Presser Bullets: New Ohio State Assistant Coaches Greg Mattison, Jeff Hafley, Mike Yurcich, Matt Barnes and Al Washington Meet with the Media

By Dan Hope on February 6, 2019 at 12:06 pm

For the first time since they became members of Ohio State's coaching staff, the Buckeyes' five new assistant coaches – co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Matt Barnes, quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Mike Yurcich, special teams coordinator and assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes and linebackers coach Al Washington – met with the media at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Wednesday morning.

A bullet-point recap of what all five of them had to say:

Greg Mattison
  • On leaving Michigan to Ohio State: "I'm very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at two of the greatest programs in the country."
  • Mattison said he wanted to be a coordinator, which played a big part in his decision to leave his role as Michigan's defensive line coach to come to Ohio State.
  • Mattison said he is "very excited" about the fact there will be co-coordinators. On Jeff Hafley: "Jeff is one of the very best secondary coaches around." ... "Together, the two of us will try to put together what is the very best for the team."
  • Asked what his role will be in terms of coaching a specific position, Mattison joked, "I'm going to be the best young assistant coach you've ever seen." Said he expects to spend a significant amount of time working with the linebackers, though he expects Al Washington to do a great job with that position group, as well.
  • Mattison said he has known Ryan Day since Day was a graduate assistant at Florida, and has been impressed with Day as a coach ever since.
  • Mattison also praised Jim Harbaugh and Brady Hoke, the head coaches he worked for at Michigan.
  • Mattison said he has "the utmost respect" for Larry Johnson. "Anybody that's ever watched, they know this guy's a great D-line coach."
  • Mattison said early enrollee defensive end Zach Harrison has "great character" and is an "unbelievable athlete." 
  • Mattison said he has tried to be around the players as much as possible during their winter conditioning in order to get to know them.
  • Mattison described Ohio State and Michigan as "two of the greatest programs in college football."
  • On Urban Meyer: "What he built, and what he sustained, and what he kept going, it speaks for itself."
  • Mattison's message to fans: "The one thing they're going to see in watching me coach is they're going to see me give everything I can to this program."
  • "Coach Harbaugh was great," Mattison said, about his decision to leave Ohio State. Said Harbaugh understood that he wanted to be a coordinator. The hardest part of leaving Michigan, Mattison said, was calling his players and letting them know.
Jeff Hafley
  • Hafley said he is a big believer in playing press man coverage, but he also believes you have to change it up. "We'll play some press, we'll play some off, we'll play a little bit of everything."
  • On Mattison: "His knowledge of the front seven ... is as good as I've ever been around." Said he thinks it will be a "really good mesh" between he and Mattison as co-defensive coordinators.
  • On his philosophy to making depth chart changes: "The best guys are going to play. I've started free agents over first-round draft picks."
  • Hafley said it doesn't feel particularly young here at Ohio State, because he's been around young coaches in the NFL, too.
  • Hafley said he is fired up about going out and recruiting, and loves that he can go out and try to get whoever he wants instead of having to rely on the NFL draft.
  • Hafley said he doesn't believe there is a big difference between coaching NFL players and college players. Said it's all about building relationships and developing trust regardless of the age of players you're working with.
  • On former Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who he worked with at Rutgers and in the NFL: "I have a ton of respect for Greg Schiano. He was a mentor for me." Said he does not view his job as fixing what happened last season, but building for the future.
  • "I think the best thing that ever happened to me was I had the opportunity to go to the National Football League, and just study football for seven years."
  • Why did you leave the NFL to come to college football? "I wanted to coordinate, and I was ready to coordinate." He said he could have been a coordinator in the NFL too, though, but came to Ohio State because it's "a special place." "You get a chance to coordinate at a place where you can win a lot of games with the right type of people. And that's the culture here."
  • Hafley said he didn't get the cornerback rotation when he first studied it, but said that the Buckeyes need to find ways to get players on the field. 
  • Hafley, animatedly, promises that he wants cornerbacks to turn and look back for the ball.
Mike Yurcich
  • Yurcich said coming back to his home state of Ohio was a big factor in his decision to leave Oklahoma State and come to Ohio State.
  • Yurcich said he and the coaches have not focused on the players Ohio State lost from last year, but on building with the players they have now.
  • On developing with Justin Fields and his other quarterbacks, Yurcich said it's a long process, and they're nowhere near where they need to be yet.
  • Yurcich said he wants Ohio State's offense to be a quarterback-friendly system.
  • Yurcich said he is still learning what Ohio State's offense does, so he isn't ready to say exactly what the Buckeyes' offense is going to entail this year.
  • On Matthew Baldwin: "Very accurate passer, very cerebral-type guy." Said he developed a relationship with Baldwin's coach at Lake Travis High School, Michael Wall, and knew he was well-coached.
  • Do you think everybody wants to have a Big 12 offense? "I think everybody wants to win games."
  • "What is a Big 12 offense? I don't think you can just point and click at it," but said he does believe it is predicated on throwing the ball vertically, and believes that is now commonplace throughout the country.
  • Does Fields' uncertain eligibility situation affect how Yurcich will coach the quarterbacks? No, because his job is to work with all the players and make them better.
  • "You can't walk into a room and think you know everything," and said he is asking the "uncomfortable, stupid questions" to make sure he knows what he needs to know.
  • On why he decided to come here, "I think Coach Hafley answered it best when he said he decided to come here because of great people."
  • "To come here is a no-brainer for me."
  • What do you bring here that you picked up from Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy? "I think the biggest thing I learned from him is you have to be yourself. I can't try to be Mike Gundy, and I'm damn sure not going to grow a mullet." 
Matt Barnes
  • Barnes said he came to Ohio State because he wanted to be a part of the winning tradition and because he believes the program does things the right way.
  • On the defensive coaching staff as a whole: "A lot of smart people in the room."
  • On special teams quality control coach Parker Fleming: "I think I've got the best one in the country."
  • Said he expects special teams to continue to be a collaborative effort between the coaching staff, and that the Buckeyes will continue to play their best players on special teams.
  • Ohio State's cornerbacks and safeties will be coached together this year because the Buckeyes want them all to be on the same page. Barnes and Hafley will be working together, and he's looking forward to learning from Hafley.
  • On having depth on special teams: "Everyone needs to understand they're a rolled ankle away from being in the game." Said last year at Maryland, there were only two players on the starting punt team who made it through the entire season without missing time due to injury.
Al Washington
  • Washington on being caught saying Michigan, where he worked previously, instead of The Team Up North: "I've had to bang out about 30 push-ups."
  • On how he will evaluate the linebackers: "You got to give the kids a chance to prove themselves to you during the spring ... give them a chance to show you they can execute, and do the things that you need them to." Washington said he is excited to see them compete. "Every kid in that room is pretty talented."
  • Washington said he wasn't ready to say whether the linebacker jobs are open going into spring, but he's still getting to know his players.
  • Washington said it was a difficult decision to leave Michigan, but being from Columbus and having an existing relationship with Ryan Day made the Ohio State job one he wanted to take.
  • Washington said he talked to his parents about the decision he had to make, but that he made the decision for himself and what he felt was best for his family.
  • Washington when ABC's Clay Hall asked a question: "I remember you from high school." Washington went to Bishop Watterson High School.
  • On Jim Harbaugh: "I absolutely have a ton of respect for Coach Harbaugh. It was a tough decision. And throughout it all, he was respecting where I was coming from."
  • On Zach Harrison, who he recruited heavily at Michigan: "He's a great kid ... I know he and his family well, and I have a ton of respect for them."
  • Washington, who coached with Ryan Day at Boston College, said his impression of Day was that he was "really poised" and a "great motivator."
  • Did he always have a desire to come to Ohio State? "I just wanted to be the best coach I can be, and wherever that took me."

Stay tuned with Eleven Warriors for much more coverage from Ohio State's National Signing Day media availability, as Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is also set to meet with the media this afternoon.

View 41 Comments