Morning Constitutional: A Linebacker Coach in the Secondary?

Matt Barnes Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Today’s Topic: A Linebacker Coach in the Secondary?

It appears that Ryan Day has finalized his defensive staff with Thursday’s hiring of former Maryland linebackers coach Matt Barnes. Barnes actually handled playcalling for the Terrapin defense last season and was also the special teams coordinator. He will now be Ohio State’s special teams coordinator and also be the assistant secondary coach. Barnes has effectively replaced Taver Johnson.

Barnes’ title is assistant secondary coach, as he will be the Dwight Schrute to Jeff Hafley’s Michael Scott. Hafley, listed as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach, will be in charge of all of the defensive backs, and Barnes will be there to help him out.

Since 2005 at Ohio State, the Buckeyes have had a very well defined split between cornerbacks coach and safeties coach, and that may still be the case, we just don’t really know the actual breakdown yet.

What we do know, however, is that Matt Barnes has never coached in the secondary, and that may concern some people.

To those people, I would say that coaches don’t coach positions, they coach players. Their job is to make players better, and they do that through understanding technique, passing it along, and holding those players to those teachings.

A good coach can coach any position in any sport. Look at how good your kid’s coach-pitch team is since you took over.

There are also some people who think coaches have to have played the position that they coach. Urban Meyer was a receivers coach, but he played in the secondary. Ever notice how you rarely see 6-foot-10 basketball coaches, but centers are still getting coached anyway?

Barnes’ transition into the secondary is fairly common as coaches move around. Mark Dantonio just announced an entire reshuffling of his coaching staff yesterday. Heck, in 2012, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly named safeties coach Chuck Martin the offensive coordinator. If you’ll recall, that was the year they played Alabama for Ohio State’s national title.

So this move for Barnes is much simpler. And again, position coaching is about being meticulous and holding players to a high standard. It’s not about what you used to do in your glory days or the position you coached every other year before.

For those who would have preferred LSU’s Corey Raymond, I will remind you that Kerry Coombs wasn’t Urban Meyer’s first choice. In fact, he wasn’t even Meyer’s first hire as cornerbacks coach. That was Bill Sheridan.

Coombs didn’t come along until right before OSU’s first spring under Meyer, and he turned out pretty good.

All I can tell you about Barnes is that he has come a long way in a short period of time, which is either the sign of a guy who is well thought of in the industry, or a guy who is the son of somebody famous.

And since Barnes doesn’t seem to have famous lineage, maybe things will turn out alright for Day and the Buckeyes.

As it is, it would seem unlikely that things could be worse than they were a year ago. That alone should leave fans encouraged.

[Matt Barnes photo courtesy WBOC. | Ohio State Football]

19 Responses

  1. i’m hoping the asst coaches from TSUN can help us land Justin Rogers. with rogers lining up next to Paris we can really have a great OLINE.

  2. Gerd,
    With all the announced coaches so far and limit of 10 coaches total, there won’t be room for all three Alford, Wilson and Studrawa. Who is likely to go ?
    Thanks for all you do !

    1. It’s 10 assistants, so Ryan Day doesn’t count.
      1) Kevin Wilson
      2) Mike Yurcich
      3) Tony Alford
      4) Brian Hartline
      5) Greg Sturawa
      6) Larry Johnson
      7) Greg Mattison
      8) Al Washington
      9) Matt Barnes
      10) Jeff Hafley

  3. I just read a headline from another site saying Marcus Freeman turned tOSU down?! I also haven’t read Bill Davis being replaced? SAY it isn’t SO!

    1. Al Washington is Ohio State’s new LB coach. Bill Davis is gone.

      1. Thanks for the correction, Gerd. I did read where Washington was here, just didn’t click clearly that Davis had been let go. Is it true that Marcus turned us down though?

        1. That’s the rumor. Didn’t want to take a possible demotion.

  4. No, coaches do not coach positions. They coach players to play their position well with technique that the coach learned through his days of playing and learning from other coaches.
    So Gerdeman, everyone agrees that d-line coach Larry Johnson is the best in the country at what he does. So maybe he should coach the db’s. Infact, with him being the only holdover on defense he should be the coordinator, (that’s an argument for later). That way he can coach a little bit at all the positions. I love and support OSU football just as much as everyone else. I also played and know football very well. My feelings is that this staff is not better than the previous obviously because of the newcomers. Not so good coaching and philosophy not only loses games, it also hurts recruiting which is the life blood of your program.

    1. Absolutely agree. For example, how good would our passing game have been last year if Sturdawa was coaching the receivers and Hartline was coaching the offensive line ?

  5. Tony, that would make Barnes assistant TO the secondary coach…

      1. I remember back a little ways. This upstart young pup in coaching came to Ohio State……….from Ohio State and became the the assistant TO one of the best DLine coaches in America by the name of Jim Heacock. Within a year he was coaching defensive ends and wound up coaching linebackers. Luke Fickell turned out to be one of the best linebacker coaches in all of football. I forget how many All Americans he coached up.

        Nope having played isn’t a prerequisite, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Nope, having never taught a particular position group too isn’t a prerequisite, but it certainly makes coaching the different groups a whole lot easier. Techniques for cornerback are a whole lot different than for linebackers or safety, or DLine.

        The smartest coaches don’t try to over complicate things, or try to be “exotic.” They teach base fundamentals, wind up the players for Saturday and tell them…….see ball……get ball. Go out there and stop whoever has that funny shaped thing.

        When OU players said Ohio State was a “basic” defense…………….it was actually a compliment………..and they were right. Sound fundamentals with just a pinch of flavoring, combined with the extraordinary level of talent the players have is all it should take to unleash what should appear to be a great defense looking at the results.

        Some of the moves Day has made on the D side is head scratching, but………….it can’t be much worse than the train wreck caused by Schiano and Davis

        1. Agree 100% James Mills. Point of fact, I was reading up yesterday on coaching candidates remaining to fill spots in the annual NFL coaching carousel and saw one such candidate with both OC and DC (not to mention Linebackers, Def Line and QB’s) on his resumé. Forget what his name is, but something about that jumped out at me

    1. Eric – now THAT’S funny. Thanks for starting my day out correctly. Great points Tony – comes down to having faith that your HC is not an idiot and so far I am more than happy.

  6. There isn’t a cornerbacks coach alive that teaches kids to make plays on the ball. Why would you want more of that approach? Anybody but a cornerbacks coach coaching cornerbacks? Ryan Day is a genius! I might not to yell at my TV so much next year. Ohio State cornerbacks making plays on the ball. Is that even possible? Maybe—when a linebackers coach is coaching them up.

    1. You’re saying that no cornerbacks coach teaches CB play the way the last two CB coaches have taught it?

      1. Tony-Yep. Pretty much. Is that more frustration than accurate polling of all cornerback coaches? Sure. Still feels right. Especially each one of those plays that a corner, anybody’s corner, appears surprised that a ball has been inserted into that man on man scuffle he is in. “Where did that come from?” “Forget about the ball,” these coaches are teaching whether they intend to or not.

        1. What OSU has taught its corners in man coverage is very common, fwiw.

          1. Yep…..Tony is absolutely right.

            A general fundamental of coaching press man coverage/trailing man coverage (shadow) is simple………If the receiver is in your hip pocket………….ONLY then do you turn to play the ball. By hip pocket that means if you can put your hands on the receiver. If you CAN’T put your hands on the receiver the DB’s are taught EVERYWHERE to play the receivers eyes.

            I’m 100% sold on the fact that the disaster at linebacker the last 2 years has crippled the man coverage scheme. It got worse this year because of the lunk headed stupidity of using the linebackers to “keep the lineman clean” to make plays. If the backers are tied up with offensive linemen who the hell is there to man the second level? NOBODY? If the pass rush doesn’t get home in 2 to 3 ticks, it’s unrealistic to assume coverage is going to be able to lock down down even Joe the Plumber consistently. Press man in the back 4 or 5 who will fundamentally have there backs facing the QB, and the linebackers on the damned LOS is about as close to a lock you will find for having a defense that gets carved up and rank around the basement in surrendering huge plays. That’s why the Buckeye’s had to start mixing zone in with man to stop the hemorrhaging. That wasn’t to help the DB’s, it was to cover the idiocy of linebacker “exotic” stupidity.

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