2016 Season Preview: Greg Schiano Brings Intensity, Consistency to Ohio State's Secondary

By Eric Seger on August 24, 2016 at 8:35 am
Examining the impact of Greg Schiano's hire in his first year with Ohio State.
Eleven Warriors' Ohio State Football 2016 Season Preview

When Greg Schiano took the field at Ohio State's spring game four months ago, he did something for the first time in more than two decades.

"Everybody had told me about it, but until you see it – I had not coached in that stadium, 1993 was the last time I coached in that stadium," Schiano said. "So it has been a while."

Schiano served first as a graduate assistant and then defensive backs coach at Penn State in the early 90s. He moved his way up the coaching ranks, first becoming the head coach at Rutgers before earning an opportunity in the NFL as the head man of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Schiano's experience on football sidelines is difficult to rival.

After more than two years out of coaching, there were only a handful people he could see himself working under back at the college level. It just so happened Urban Meyer needed a replacement for Chris Ash as Ohio State's safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator.

"Truthfully as an assistant, it would have really been with only very few people. And Coach Meyer being at the head of the list," Schiano said in December, shortly after the program announced his addition to its coaching staff. "So, it ended up working out that way, so I'm very excited about it."

An intense being both on and off the field, Schiano is tasked with replacing two multi-year starters at safety — Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell — and carrying on the uptick in production Ash established in his two-year stint in Columbus. Schiano knows that, and understands the expectations on which Meyer runs his program. He said it makes him feel comfortable even though it is unlikely he remains an assistant for very long.

"I think our relationship is such that I trust him that way. He trusts me," Schiano said Aug. 11. "But certainly, you have to think about that stuff before you decide to do something because work is work. We gotta win games and he's the boss. I think being a good assistant coach, your job is to take work off the plate of the head coach."

Schiano knows all about being a head coach. He built Rutgers into a respectable program, going 68-67 over 11 seasons, including an 11-win season in 2006 and five bowl victories. But an 11-21 stretch in two seasons with the Buccaneers cost Schiano his job and the franchise fired him in late December 2013.

“I feel like he’s had a great impact. A lot of the players on our team respect him.”– Damon Webb on Greg Schiano

After spending time away from coaching and learning as much as he possibly could, Schiano elected to take the plunge and work for Meyer even though he would not divulge this spring if it would be for more than just the 2016 season.

"That's between he and I, but we've talked about how important it is for (continuity)," Schiano said.

Regardless how long he stays in Columbus, Schiano admits it is a nice change of pace from being the man everyone on your staff looks to for answers.

"I really enjoy not having to be the guy up there and listen to what he says. Say, 'Hey man, that's a good idea right there.' He does such a good job of setting and then aligning the culture from top to bottom in our organization," Schiano said. "Doesn't matter who it is, whether its a trainer or a coach or a person who cleans the building."

Schiano signed a one-year deal with Ohio State in December, something he told reporters this spring not to look into too much as he is still under contract with Tampa Bay through 2016. But it clear he has higher aspirations, just like Ash before him. Meyer wants a mix of guys anxious to move up and move on and some assistants who maybe want to stick around a little longer on his staff.

"I think that's a good way of looking at it," Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days in July. "Same thing as, how do you put together special teams? Your kickoff team has to out there and if their all 5-star guys they'll look at you cross-eyed when you say, 'sprint down 40 yards' and do what they're asked to do. There's a fine balance."

Schiano is already making an impact in Columbus. As the Buckeyes prepare for their opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 3, Malik Hooker and Damon Webb lead to start at safety in a battle against Cam Burrows and Erick Smith. All are working to earn jobs while learning from a new voice.

"I feel like he’s had a great impact. A lot of the players on our team respect him," Webb said. "I know he has a lot of knowledge of the game so I know he’s going to improve and bring his philosophy to our defense to take us to the next level."

"They’re both straight-ahead guys," Smith said of Schiano and Ash. "I like both of them. I couldn’t really decipher either one of them because they’re so similar so it’s just making an adjustment. It’s not really that different at all really."

Still, Schiano's intensity is palpable. In the three brief sessions Ohio State allowed the media to watch training camp this month, the new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach's rarely quit yelling.

"He wants to be more up-tempo, more energy," Webb said.

Fickell, Schiano

Schiano is known for his attacking defenses and likes to pressure the quarterback. Ash worked well with Luke Fickell to establish that precedent at Ohio State in 2014 and 2015. The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in sacks with 45 in 2014 and finished second last year with 38.

There is a reason Meyer reached out to Schiano and wanted him at Ohio State. The two are great friends, Schiano is a brilliant defensive mind and Meyer knew he needed to hit a home run in an effort to replace Ash.

Results from Schiano's input to Ohio State's defense and how it meshes with Fickell remains to be seen, but the next time he hits the sideline at Ohio Stadium, the team's associate head coach will feel comfortable wearing the scarlet and gray.

"I think as an assistant coach that's your job is to do everything you can to meet the expectations of the head coach," he said. "And if you can do that, that's why the head coach is the visionary of the program and if you can fulfill his expectations, then the whole program's going to be moving forward and certainly Urban's proved that he knows how to run a program, that he's very successful at it, so I'm looking forward to serving him and learning some things as we go."

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