Alex Grinch Leaving Ohio State to Become Defensive Coordinator at Oklahoma

By Dan Hope on January 4, 2019 at 7:53 pm
Alex Grinch

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is leaving the Buckeyes after just one season.

Oklahoma announced Friday evening that it had hired Grinch as its new defensive coordinator.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman was the first to report Grinch's departure on Friday afternoon. Sources told Eleven Warriors that Grinch accepted the job on Lincoln Riley's staff on Monday.

"This is a unique opportunity at one of the premier institutions under elite leadership," Grinch said in Oklahoma's news release. "Oklahoma is in the top one percent. There's no faking it in this business. You're either it or you're not. Oklahoma is one of those programs.

"Coach Riley and I have a number of mutual friends," Grinch also said. "I'm definitely in the 'air raid' tree, just on the defensive side of the ball. I'm not sure there's a better fit for an offense and a defense. I believe this is what Coach Riley is looking for. I also believe what we do works."

Grinch becomes the first Ohio State assistant coach to leave the staff after just one season since Ken Conatser spent just one season with the Buckeyes in 2001. In Urban Meyer's seven years as Ohio State's head coach, every assistant coach he hired stayed with the Buckeyes for at least two seasons.

After three seasons as Washington State's defensive coordinator, Grinch joined Ohio State's coaching staff in January 2018 as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, and was viewed at the time as the potential heir apparent to defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. With Meyer's retirement, however, it was unclear whether new head coach Ryan Day planned to keep Grinch (or Schiano) on his staff.

Ohio State's defense and Grinch's position group had their share of struggles in his lone season with the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes allowed 403.4 yards per game this season – the worst mark in school history, which ranked them just 71st nationally in total defense – and 25.5 points per game, which tied for 50th in the FBS. 

The Buckeyes' safeties were one reason for those struggles, particularly early in the season, when Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint saw regular playing time at the position. Ohio State's safety play was better after Brendon White entered the lineup next to Jordan Fuller, but he was not added to the lineup until Fuller was ejected for targeting in the Buckeyes' ninth game of the season against Nebraska.

Nonetheless, Grinch – who is just 39 years old – is considered to be a rising star in the industry, and Riley believes in his ability.

"Alex has an outstanding track record as a defensive coach and a defensive coordinator," Riley said in Oklahoma's release. "He's been one of the most sought-after guys in the country here the last couple of years, especially for the work that he did at Washington State. Taking that defense where he did in a short amount of time is one of the best coaching jobs in the country over the last several years."

Now, he will be tasked with turning around an Oklahoma defense that struggled mightily this past season, ranking 114th in total defense (453.8 yards allowed per game) and 101st in scoring defense (33.3 points allowed per game).

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