Ash Returns to Perrysburg as a Small-Town Kid Whose Outsized Dreams Came True

By Kyle Rowland on July 16, 2014 at 8:30a

PERRYSBURG, Ohio – Chris Ash has been to Northwest Ohio before, albeit under far different circumstances. 

Two decades ago, Ash was driving through the Perrysburg area on I-80 en route for Princeton and a new life when his old, beat up car broke down in a rainstorm. In the pre-cell phone days, he was forced to make a collect call to his dad back home in Iowa to save the day. On Tuesday, Ash returned to Northwest Ohio on a sun-splashed afternoon in a luxury vehicle as an Ohio State assistant – a total 180, not I-80. 

But you won’t hear Ash complain or talk negatively about his car fiasco. It was all part of a young coach finding his way and charting a course that would take him from Drake to Ohio State, with some pit stops in-between.

“Don’t make excuses,” Ash told participants of the Northwest Ohio All-Star Game. “So many guys have the potential to be great, but they make excuses. Everybody has an opportunity to do something great. Success is a choice.”

In Columbus, it’s a must.

After the pass defense wilted last season, Ash was brought in to plug holes where leaks sprung. He elevated his stature among coaching colleagues at Iowa State, Wisconsin and Arkansas when his defenses improved steadily each year. Pass defense is the area where Ash proved his worth.

“Everybody has an opportunity to do something great. Success is a choice.”

At Ohio State, it adds up north of $500,000. Ash’s offensive counterpart, Tom Herman, spoke to how difficult it is to prepare for an Ash-led defense last year, telling Big Ten Network that Wisconsin’s 2012 unit was the toughest the Buckeyes faced. 

Chances are not many opposing offensive coordinators said the same about Ohio State the past two seasons. Ash – and Luke Fickell – has the responsibility of returning the silver shine back to the bullets.

“I saw a talented group of players that may not necessarily have played together for whatever reason,” Ash said when asked about the 2013 Ohio State defense. “What we needed to do was become aligned on the same page. We want to become an aggressive defense, have an identity of what we are doing and a philosophy everyone believes in. We’ve been able to do that.”

Ash emphasized “we,” as in he and Fickell. Ever since Ash was hired, the specifics of his job have been debated. Would he be solely in charge of the defense? What role would Fickell have? Who will call plays?

Many of the answers remain shrouded in mystery. So far, Ash and Fickell have played the p.r. game to near perfection. They’re happy with the state of the defense, the relationship is warm and collaborating has led to new ideas.

“Coach Fickell and I are working hand in hand in building the defensive package,” Ash said. “It’s been a great relationship so far. I’m excited about what we’ve been able to do. I just want to help us be the best that we can be.”

The two-hour drive to Perrysburg was about Ash lending a helping hand to high schoolers who will embark on life’s next big journey. He delivered a rousing 15-minute speech that kept players, coaches and parents rapt with anticipation. Instead of a football coach, one would have believed he was a corporate CEO or politician.

He told the teenagers to find a passion for something, establish dreams and be willing to take risks. Combined, all three will lead to success in life. Ohio State has taught its players the importance of having a Plan B. The first goal upon entering school is the NFL, but it’s not realistic for everyone. Plan B is school and a network of jobs.

“Find a passion for something, whether its music, football, basketball, swimming cooking – it doesn’t matter. If you find something you love to do, you won’t work a day in your life,” Ash said. “When I was done with college I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to leave the game (of football). I worked my tail off to try and learn as much as I could to become a coach. It’s a passion for me. 

“You’ve got to have dreams. If you don’t dream about being successful and making great things happen, they aren’t going to happen. You will never set a goal to achieve something if you don’t have dreams. I used to lie awake at night dreaming of being a college coach. Those goals will help turn into action to achieve something.”

Perhaps the most peculiar tidbit Ash passed on was to never burn bridges or allow your enemies to know there’s displeasure. Instead, you should be pleasant to them. 

“Someday you’ll need a favor from someone you don’t like,” Ash said. “There have been coaches on staffs that I did not like.”

Bret Bielema? Maybe. Ohio State fans will almost certainly come to that conclusion, especially after Ash left suddenly, just one year after he followed Bielema from Wisconsin to the rugged SEC West. Speculating provides no answers, though.  

“It’s about the people you’re with,” Ash said. “Coach Meyer’s been a very successful head coach at every stop. He’s assembled a great staff [at Ohio State] with great people, great coaches. They’re going to do great things, and I wanted to be a part of that. It doesn’t matter what league [I coach in].”

It’s probably a good thing, because life in the SEC is only going to get tougher for Arkansas. In moving back to the Midwest, Ash hitched his wheels to the region’s sturdiest wagon. Meyer’s won big at every program he’s guided, including the 24-2 Buckeyes, and developed a culture that’s contagious with roots that grow deep in fellow coaches. 

The indoctrination of Ash didn’t take too long. Born and raised in Iowa and assisting at Wisconsin contributed to Ash’s jumping in the deep end. Sure, there’s still a feeling out period, but Ash has grown comfortable with Ohio State in a short period of time.

Whether that translates into a top-flight defense remains. But the prologue bodes well.

“The progress that we’ve made since February, I’m very happy with where we’re at,” Ash said. “We have a long way to go, we’re nowhere where we need to be. But I like the potential, and I’m happy with where we’re at.”

“I think most of the defensive backs are going to take a huge leap.”

Attention during spring practice quickly turned to the young talent at cornerback. An All-American and first-round draft pick was lost, but fear not, names like Armani Reeves, Gareon Conley and Eli Apple are set to be the future. And it’s a future fans can stand and applaud.    

“I think most of the defensive backs are going to take a huge leap,” Ash said. “I know there’s a lot of concern about the DBs and talented players that left the defense. But I’ll tell you this: there are some really talented players that are going to replace those guys. These guys are poised and ready to explode onto the scene. I’m very excited about the talent, character and the intelligence we have.

“I think Buckeye fans will be pleased.”


Comments Show All Comments

Mortc15's picture

Mannn, I hope he's right. The offense and all those points are great, but I've always been partial to an outstanding, dominating defense. 

The season is drawing closer and I *cant wait!* 


+15 HS
apack614's picture

If you believe in them then us the fans believe in you. Looking forward to seeing the defense this year. Go Bucks!

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

+9 HS
bucknut94's picture

Ash is confident the Secondary will be great this year. I'm excited to see it happen.

+8 HS
Furious George 27's picture

He most certainly will have the most talented D than he has ever had to work with.

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

+7 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

If Ash says he has talent and is excited about the defensive backs, then he is putting it all on the line.  Not bad for his first year.  That's a lot of trust in our young men.

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

+5 HS
KB3RG's picture

I am upset that I was not aware Ash was making this stop. I drove by the field where he spoke and saw a gathering which is typical for football camps and thought nothing of it...

+2 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I'm with you, KB3RG. I saw the kids practicing without all of the gear and thought it was the Perrysburg High football team.



niblick's picture

lets be honest, there is absolutely NO WAY it can be worse.  I don't give a shit if they take the field with 9 guys on defense, it couldn't get worse.

+12 HS
Big Papa's picture

Hopefully he has the same impact that Fred Pagac had when he took over the defense in 1996. We went from a pathetic passive defense that gave up a zillion yards to Michigan and Tennessee in 1995 (sound familiar?) to an aggressive blitzing juggernaut in 1996. One of the best OSU defenses of all time. That is when the Silver Bullets were born. 

"To be the man you've gotta beat the man and just when you think you have all the answers, I change the question." The Nature Boy, Ric Flair

+15 HS
Jason Priestas's picture

I loved those defenses. So fun to watch them tee off.

Hovenaut's picture

Right on. I know most (myself included) often focus on the negatives of the Cooper era, but those mid to late 90's units under Pagac were stout.

+5 HS
OnlyOne's picture

What is the origin of Silver Bullets?  I don't like it.  Seems kinda whimpy like the light beer that goes by the same nickname.  Plus, silver is not even our color.  When l think of defense I prefer something more akin to a battleship gray destroyer!

-7 HS
chicagobuckeye's picture

Essentially the only bullet to kill anything. Don't know where it started in osu lore though. 

+1 HS
BierStube's picture

Silver Bullets kill these things ...

and most importantly ..

should they ever join the B1G!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+7 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

Wolverine yes-Honey Badger no.  

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+1 HS
BierStube's picture

This would be a Honey Badger ... or this

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+3 HS
TMac511's picture

Silver football helmets flying around the field (i.e. Silver Bullets)

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

I like the name of the Scarlet Swarm, or even the Buckeye Bullets... But you cannot change the nickname, it's been around a while now.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

Buckeye On Elba's picture

Or maybe "Deep South Bullets"? Come on, guys. It's so fetch!

+7 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

from my understanding it came from Pagac himself back in 1996, He gave them that nickname

Big Papa's picture

It was Pagac that coined the phrase that year. He was a great coach and nearly got the job over Tress when Coop got let go. His son was from Dublin and was a highly rated recruit though his Buckeye career never panned out due to injury. 

"To be the man you've gotta beat the man and just when you think you have all the answers, I change the question." The Nature Boy, Ric Flair

+2 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Didn't Vrabel, Fickell and Finkes play under Pagac? The years and players blend together in my head with time.



BroJim's picture

Maybe we will lean on the D this year instead of Hyde. I think this can be a really special team.

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
Buckeye06's picture

I wonder if you can have "Co" coordinators who actually are Co in every form of the word.  Gameplan together, then maybe each makes calls series by series, or a rotation of some sort (ie if one guy is calling a great game, he keeps calling etc).

I just don't know if something like that is possible in a major sport where someone has to be blamed for bad outcomes

+1 HS
Patriot4098's picture

A good "Co" will have defined responsibilities.

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

+2 HS
TMac511's picture

Meyer’s won big at every program he’s guided, including the 24-2 Buckeyes

It still hurts like crazy to see those two losses... 

+2 HS
Damonbuckeye's picture

I love the positivity and optimism but I'll believe it when I see it. The Bucks d was all-time bad last year and they need all the help they could get. I hope coach Ash can get it done..

+1 HS
Buck Wild's picture

If Ash is right & Brax stays healthy, this is a NC yr...

"I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987

+2 HS
Tampabuckeye85's picture

This is just my take on things, but combining the training rooms is going to make a huge difference. If you can't communicate in the classroom, how are you going to be able to do it on the field? I like the direction our defense is going and it seems like everyone involved is excited which has to mean good things are happening.

+1 HS
CTBuckeye's picture

Ash definitely seems like a rising star in the college football world.  Coming to Ohio State with all of its exposure if the defense manages to improve a great deal he'll be in the front of the line when top defensive coordinator positions open up.  That's my concern with him and Fickell "sharing" this role - Ash might be tempted to leave if he can run things his own way instead of having to consult with Fickell on things.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

+1 HS
Crimson's picture

Once you're co-DC at tOSU, the only upward movement is to head coach, so I don't see Ash leaving for another reason.

+1 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

So amped for some football!!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+1 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

here is my take of this Fickell v Ash v Withers change we are seeing

first over the last couple years we are not 100% sure what Fickell vs Ash's roles were. Although Urban had said that Fickell was the play caller it is very possible the Withers was responsible for designing and running the entire pass D package and maybe even responsible for primary play calling on obvious passing situations ie 3rd and long etc

Now, we have last year's terrible pass D which was the 2nd year in a row it got worse, the season ends and Wither's leaves to take a HC job for HALF HIS PAY AT OSU!!!

Now also Fickell is not fired, not reduced in title and from all outward appearances is still Co-DC just as before,

so,,, my take is that Withers was "advised" by Urban to take that job as he was likely to be let go as he felt Wither's and his Pass D were the problem with the Defense, not Fickell.

now Ash is brought in to essentially fix the pass D, with a completely different scheme. he obviously has to work with the C0-DC/LB coach to design this pass d and coach people up as LB's cover people too.

play calling may be similar to before ie Fickell is primary but Ash on obvious passing situations

only time will tell if urban made the right read,,,i sure hope so though.

+8 HS
harync's picture


I have made these points before (and been downvoted for it as well :(   ), but I think you are dead-on about Withers. Sometimes it seemed like our front 7 and the back 4 were in two entirely different schemes. I'm not sure how much of that was Fickell, but I think a good bit was Withers. I think Meyer "encouraged" Withers to leave, which is why he is at an FCS school despite being an (interim) FBS head coach at UNC.  

+4 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

The problem was always Withers... when the DBs weren't out of position, they'd get lost in coverage or miss a tackle or mis-play the ball just to watch it sail over their heads. I just don't think he was as dedicated to the team as a coach needs to be....just an assumption but when you ask a coach with head coach aspirations for a two year commitment he'll spend those two years with an eye to the future.

Slingin' swag since 1970


+1 HS
biggy84's picture

Leaving Burt's staff already shows me he is intelligent.

+8 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Man crush awaiting you here, Chris.

+1 HS
BuckeyeWags's picture

Let"s hope the "we" Ash talks about is very limited. I am queasy about Fickell having any imput at all. I would have canned him after Indiana ran up 50 on us and almost beat us in 2012.

-3 HS
MikeTheBuckeye's picture

Bold prediction: The Silver Bullets return and rank among the top 10 defenses in the country.

+3 HS
Crimson's picture

Considering where they were last season (on pass D anyway), I think top 10 will be too much to hope for.  However, I still will.

I think we've known since this hiring that the D would improve; we've all just been wondering by how much.

buckeyedude's picture

I think top 10 will be too much to hope for

Don't underestimate the talent on the field and the coaching that Ohio State has. I'm trying not to get my expectations too high, but I like what I'm hearing. There is no question in my mind the OSU D is going to be MUCH improved, just how much is the question? My gut tells me A LOT.  



Crimson's picture

It's not so much the talent or the coaching.  It's their first year in Ash's system, and even if you're the best in the world, that isn't an ideal situation to bring the pass defense from 100+ to top 10.  Our run defense is pretty stout, but I don't know if they're dominant enough to have a pass defense of ~30 and still be top 10 overall.  A top 30 pass defense would be an incredible improvement and likely enough to get us into a NC game if everything else goes well.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

There is too much talent on this team and, with the struggles of the past two years, too much scrutiny for Meyer to put up with mediocrity or worse. If it's a 50/50 share between Fickell and Ash for control and the D struggles, Meyer will figure it out quickly this time.

+1 HS
jhipbuck's picture

Ash will call all plays from the booth.  Luke will give input from the sidelines.  It will be an all new defense run by Ash - 2014 will be the return of the Silver Bulllets. 

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I know it's still summer(polar vortex or not) and Ash hasn't coached a game for the Buckeyes yet, but if OSU's defense is much improved this season, and I have every reason to believe that it will be, I truly believe OSU could be playing for an NC. The down side is that Ash is going to get a lot of credit for it if that happens. And then he'll get an offer to HC somewhere else. Maybe not right away, but not too long thereafter.



GVerrilli92's picture

We've been talking about the potential of Burrows, Apple, and Conley forever. It's finally time to see the plan come to fruition. They may not be as individually capable as Bradley Roby immediately, but sometimes I'm not so sure our mediocre CB play everywhere else didn't make Roby look better than he was. Each of these guys were more highly touted coming out of high school than the previous CBs. The talent and depth, albeit young, is astounding right now in the back 7. Honestly, with the sheer amount of bodies in the back it's statistically improbable that NONE of them pan out to be All B1G, at least. I'm ready for the next Malcolm Jenkins, Kurt Coleman, and Jermale Hines to emerge with that breakout first year of starting.

I got a gray kitty, white kitty, tabby too, and a little orange guy who puts snakes in my shoes. Got mad MC skills, that leave ya struck, and I roll with my kitties and I'm hard as f*ck.