones's picture

“I’m going to be more involved than I ever have been, just to make sure that we get up to standard at Ohio State on the defensive side of the ball with emphasis in pass defense.”

That made my day. I am so thriled UFM is also (still) losing sleep over the pass D. Now I am 100% confident that it will be a complete 180 from last year. I am thinking we are top 30 in pass D next year!

Is it spring yet???

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Urbz being more involved in defense got me thinking about two things:

  1. Maybe Herman's maturation as an OC and playcaller allows Meyer to be a little less hands-on with the offense. Meanwhile, this season might be Herman's last prep-season before being a HC; maybe even Herman stayed one more year with an understanding that he'll take even greater command of the offense. Throughout much of his career, Meyer has really been the de facto OC, but circumstance and team needs warrant that he shift his attention more to defense.
  2. In this mini-era of college football, one might argue that offenses have the upper hand right now. After the past two seasons, Meyer, the thinker and innovator has probably started to ruminate quite a bit on the existential problems facing defenses. It's a fascinating dilemma for a man who thrives on challenges. In a previous mini-era, Meyer was inspired to develop new offensive approaches after seeing David Givens only get 1 catch for 9 yards (it was Bob Davie's offense) in a OT loss to Nebraska. I suspect that Meyer and Fickell concluded that, to cope with new offenses, defenses somehow must simultaneously become less complicated/more reactive while incorporating the "pattern matching" concepts, which are complicated (hence, the dilemma). Ash has interesting ideas on how to do this and it sounds like the staff are on the same page. That, in itself, should help right the ship, but if Meyer is also putting his innovative mind into that mix, then hopefully some cool things are going to happen the next few years.
+6 HS
mtrotb's picture

Still will be best if we have a good year that someone will want to hire Luke as a head coach going forward after this year.


-5 HS
ToledoMan's picture

Ash did more with less at Wisky than you could imagine.  It's next to impossible to do what he did with 2 and 3 star players.  I'm salivating to see what the man can do with 4s and 5s.

+2 HS
Nashville Buckeye's picture

Love the write-up.  Only thing I didn't like a 1 sentence buried in the article.  "According to Meyer, Fickell will still have veto power and final say on game days." 

I'm willing to give Fick 1 more year, but we need to see improvement from the defensive play-calling.



-4 HS
bethesdabuck's picture

Veto power is different than play calling. On offense Herman calls the plays but Meyer has veto power. Could work similarly on the defensive side. 

allinosu's picture

It wasn't the play calling. It was breakdown in responsibility and poor technique. 

+3 HS
d5k's picture

Exactly, it wasn't the fact that we were in cover 2 against MSU on 3rd down.  It was the fact that Pitt Brown blew the coverage and ran 8 yards underneath a simple corner route.

If there are "play-calling" issues it is on a macro level not a in-game micro level.  Basically the game planning aspect can improve obviously but it isn't that we are calling the wrong specific plays in situations.

+5 HS
Crimson's picture

Exactly, it wasn't the fact that we were in cover 2 against MSU on 3rd down.

Good point.  Btw, if you think this was the problem, Ash runs cover 2 on 3rd and long as well, so there won't be any improvement in that regard.

+1 HS
dlb72osu's picture


Crimson? Crimson??!!!

Definitely wrong color for this site!

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

- Invictus

Crimson's picture

Very clever.  I wonder why no one else has commented that in the last two years. :-/

Qujo's picture

For sure! the people with Fickell butt hurt need to go find their moronic pleasures elsewhere. 

Our arch rivals.... 11 National Championships, 10 before 1949 - eight of eleven shared. Trying to respect them... trying.... Ugh!

JohnnyKozmo's picture

Hate to be "that guy," but looking at the schedule, we won't face a strong passing attack until when?  I don't follow Cinci much, are they still slinging it around like when Brian Kelly was there?  If not the Bearcats, then probably not until the trip to Happy Valley with Hackenburg.

Spring Game-has Braxton improved significantly?


Va Tech

Kent State





Pain don't hurt-Dalton

chitown buckeye's picture

That's the thing, we didn't face strong passing attacks last year either and look what the teams did to us. We made every QB look like a Heisman contender.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

+5 HS
Furious George 27's picture

The biggest problem was that the D let average passing teams/QBs have career days against them.

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

+2 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

That's my point, I guess I just didn't make it.  We won't really know what Ash has improved until the secondary is tested against a good passing offense, but when will that be?  I understand stopping mediocre passing teams will be an improvement over last year, but is that what we have come to expect from the D?  Getting excited about holding Navy to under 100yds passing, when they might throw it twice?  I wish there was a Clemson, or some other potent offense on the front end of the schedule for a measuring stick.  Va Tech will have a new QB, and is a running team anyways.  I'm hoping Cinci brings it, I just don't know much about them.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

HotSauceCommittee's picture

I think we will start to tell if we are getting opposing offenses off the field on third down. 

Chise47's picture

Maryland will be slinging it around a bit.

Unky Buck's picture

Definitely optimistic about his hiring. I want to see what he can do for our secondary that is need of a major confidence boost.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

BuckeyeNation_330's picture

I'm so excited for the Tampa Two defense, All I can think about is the 2002 Super Bowl Tampa Bay Buccaneers team and how their defense was so dominate, with safteys and corners on overhaul and the linebacker and defensive line talent I expect heavy rotations with many talented players getting playing time this year. Can't wait for spring ball!!!!!!!

"Bleed Scarlet, Die Gray"

Nick's picture

I'm curious to see who wins the starting spots in the secondary and LBs this coming year. I'm assuming no one has a spot saved so the competition should improve all the players.

Hovenaut's picture

"He’ll be in charge of the entire back end of our defense. It’s his responsibility to improve our pass defense.”


That's all I need to read.

+1 HS
buckguyfan1's picture

Good hire.  Hope he has cleaned the stinch of Bert off himself.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

See ball - Ash Smash person carrying or trying to catch ball!

THAT is what I'm talking about!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

osuxrow07's picture

I'm definitely starting to warm up to Ash, more than I was at first for sure. But is anyone else concerned with the amount of overlap there seems to be? Ash coaching the back half, calling plays but Fick gets veto power? Ash coaches the safeties and corners, but Coombs also coaches the corners? I mean, I get obviously that some things need to change, and I'm especially glad Coombs isn't the sole guy with DBs, but anytime you have a situation where multiple guys have the same role, it is inevitable that toes are going to get stepped on.

I guess I'm just hoping the overlap actually turns out to be the positive teamworking experience the coaches are playing it up to be.

Set the Earth Reverberating

stevebelliseeya's picture

I think this part of the situation is simply to keep Fickell and Coombs from being embarrassed nationally from what is an apparent 'demotion'. 

Make no mistake....Ash will be running the back end the way he wants.

Fickell and Coombs are in somewhat of a figurehead position now.......The have the Titles but not nearly as much power. 

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

-2 HS
NCBuckeye2011's picture

"You can react to your key and there’s only one speed – it’s full speed. That’s the way we have to play.” 

Yes yes yes, can't wait to see Vonn Bell in the secondary once the season rolls around. He already has a nose for the football, I'm sure with some proper coaching he could be a Grade-A ball hawk. Who's the last truly nasty, ball-hawking safety the bucks have had?  It has been awhile. Donte wHitner?

DCNick's picture

I don't buy the talk about how difficult it must have been for Ash to uproot his family for the OSU job. He and his wife are from Iowa and had lived in Madison for a while. They must have hated Arkansas! It's one thing for a coach who works crazy hours and is busy with the football. it's another for the wife and kids who experience a major culture clash. I imagine they like Columbus a lot more.

+1 HS
bull1214's picture

I don't do links but apparently Arkansas/bert's new DC is gonna bring a PHYSICAL presence to the defense that was lacking before.

don't get me wrong, I like the ash hire but I believe EVERY defensive coaching hire is quoted as being physical etc. have u ever really heard anyone state anything different?

ChazBuckeye's picture

I'm hoping all the rah rah rah turns into production on that side of the ball.  Turnovers that lead to points, less missed tackles and above all...lock down coverage (kind of like Cam Burrows who played a whole whopping two effective series against IU).  Doran Grant vs NW comes to mind...the rest...well, not so good.  May be FAMU and Purdue were ok;-) Vonn Bell's pick vs Clemson was great but him getting beat by Watkins because he thought he had help deep wasn't.  Again, perfect examples of the lack of communication in the secondary.  I suppose that blame will be on Withers....for now.

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.

2002osubuck's picture

I really look forward to seeing a D that is on the same page from the front to back. I thought the last 2 years, the D looked like the sum of three different philosophies. With Withers, Vrabel and Fickell we had different schemes being used that didn't work together. We just had too many coaches that wanted to implement their style in each position group. It sounds like everyone we brought in has the same scheme "aggressive" and it sounds great.

buckskin's picture

My favorite part of this article was when Ash said the D was going to play fast and intense after reading their keys.  This seemed to be missing last year.  Keys were not read or not read properly, and the D was out of position and confused a majority of the time when we faced at minimum a decent offense.

+1 HS