It’s fitting Ohio State’s game against Rutgers on Saturday is homecoming.
There will be a celebration for one of the largest alumni bases around and, additionally, the Buckeyes will welcome back a large portion of their coaching staff when the Scarlet Knights head to Ohio Stadium.
The Chris Ash connection is certainly the headliner. Ash spent the last two seasons as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach and completely overhauled a pass defense that was dreadful during the 2013 season.
But there are a few more ties here, too.
Rutgers offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Drew Mehringer spent time as a grad assistant with the Buckeyes. Tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Vince Okruch worked under Urban Meyer in quality control. Kenny Parker, an assistant to Mickey Marotti for three years at Ohio State, is the Scarlet Knights’ strength coach.
“I think he’s going to get them ready to go play against us. I think they have a good philosophy that’s a lot similar to ours. With that, it kind of makes us comfortable being that we’ve seen it before but I know as well he’s going to throw some new wrinkles with it.”– Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
There are other names, as well, who will all return to a place they once called home.
“They’ve got all kinds of people,” Meyer said of the Scarlet Knights’ staff Monday. “We had that conversation this morning in great detail and we changed most of our defensive signals prior to this and offensively we’re being very cautious.”
“We’ve just got to be sharp.”
Some of the Buckeyes’ players were asked about facing not only Ash but some of the other former staff members, too.
“I think he’s going to get them ready to go play against us,” Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said of Ash. “I think they have a good philosophy that’s a lot similar to ours. With that, it kind of makes us comfortable being that we’ve seen it before but I know as well he’s going to throw some new wrinkles with it.”
The way Ash impacted Ohio State's defense — especially the pass defense — was almost instantaneous. The Buckeyes went from one of the nation's worst to one of its best in just two seasons.
In addition to his aggressive, press quarters scheme, Ash also installed Ohio State’s rugby-style tackling, a tactic he learned from Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
Buckeyes linebacker Chris Worley said Monday it helped make him a much better player.
“It’s the greatest way of tackling in the game of football today,” he said. So, yeah, it helped me but it helped not just me but everyone that’s come through this team that plays defense.”
Meyer has said numerous times in the past he enjoys when guys who used to work for him go on to land head coaching gigs. Ash was no different.
“I want our guys to give us two good years and then we’ll help you,” he said. “Bear Bryant had a great quote and I can’t remember it verbatim but it’s actually in our coaches manual and that’s, ‘If we do well, you’ll receive your reward. If we do poorly, you will not.’”
Ash certainly did well enough during his time at Ohio State. Now, his first opportunity to come back to the place that helped land him his current job is here.
“We’ve just gotta make sure we’re prepared and ready to go,” Barrett said.