Is Chris Ash the Most Important Hire of Urban Meyer's OSU Career?
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While Ohio State has yet to acknowledge the hiring of Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash, the various reports of the deal being done, as well as Bret Bielema's tweets about coaching transition on his staff and being happy for coaches who move on to new challenges, are confirmation enough that Ash will be – in some form or fashion – the next defensive coordinator of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Fairly or not, however, the question that the fans will now have is whether or not Luke Fickell will still be calling the plays, or will that duty fall to Ash? What I would say to that is it would be a surprise if Ash, who has called the plays at both Wisconsin and Arkansas, would take a job where he now had to give up those duties.
We can assume that not only will Ash be Ohio State's new defensive play caller, but he will also bring in some of his own preferences and philosophies. Given the struggles defensively the last two seasons, and the championship possibilities lost because of them, I have no choice but to ask if this is the most important hire in Urban Meyer's time at Ohio State.
Meyer said two years ago – and repeats it to this day – that strength coach Mickey Marotti was his most important hire at Ohio State, and I have absolutely no doubt that he would say the same today. But if the Ash hire doesn't work out, then the Buckeyes will end up spending another two or three years treading water and getting nowhere in the process.
Wouldn't the impact of getting the Ash hire wrong tower over any other hire, no matter the positive impact those other hires have had?
Ash's importance doesn't just manifest itself if the defense struggles and Ohio State again has to deal with a couple of years of sub-standard defense. There is also the possibility that this is the absolute right hire, and it will take the Buckeye defense exactly where Urban Meyer wants it.
Meyer isn't hiring Ash if he thinks it isn't going to work out, so let's imagine a scenario where it works perfectly for everyone involved.
Ohio State is recruiting at an elite level, which is nothing new for them. The offense, on the other hand, just finished a season where school records were set, and the quarterback from that offense returns to inflict more damage upon opposing defenses.
But what if the Ohio State defense was to return to the form that so many had taken for granted? From 2005-2010, the worst scoring defense the Buckeyes had was in 2005, when they allowed just 15.2 points per game. That number would have been good for fifth in the nation this year. Four times in those six seasons, the Buckeyes didn't even allow 13 points per game.
Now couple a defense like that with an offense that scores 45-odd points per game, while sprinkling in the secret ingredient of Urban Meyer's recruiting, and you see why the hiring of Chris Ash begins to take on such skyscraping importance.
If everything else is in place at Ohio State to at least reach college football's Final Four, then could Ash be what gives this program the opportunity to actually win it? Meyer wouldn't have hired him if he didn't think he could make the Buckeyes better, and “better” is exactly what Ohio State has to become in order to contend for championships.
No matter how successful Urban Meyer continues to be at Ohio State, until he wins a national championship, there will be some who remain disappointed – including Meyer himself. The possibility that this hire could change all of that gives it an immense sense of consequence; and if it changes nothing, the consequence is just as impactful.
It's a new day for Ohio State football, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. New isn't always a positive, but when the old is negative, new is the only way to go.
We won't know how good this hire is for the better part of a year, but we already know the importance, and it's hard to imagine anything else matching up with it at this point.
Things are about to change for the Buckeyes – for better or worse – and Urban Meyer is betting on better.
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