When Ryan Day was named Urban Meyer’s replacement as Ohio State’s next head coach, he soon began putting his coaching staff together.
He ended up replacing four members of the defensive staff, and wisely kept Larry Johnson.
Just as Meyer did in 2014 when he wanted a specific style of defense and brought in Chris Ash as defensive coordinator to make that happen, Day has handpicked his defensive coordinators with an eye towards an aggressive, yet simplified attack.
The four new defensive assistants all spoke to reporters on Wednesday and Day’s vision marched right alongside their own.
Co-coordinator Jeff Hafley was asked if he was a scheme guy or a guy who molds the scheme to the talent on hand.
“I think I’m both,” he said. “There’s places I’ve been you’ve really had to rely on scheme. There’s places I’ve been you’ve really got to rely on your talent. We have talent here, so I think we’ve got to make the most of our talent.”
How he intends to make the most of that talent is where things differ a bit from the last two seasons for the Buckeyes.
“I think we have to make it easy for our players to play fast, do what they do best, coach them up, fundamentals, technique,” he said. “We need to do a good job with that. But there will be scheme involved, as well. It’s a little bit of both.”
The Ohio State defense had its struggles each of the past two seasons. According to new assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes, when your defense is consistently not playing well, there’s usually one area to examine first.
“My general thoughts on when things aren’t going the way that you’d like them to go, I think you’ve got to look at how much you’re asking your players to do,” he said. “Are you asking them to do too much.”
When Chris Ash brought his quarters defense to Ohio State, they started from the ground up and began with the basics and fundamentals. Given the difficulties this defense has faced over the last two years, the same kind of beginning will be happening this spring.
“I think you really want to spend your time on coaching the little things and making sure your guys are lined up correctly, their eyes are in the right place, they’re playing in good football stances, their fundamentals are right, the communication is right on the back end, and I think if you’re having issues, I think that’s the first place to start,” Barnes said. “Go back to the basics, look at fundamental football, are we leveraged properly, are our eyes in the right place, are we tackling the way we want our guys to tackle? General football.”
General football would be a start for an Ohio State defense that allowed more 70-yard runs last season than anybody else in the nation (6).
The belief by many outside of the program last season was that there was paralysis by analysis. Even though the players can run and are athletic, the scheme was too difficult to process quickly for some of the players involved. A split second of processing is all an FBS running back needs in order to go untouched.
Ryan Day wants that processing time removed, which is now the goal of his new defensive staff as well.
“What you can expect is an aggressive defense that’s going to play fast,” said linebackers coach Al Washington. “We’re going to simplify things to where the guys can play with the enthusiasm necessary to be productive, and so we’re going to see an aggressive defense, with guys playing fast.”