Chris Ash, His No-Nonsense Approach, and Ohio State's Culture Shift on Defense

By Patrick Maks on July 22, 2014 at 8:15a

It was the final hour of the last Ohio State summer camp for scores of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed high schoolers looking to glean anything and everything from a coaching staff that’s revered across the nation.

Inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the camp’s most talented skill players gathered for drills in front of the likes of head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman and co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash.

By this time, the campers grew restless in the humid June air and on the sideline in between reps. They hovered along the boundary in a disorganized mess, much to the chagrin of Ash, who found himself repeatedly asking them to form a single-file line while waiting for their turn in the rotation.

Enough was enough. He barked at them again. 

He told them he didn't care if they liked it or not.

He dared them to get mad, to whine, to moan.

"We’re doing it my way,” he said. 

In the moment, Ash’s way meant a much-needed dose of discipline for a bunch of teenagers. 

For Ohio State, Ash’s way means far more.

The most obvious, of course, is a schematic deviation from what doomed the Buckeyes and their horrendous pass defense last season. Ash is a disciple of the Cover 4 (quarters coverage) defense and likes to press and be aggressive when applicable.

He’s charged with helping mend a unit that got embarrassed in back-to-back losses against Michigan State and Clemson.

“I’m not concerned about what’s happened here in the past. I really don’t care,” he said in February.

“I’m more concerned about the direction we’re going to go and how we get the players aligned with what our vision is going to be. I really don’t care what’s happened in the past.”

But the past is why Ash, who replaced former Buckeye assistant and current James Madison head coach Everett Withers, is here in the first place.

Because Ash’s way means more than a defense that's undergoing an overhaul. It parallels a shift in culture Meyer so desperately wants to see out of a defense that finished 112th in defending the pass a year ago.

“I don't want a team that's scared to make mistakes. I don't want a team that's thinking. I want a team that goes four to six seconds,” Meyer said in reference to his concept of giving “4-to-6 seconds of relentless effort” on any given play.

That’s something that goes a lot deeper than Xs and Os.

"It doesn’t matter what we do schematically, we’re gonna have a philosophy, we’re gonna have a system – an identity about what we’re doing," Ash said in March.

Ash looks and plays the part of the no-nonsense college football coach. He’s intense, tough, loud and uncompromising – all the qualities that Meyer seems to find endearing.  

More importantly for Ohio State, Chris Ash gets what Chris Ash wants. 

Whether it’s ordering a group of high schoolers to make a simple single-file line at summer camp or convincing his own squad to buy into a new defensive philosophy, he commands respect.

“Just because I showed up,” Ash said, “it doesn’t mean the Ohio State defense is going to be miraculously better overnight.”

But he’s helped the Buckeyes take the first step toward climbing out of a hole of mediocrity.


Comments Show All Comments

AngryWoody's picture

I'm just glad the safeties and corners are actually meeting in the same room now.

Our Honor Defend!

+6 HS
ibuck's picture

CB's & S's all meeting in same room helps, but OSU's D needs better communication throughout. If responsibility for run D  and pass coverage flips back and forth between safeties and LB's depending on reading what the inside receiver does when the play starts, there's still margin for error. Hopefully communications are MUCH improved this season.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

BUCKSOMIES's picture

I think the addition of Ash and LJ, along with some great recruiting, will go a long way to a return of the silver bullets.  Look out Big.

+1 HS
jhipbuck's picture

Ash + Johnson + Ash calling plays = Silver Bullets

+4 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

There's nothing more maddening to a coach then to have your high school kids forget everything you told them in the huddle during a timeout after saying "On three - DEFENSE!"

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

THEOSUfan's picture

I like Chris Ash so far.

I will love him if Ohio State defends the forward pass this fall - screens in particular.

+1 HS
Damonbuckeye's picture

In game adjustments were null and void last year and that has to change. .. The coaching staff as a whole were horrendous when it came to stopping the offensive onslaught of some teams last year.. If coach Ash can help with that problem alone this can/will be a good to great defense. ..

+1 HS
BuckInNashville's picture

Angry, you are absolutely right. How much rocket science did it take to figure out that they might benefit from meeting in the same room?  That's asinine.

Mean Mr Mustard's picture

Although young, this year we have real Cover-4 safeties.  That will make a huge difference.

BeijingBucks's picture

Perhaps it will be better schematically but I am very curious who will step up and be our on-field general for the defense, the one who studies up on the opponents tendencies, not just on tape, but during the course of the game and COMMINICATES THIS INFORMATION TO HIS FELLOW BULLETS PRESNAP!  Ash can't do it all alone. 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Crimson's picture

Everyone and the safeties.  In cover 4, a lot of the formation reading is done and called by the safeties traditionally.  Also, there's some video of Ash requiring all of his players to scream the call on the field as it occurs, so that anyone who doesn't see the pattern knows what type of pattern is being run.