COLUMBUS, Ohio — Since Urban Meyer hired Chris Ash to be his co-defensive coordinator in January, questions piled up regarding how well he would mesh with everyone else already in the Scarlet and Gray.
Everybody Likes Chris: Buckeyes Found Ash to Their Liking This Spring
By Tony Gerdeman
The problems on defense a year ago were impossible to ignore, and it was unknown just how Ash would approach those issues moving forward in his attempt to fix them.
The eventual answer to at least one of those questions was his desire to implement a more pressing style of defense in the secondary. In fact, the Buckeyes have switched up schemes on all three levels of defense, as the front seven has gone away from "strong" and "weak" sides in favor of other strategies.
The spring gave the players and coaches a chance to not only get used to the changes, but used to Ash as well.
"I like him," said cornerback Armani Reeves.
Photo by Dan Harker
"I call him the 'Mini Coach Coombs', he’s like a younger Coach Coombs, he still has all the energy. I love it. I’m happy that he’s here. I’m happy that he’s enjoying it and hopefully he stays for a pretty long time."
The energy that Ash brought to the football field carried over to his players quite a bit during the spring. He had them hustling more and finishing better than they had in the past. Even though he may have had the players working harder than they were the year before, they didn't seem to mind.
"We definitely like Coach Ash a lot," said linebacker Joshua Perry.
"Coach Ash, Coach Fickell, Coach Johnson and Coach Coombs have been on the same page with building a defensive mentality as a Silver Bullet unit. He does a lot of stuff with us to make sure that we're all on the same page to make sure that we all gel together, so we really do appreciate that."
Being on the same page is essential for a defense, especially when this Buckeye defense hasn't even been in the same book a few times in the recent past.
Getting to that same page was something that cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs wanted desperately. When you are part of the last line of defense, being of one mind is essential. When that unity is broken, the plays are broken as well.
With the addition of Ash, attempting to build that unity was necessary or success. After all, something had to change.
"I think there's probably a lot of things that are different," Coombs said of the addition of Ash.
"First of all, the style of play we're playing is different. The fact that when Coach Withers left, one of the things that I talked to Coach Meyer about right away is that we need to start meeting together, we need to start spending more time together as a cohesive unit. So Chris and I are able to do that and spend time together, and that's worked out really well. He's got good energy, he's got good passion."
That ability to be a cohesive unit is reliant upon individuals respecting the roles and duties of those around them. Having a new guy like Ash come in can sometimes take a team a little while to get used to, but apparently that wasn't really the case for the Buckeyes during the spring.
"Its been a good balance," Reeves said.
"Everyone’s doing their thing, coaching safeties, coaching corners, coaching both. There’s no individual doing the whole thing. It’s all part of being a team. We’ve all got to work in this together, it’s not just one person."
If a defense is going to work in lockstep, it helps if the defensive coaches are doing the same. Given that this is Ash's first go-round with the Buckeyes, it would have been understandable if there had been a long feeling-out process among the coaches.
That process didn't take nearly as long as some may have expected, however.
"I love Coach Ash," Coombs admitted.
"I like to think that I'm a lifelong learner. The experiences that I've had and the exposure that I've had to different coaches and different strategies and different ways to approach the game is refreshing. I think that Chris and I are working really well together. A lot of communication. It's been a real blessing for me and I hope he would say the same thing, but I'm enjoying working with him."
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