Groundwork Laid for Championship Defense

By Kyle Rowland on March 23, 2014 at 6:00a

In his first comments since spring practice began, Chris Ash made it clear that talent alone will not win out on defense. Urban Meyer said Ohio State played like an entitled team at times in 2013. Coaching 776 miles away in Fayetteville, Ark., Ash saw traces of the same lack of spirit.

Consecutive losses to end the season did nothing to lessen the concern. Meyer quickly enlisted Ash as one of his deputies to re-establish a toughness and edge to the Buckeyes. Going forward, complacency will disappear and energy will become a weekly trait. Ohio State will win – or lose – with constant effort.

“It doesn’t matter what we do schematically,” Ash declared, “we’re going to have a philosophy, we’re going to have a system, an identity about what we’re doing. But really, it’s all about how hard we play and how consistent we are doing it. 

“It all starts with the effort. Once we get the effort where we want it to be, then we’ll worry about the details of what we’re doing. Our alignments, our footwork, our hands, our eyes, all those things, those things will come in time. But right now, that’s not the main focus.”

There are several areas Ash is scanning. One of considerable importance is talent evaluation. When you walk into the Ohio State locker room, it isn’t hard to spot current or potential stars. Asked who’s been impressive, Ash mentioned the usual suspects – Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, Doran Grant, Tyvis Powell – along with several newcomers – Raekawn McMillan, Darron Lee and Chris Worley.

“It all starts with the effort. Once we get the effort where we want it to be, then we’ll worry about the details of what we’re doing.”– Chris Ash

On the job for two months now, Ash’s role as secondary savior is coming into focus. The unit was ranked 112th in the country last season and played a key role in both losses. Ash, who’s official title if co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, has a history of molding suspect secondaries into top-end units. If he can duplicate that success at Ohio State, the Buckeyes could receive a needed boost.

“The first thing I want to make sure they’re doing is coming out here and living the culture of Ohio State football that Coach Meyer has. And it’s going four to six seconds, from point A to point B and playing with extreme effort,” Ash said. “As long as we can do that, we’ll fix anything else that we have wrong. We’ve got some talented players here that if they can consistently be in the right spots and execute and give maximum effort, we're going to do pretty well.”

There’s a bit of a youth movement throughout the defense – a handful of underclassmen, juniors and seniors all meshed together. Where Ash breathes easy is the talent level. Inexperience can be trumped by superior skill and athleticism. That’s the hope as spring turns to summer and summer turns to fall.

Replacing the experience, leadership and talent of Bradley Roby, Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett will not be easy.

“By the time we get through 15 spring practices, the summer and fall training camp, hey, there’s no room for inexperience,” Ash said. “It's go-time, and we’ll be ready to go.”

If you watch just a small sampling of game film from the 2013 season, it quickly becomes evident that Ohio State had too many mental lapses and subpar effort to become a truly elite team. For the upcoming season to showcase the improved nature of the defense, Ash said it will take good coaching.

“We’ve got to be great teachers of teaching the concepts and getting them to understand how we want them to play,” he said. “Then we’ll expand and do a little bit more. But we’re not going to be a defense that I would call a guru defense or a junk defense. We’re going to be executors about what we do.

“And it’s going to be about the effort and the fundamentals and consistency.”

Three pillars of a championship defense. Will they stand tall at Ohio State? 


Comments Show All Comments

buckeyedude's picture

Prolly the best news I heard in over a year. Coach Ash sounds to me like exactly what the OSU D has needed.



+15 HS
buckeye4life050233's picture

couldn't agree more.  one of the things I like about him is how he designs really good 3rd and long/3rd and medium defensive sets that get the defense off the field.  That was a serious flaw with the past couple years.  We'd get hells bells playing in the stadium only to give up a 2nd and 18 or 3rd and 15, or we would stupidly commit a pass interference by being out of position and slow to react

+5 HS
NitroBuck's picture

You're absolutely right.  How many times did we get other teams to 3rd and 9, yet it seemed like those offenses had us just where they wanted us?  This was a critical hire for Urban Meyer.  Gotta say, I like the message Ash is preaching.  I expect major improvement.

Ferio.  Tego.

+2 HS
Hovenaut's picture

The highlighted comment prioritizing effort first before focus on the details is spot on.

Cannot wait to see this defense back for the attack...and as a unit.

+1 HS
Balkestud's picture

Listening to his comments, it seems to me that Cash realizes he is in the perfect situation. There is no scenario where this D will be worse than last year's, thus making him very relaxed about the task at hand. Most pundits and fans alike will give him the lion's share of praise since he is the high profile addition. In the words of Mel Brooks, "its good to be the king".

It gets kind of rough in the back of my limousine,



Brutal Brutus's picture

I hope Ash kicks some Ass (including the other defensive coordinator)....

Fear the Nut...

-4 HS
tussey's picture

I loved that Ash said it will take good coaching

nburns18's picture

Cant wait to see what Ash has done with the defense

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

I feel that we will be in the best hands defensively since Urban arrived back in town. This is only the beginning.

Bamabucknut's picture

How many times did we see the Buckeye offense jump out to a sizable lead and then seem to coast until the other team began to shred our defense and our offense had to put the pedal to the metal again.


My point.....we need continued effort on defense....AND OFFENSE.

+2 HS
rufio's picture

That is a very good point. It doesn't matter if we let up an un-Buckeye-like 35 points per game if we score 50 points per game.

Actorjonnyb's picture

I hope so. But I don't know...He is preaching increased effort and 4-6 seconds, the same exact stuff I have been hearing for the past 2 years. Is he saying the last 2 years we didn't have enough effort? Maybe... But I saw our defense throw up their arms repeatedly as if asking,"Where's my help".

You can tell a player, or yell at a player repeatedly to get fired up and play with effort. If the player isn't very good, or more importantly, if the teaching and scheme he is getting from coaches isn't very good, then 4-6 seconds will not matter.

Let's hope for change.


theopulas's picture

Ash is in the best position any coach could be...this is the best talent he has ever coached with the highest profile...with good coaching this is a championship team....LETS GET IT DONE.


+1 HS
bigDbuck's picture

Damn, was hoping to hear from Luke. He is so clear, concise, and descriptive with all his thoughts!!  Thanks anyway. 

-2 HS
DefendYoungstown's picture

What were you hoping to hear, something like "Did you see the final score?" or "Remind me again, who won". That's about all Fick could say after games...

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

+1 HS
rufio's picture

It will be interesting to see if we move to more of a Cover-4 based team like Ross has predicted, or if we move to more of a cover-2 type system or split safety system. I know Ash has been very aggressive in the past, both turning his safeties loose against the run and rolling up his corners at times to press.

Either way, if we have a consistent system through and through we'll be fine. We are accumulating talent in the back 7, and our down linemen are maturing. The talent is there.

+1 HS
buckskin's picture

Love to hear Ash preach fundamentals.  He is much more visible than Withers.  I think the D staff will be the best that Urban has had here since he's been coach.  Johnson and Ash are both teachers and have more experience with relating to other coaches better.

Ericgobucks's picture

Love the article and I really like what Coach Ash is saying. I will be very pleased to see consistent effort and better angles. Oh and one tiny request...have the guys wrap up. 

TUNBUCK89's picture

4 to 6 Sec of effort is great as long as the players know what they're doing.