One Voice in Secondary

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Last updated: 03/03/2014 6:14 AM
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Meyer Wants One Voice in the Secondary
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Miscommunication, it's the bane of many a frustrated defense.

Over the last few years the communication in Ohio State's secondary has been as choppy and broken as an AM radio station from six states over. Sure, the listener thinks he gets the gist, but instead he misses every third word, and it's in those finer details where the actual meaning gets lost.

Those shattered details have led to big plays since 2011, and having had to deal with it for the last two seasons, Urban Meyer is looking for a new fix, because the old one didn't work.

Chris Ash
Photo by Jim Davidson
Chris Ash

That new fix comes in the form of new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Ash has been put in charge of the entire OSU secondary. It will be his job to change the Buckeyes' fortunes in the passing game, and he'll be given the autonomy to get it done.

"He's got a serious responsibility, that's to improve our pass defense," Urban Meyer said of Ash.

"He'll be in charge of the entire back end of our defense. He's going to coach safety, he's going to continue to coach corners. However we're going to have one voice back there. It's his responsibility to improve our pass defense, and obviously it's more than just a secondary. It's linebackers and everything. But you're going to see some significant changes in the way we approach our business back there."

Those changes will begin with Ash's one voice, which is something that cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs talked to Meyer about immediately following the end of the 2013 season. They both saw an area where an improvement could be made, and Coombs is happy that change has happened.

Kerry Coombs
Photo by Dan Harker
Kerry Coombs

"I don't think we function very well in isolation," Coombs said.

"And so one of the things that Coach Meyer and I talked about almost immediately after the season was with the installation of pass coverage, concepts and communication, having one voice. And that that would be very important to everybody in the back end."

There is the old saying about being on the same page, but before you can be on the same page, you have to be speaking the same language. With one voice in control of the Ohio State secondary, there should be nothing lost in translation. If there is nothing lost in translation, then the miscommunications should drop dramatically.

This might sound a tad damning of the way things used to be run when former safeties coach Everett Withers was around, but Coombs explained to the contrary, they worked very well together. They just didn't work in unison, apparently.

"Everett and I work well together," Coombs said. 

"What I'm saying is our style of teaching in separate rooms at times and things like that can lend itself to separate communication points. And I believe very strongly that those things, the more you can do things in a group setting, the better off you're going to be. 

"Chris and I will work together to make that happen and there will be times when we will be working right half and left half, and at times we'll be working corners and safeties, and at times we'll be functioning with four guys doing things together. We've talked with our players about this. I would think they would tell you the same thing, that all of this will lead, I think, to greater communication, which should be our objective going forward."

The improved communication is absolutely what Urban Meyer wants, and it should be exactly what his players want as well. After all, no player wants to be made to look foolish, and yet that's what too many Buckeyes in the back end have experienced lately.

With one voice in the secondary, the teaching will be the same for both cornerbacks and safeties. The reasons and purposes for the coverages will be understood by all. The concepts will be taught and learned in the same ways, with one voice pointing towards a shared goal. 

Think of it as one road map for all, with the same destination for everybody involved. One voice, relaying directions like a GPS device.

"What I would tell you is that Chris and I are going to function as a team in the back end," Coombs said.

"We will have one voice. We both may be saying it, but we'll be saying the same thing so that when we meet together, when we coach together, when we're practicing together, we're all using the same terms, the same phrases, the same words, and I don't know the same style, I haven't been able to watch Chris coach, so I don't know his style yet, but using all of the same language and verbiage out there. And I think that's very important."

This begs the question, of course, that if it's so important, why is it just now being implemented?

Chris Ash has a very large job ahead of him, but he won't be going at it alone, even if his is the only voice being heard.

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