Five for Friday: Possible Replacements for Everett Withers
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the reports of Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers leaving for the head coaching job at James Madison swirling, the question quickly turns to who Urban Meyer will look towards to replace him. Never one to wait for more information, I thought it would be a good time to look at a few possibilities.
Keep in mind that few had Withers or offensive coordinator Tom Herman on similar lists back in early 2012, so there are certainly more options out there than the choices you'll see here. Also keep in mind that Everett Withers hasn't actually left yet, though it seems only a matter of time at this point.
1. Harlon Barnett, secondary coach Michigan State University
This might be the biggest stretch, but also the most sure-fire home run of any of the possibilities. Why is it a stretch? Well, Barnett is a Michigan State alum, and is finishing his 10th year of being an assistant under Mark Dantonio, which stretches all the way back to the University of Cincinnati. There is no denying Barnett's contributions to Dantonio's secondary, and given the struggles the Buckeyes have had in that area, this would seem like a perfect fit for Ohio State. It's just hard to imagine Michigan State letting him go, or Barnett leaving his alma mater. Meyer could possibly offer him a co-defensive coordinator title, but Dantonio would certainly match. Barnett was born in Cincinnati, so he has the Ohio ties that Meyer likes. More importantly, his work with defensive backs has been almost unmatched. Over the last four years, he has had 15 members of his secondary receive All-Big Ten accolades in some form.
2. Tommy Thigpen, linebacker coach University of Tennessee
Thigpen was a defensive backs coach under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green. He is currently the linebacker coach at Tennessee, and was last a secondary coach at Auburn from 2009-2011. Unfortunately for him, his pass defenses ranked 86th and 76th in pass efficiency defense in 2011 and 2010, respectively. He is currently the #6-ranked recruiter in the nation, per 247Sports, who tabulates a ranking system based on which commits a particular coach was the primary or secondary recruiter for. Currently, he has helped Tennessee put forth the #82 defense in the nation, the #101 rushing defense, and the #60 pass efficiency defense this season.
3.Bill Sheridan, defensive coordinator Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You may remember Bill Sheridan from the last time Urban Meyer hired him in January of 2012. Before Kerry Coombs, there was Bill Sheridan. Two and a half weeks after taking the Ohio State job, he accepted the defensive coordinator spot at Tampa Bay. This is what Meyer said of Sheridan after hiring him: “Bill Sheridan is a perfect fit for our program. His experiences in the NFL are huge. He has Midwest roots and, most importantly, he wants to be an Ohio State Buckeye.” Does Meyer still feel that same way after being left in the lurch. You might be asking why an NFL defensive coordinator would be on this list, and I'd simply remind you that the Buccaneers are 4-10 right now and could be looking to fire a bunch of coaches. Something of note regarding Sheridan, after finishing last in the league in run defense in 2011, the 2012 Buccaneers finished first in that category, becoming the first team since the merger to go from last-to-first in a single season.
4.Teryl Austin, secondary coach Baltimore Ravens
Austin was Urban Meyer's defensive coordinator for his final season at Florida in 2010, and that defense finished ninth in the nation in total defense. They finished fourth in the nation in interceptions with 22 in 13 games. Austin helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl win in his first season, ranking first in the NFL in pass efficiency defense, and only allowing 11 touchdown passes for the entire regular season. Would he come back to college to take a similar job? It's rare, especially for a coach who has been in the NFL for 10 of the last 11 years. On a side note, he was a Michigan assistant from 1999-2002.
5.Vance Bedford, defensive coordinator University of Louisville
Bedford was the defensive backs coach for Urban Meyer at Florida in 2008 and 2009, though the two of them go back much further than that. Bedford coached the defensive backs at Colorado State while Meyer was there coaching the receivers. They ended up coaching together from 1990-1992. Bedford has two different stints at the University of Michigan under his belt, and owns a national championship ring from 1997. He was last there in 2007 for a single season. Bedford is currently the defensive coordinator at Louisville, so he would likely need a co-defensive coordinator title to leave Charlie Strong and the Cardinals. There is also the small matter that Strong is a candidate for the Texas job, which could eliminate Bedford as a candidate at Ohio State altogether. Louisville is currently #5 in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
Bonus: Chuck Heater, defensive coordinator Marshall University
Heater played football at Michigan, and was a defensive backs coach at Ohio State from 1985-1987. A few years later he ended up being Earle Bruce's defensive coordinator at Colorado State in 1991 and 1992, where he was on the staff with Urban Meyer. He coached in the secondary for Meyer at Florida from 2005-2010. Marshall is #14 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and a year ago they were #95.
Bonus: Torrian Gray, defensive backs coach Virginia Tech
Gray played football at Virginia Tech back in the 1990s, so getting him away from the Hokies might prove difficult. Originally from Florida, he has been at VT since 2006. Virginia Tech is #3 in the nation in pass defense this season, and freshmen cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson have combined for 11 interceptions.
Bonus: Chip West, cornerbacks coach University of Virginia
West has no direct connection to Ohio or Urban Meyer, but he's a solid recruiter who also holds the title of recruiting coordinator at UVA. Coincidentally, he was the defensive backs coach at James Madison from 2004-2006. West is ranked by 247 Sports as the #3 recruiter in the ACC. He was the primary recruiter for UVA's two five-star commitments in the 2014 class, both of whom had offers from Ohio State.
Bonus: Tommy Restivo, defensive backs coach University of Louisville
Restivo is in his second season as the defensive backs coach at Louisville. He was a defensive graduate assistant under Urban Meyer at Florida in 2008 and 2009. He is a native of Toledo, Ohio.
Bonus: Mike Elko, defensive coordinator Wake Forest University
Elko was the defensive coordinator at Bowling Green this season, also coaching the safeties. He is now the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest, having left with head coach Dave Clawson. He arrived at BG in 2009, and orchestrated the Falcons' #6 pass efficiency defense this season.
Bonus: D.J. Durkin, defensive coordinator University of Florida
Durkin was a graduate assistant at Bowling Green under Urban Meyer, and has been Florida's linebackers coach since 2010. He is now Florida's defensive coordinator and is on this list only so people wouldn't ask why he was left off.
Bonus: Bill Busch, safeties coach University of Wisconsin
Busch was an assistant under Urban Meyer at Utah in 2003, but has been with current Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen since 2009. He has been a graduate assistant at both Wisconsin and Nebraska back in the early 1990s. Wisconsin is currently #7 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and a year ago Utah State finished #8.
Bonus: Travaris Robinson, defensive backs coach University of Florida.
Robinson arrived at Florida in 2011, the year after Urban Meyer left. He is originally from Miami, and played football at Auburn from 1999-2002. He is the nation's #1-ranked recruiter per 247 Sports, which is the main reason he is on this list. The Gators finished #2 in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2012, and are currently #10 this season.
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