For most of the offseason, it looked like Ohio State would only have to replace one assistant coach from last season.
After a turbulent last month that led to an assistant coach and the head coach being suspended, however, Ohio State will now begin the season without three of its 10 full-time coaches from last year.
When Kerry Coombs left Ohio State to become the Tennessee Titans’ secondary coach in January, that in itself was a big change for the Buckeyes’ coaching staff. After all, Coombs was tremendously successful in his six seasons as Ohio State’s cornerbacks coach, producing five first-round NFL draft picks in his final five seasons while he was also among the Buckeyes’ top recruiters.
Now, though, Ohio State will also begin the season with an interim head coach and an interim wide receivers coach, after former wide receivers coach Zach Smith was fired on July 23 and most prominently, head coach Urban Meyer was suspended for three games on Wednesday.
That said, the Buckeyes might still have one of the strongest coaching staffs in the country for the 2018 season.
The biggest story surrounding the coaching staff, of course, is that Meyer will not be allowed to coach in Ohio State’s games against Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU (though he will be allowed to coach the team in practices leading up to the Rutgers and TCU games). Second-year quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, who was already set to take on an increased role this season after being promoted to offensive coordinator, will now serve as the Buckeyes’ interim head coach for the first three games.
Day has never been a head coach before, so he’ll have huge shoes to fill in those games, all the while needing to balance his already-important responsibilities of coaching the Buckeyes’ talented but inexperienced quarterbacks (new starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins has never started a game for Ohio State, and none of the Buckeyes’ other quarterbacks have ever played in a game for Ohio State) and sharing offensive playcalling duties with fellow offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
Playing without Meyer will be a big adjustment for the Buckeyes, but there’s reason to be optimistic about Day’s ability to keep the Buckeyes on track, despite his lack of head coaching experience, as he is a highly regarded rising star in the coaching industry. And he should have plenty of help from the rest of Ohio State’s coaching staff.
Wilson was the head coach at Indiana from 2011-16, while defensive coordinator Greg Schiano – who also holds the title of associate head coach – was the head coach at Rutgers from 2001-11 and of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and 2013. That experience, which was already a huge asset to the Buckeyes even before the developments of the past month, will certainly be crucial to the Buckeyes now, as they can draw from their experience as head coaches to help Day as he gets his first experience in that role.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson and running backs coach Tony Alford, who are both also assistant head coaches for the Buckeyes, are fellow experienced veterans who are regarded as being among the nation’s best coaches at their respective positions.
Those coaches lead a group that should keep Ohio State performing at a high level without Meyer, and give Meyer a top-notch group of coaches to lean on once he does return.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, whose unit was among the Buckeyes’ biggest strengths down the stretch of last season, is another coach who brings considerable experience to the staff, having coached at the Football Bowl Subdivsion level for more than 20 years, including offensive coordinator stints at Bowling Green and LSU.
Among returning assistant coaches, the one who enters the season surrounded by the most questions is second-year linebackers coach Bill Davis, whose unit underperformed – particularly in pass coverage, and particularly in Ohio State’s two losses last season to Oklahoma and Iowa – in his first season in that role. Davis, though, also has considerable experience, having previously spent 24 years coaching in the NFL, and will look to turn things with a new group of starters in 2018.
|URBAN MEYER*||HEAD COACH|
|RYAN DAY||INTERIM HEAD COACH/OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/QUARTERBACKS COACH|
|GREG SCHIANO||ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR|
|KEVIN WILSON||OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/TIGHT ENDS COACH|
|ALEX GRINCH||CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR/SAFETIES COACH|
|LARRY JOHNSON||ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE LINE COACH|
|TONY ALFORD||ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/RUNNING BACKS COACH|
|GREG STUDRAWA||OFFENSIVE LINE COACH|
|BILL DAVIS||LINEBACKERS COACH|
|TAVER JOHNSON||CORNERBACKS COACH/SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR|
|BRIAN HARTLINE||INTERIM WIDE RECEIVERS COACH|
|*SUSPENDED FOR FIRST THREE GAMES|
Ohio State also has three new assistant coaches who could all prove to be big assets for the Buckeyes this season.
Taver Johnson isn’t actually new to coaching at Ohio State – he was previously the Buckeyes’ cornerbacks coach from 2007-11 – but he is in his first year back in Columbus as Coombs’ replacement. Coombs left Johnson with big shoes to fill, but Johnson is yet another experienced coach with an impressive track record – having served as the defensive coordinator at Temple last season – giving reason to believe that the Buckeyes’ success at the cornerback position should continue.
The expansion of Football Bowl Subdivision coaching staffs from nine to 10 full-time assistant coaches allowed the Buckeyes to hire Alex Grinch in January – before Ohio State lost any coaches from last year’s staff – and the team’s new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach also brings an impressive track record to Columbus, having been Washington State’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach for the past three years. Grinch, like Day, is viewed as a rising star in the coaching industry, and he should make an immediate impact on the Buckeyes’ defense.
The unexpected addition to Ohio State’s full-time coaching staff came in July, when quality control coach Brian Hartline was promoted to interim wide receivers coach for the 2018 season after Smith’s dismissal. Hartline has never been a full-time on-field assistant coach at any level, leaving his coaching ability as a big unknown entering the year.
Even so, Hartline’s hire is one that has been surrounded by optimism, with many believing that he will ultimately prove to be an upgrade over Smith. A former Ohio State wide receiver who spent seven seasons in the NFL, Hartline offers an impressive pedigree playing the position he is now coaching, and has appeared to bring an infusion of energy to Ohio State’s staff in his first few weeks of coaching the wide receivers in practice.
Meyer’s absence, and how Day fares in his place, will undoubtedly be in the spotlight for the first three games of Ohio State’s season, and Meyer’s return will draw attention after that. But no matter how well the Buckeyes perform while Meyer is gone and once he returns, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the overall strength of Ohio State’s coaching staff as a whole will be a big factor in the Buckeyes’ success.