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.
In 2015, Shane Cockerille was a quarterback at Maryland. He played in 11 games. In 2016, under Matt Barnes' tutelage, Cockerille was a linebacker who led the team with 108 tackles in 12 games.
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) January 10, 2019
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.