Two-Minute Drill: Meeting With Ohio State’s New Assistant Coaches

Ohio State Football Ohio Stadium

COLUMBUS — With Ryan Day’s coaching staff now complete, all five new assistant coaches met with reporters Wednesday morning. They talked about what brought them to Ohio State, the conversations involved, what they have seen so far out of their players, and the season to come. Here are the highlights of what was said.

Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison

+ He feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at two programs like Michigan and Ohio State, as well as Notre Dame. “I’ve had a pretty good run.”

+ Leaving Michigan was a very tough decision. He has spent 13 years there. But OSU gave him an opportunity to be a coordinator again and that was the biggest thing. He was the DL coach at Michigan for the last four coaches, but wanted to coordinate again.

+ Running a defense, he is excited about having co-coordinators. The last time he was a co-coordinator, he won a national title at Florida. The other coordinator, Jeff Hafley, is one of the best secondary coaches around. Together, the two of them will try to put together what is best for the team. He’s not going to go into what kind of defense they are going to run, but they are excited about the opportunity to coach these players.

+ Not having a position, “I’m going to be the greatest young assistant coach you have seen.” He and Larry Johnson have competed for years. They both coach defensive line. He told Larry that he wants to be his assistant whenever necessary. He will also be with the linebackers. There will be two inside linebackers and an outside linebacker which is a different position, so he can help there.

+ Mattison knew Ryan Day at Florida and still remembered him. There are guys you come across and don’t see much of them but you remember them. Day was one of those guys as a graduate assistant. Every day he’s around Day, he is impressed by him. Jim Harbaugh and Brady Hoke were great head coaches. He has worked for some great head coaches and he’s excited to be coaching with Day.

+ He didn’t want to talk about what it was like to prepare for Ryan Day as a defensive coach.

+ His philosophy is to run the defense that fits the talent. They’ll find out through spring practice where they are with fitting the talent to a philosophy.

+ “I have the utmost respect for Larry Johnson.” Recruiting against him is tough. “I would always watch his defensive line and watch his coaching.”

+ Zach Harrison has great character and is an unbelievable athlete. “He’s everything you thought when you recruited him.”

+ He had tremendous respect for Ohio State while at Michigan. These are the two winningest programs in college football. He feels like he should pinch himself coaching at both places.

+ He can’t control whether or not OSU fans embrace him, but they’ll see him giving everything he has and he will coach to his best ability.

+ It’s hard to leave a place you’ve been for 13 years.

+ Day called him and then Mattison talked to Harbaugh. “Coach Harbaugh was great. He understood that I wanted to coordinate.” The hardest thing was calling the players. It’s hard every time you leave because of what you give those players.

Co-Defensive Coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley

+ He is a scheme guy and a talent guy, it just depends on what you have. “We have talent here, so you have to make the most of your talent.”

+ They want to play fast, so things will be simplified.

+ Hafley has seen plenty of OSU defensive backs while he’s been in the NFL. He is a big believer in playing press man, but he also believes you have to change it up. “We’ll continue to do some of that and we’ll so some other stuff as well.”

+ The combination of Hafley and Greg Mattison will be something special. “It’s been awesome. I think it will be a really good mesh.”

+ Hafley watched a little tape before taking the job.

+ The best guy is going to play. “I’ve started undrafted free agents over first-round draft picks.” It’s our job to play the best players. “If you’re the best, you’ll play. And if it’s close, we’ll find a role for you.”

+ It’s not tough to break down a roster and see who the best players are. It just takes time and tape.

+ There is a good mix of young and older in the coaching staff.

+ Recruiting expectations, he expects to go out and get the best players. Ryan Day expects that as well. He has to get used to doing the traveling, but it is exciting that you get to go pick who you want instead of drafting. You have to work to get who you want and that fires him up.

+ Hafley doesn’t believe there is a difference in coaching men in the NFL and college players. They just want to know you care and you know what you’re talking about.

+ Ryan Day didn’t talk to Hafley about fixing anything. “We just talked.” The talk was about coming back to college football. Greg Schiano was a mentor to him, so he’ll never say anything bad about last year’s scheme or defense. “Our job is to get better. We certainly have to.”

+ In the NFL, you study tape and you learn because there is no recruiting. He’s done that for the last seven years.

+ He came to Ohio State for several reasons. He wanted to be a coordinator. “I came back here because this is a special place.” You can win a lot of games here, but you can do it with the right type of people. The culture is right, and that’s why he came here. “It’s the right type of player here.” They have recruited the right kinds of guys. The guys who go to class and work hard. Not every place is like that.

+ Scheme-wise, they will have to match up with the offense they are facing. There will be nickel, there will be base.

+ He asked Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward why they were rotating. “I didn’t get it at the time.” But then the guys keep becoming first round picks. “If a guy is good enough to play, we have to get him on the field.”

+ “We are going to work on turning and looking and trying to intercept the ball when we are in man.”

+ They still have to figure out where everybody will be coaching from.

Passing game coordinator and QB coach Mike Yurcich

+ Why Ohio State? “There’s probably 105 good reasons right now for me to talk about.” Part of it was coming home and being part of something as great as Ohio State. It is humbling.

+ This is a time for him to learn what Ohio State does on offense. That is what concerns him right now. Then he will add what he can to the quarterback play. There are similar concepts and different concepts that he ran. “This is exactly what I had hoped it to be as far as the quarterback friendliness of the offense.”

+ When you develop an offense, you don’t want to compare it to years past. You look at what you have and see where you can maximize and grow the most. That’s what concerns you. You look at strengths and weaknesses. This time of year is when you try to figure those things out.

+ He would look at other offenses in the past, including Ohio State’s passing offense with Dwayne Haskins. He saw high-efficiency offense, but balanced.

+ The film he has seen on Justin Fields looks like he is very dynamic, but he hasn’t seen anything live from Fields or Matt Baldwin.

+ He saw Matthew Baldwin in recruiting. Very accurate and cerebral.

+ Big XII offenses is more of a philosophy of spreading the field and throwing downfield, but that is now commonplace.

+ His job is to coach the quarterbacks whether they are cleared by the NCAA or not. He will develop their talents. That’s what they tell the parents and that’s what they’re going to do.

+ He and Fields are learning the offense together. “You can’t pretend. You can’t walk into a room and pretend you know everything. I’m not afraid to ask stupid questions. I want the information to be processed.”

+ “I just want to be part of something great and coming to Ohio State was a no-brainer.”

Special teams coordinator and asst secondary coach Matt Barnes

+ The most appealing part about coming to Ohio State? “Well, it’s a special place. The winningest place in college football history.” They do things the right way and develop young men and give them the opportunity to be successful on and off the field.

+ He has worked with Greg Mattison in the past and learned a lot from him. There’s a lot of smart people in OSU’s coaching room.

+ There are some great minds for him to learn from. “So far it’s been unbelievable.”

+ We’re going to play our best players on special teams.

+ They have the best special teams GA in the country in Parker Fleming and OSU was fortunate to keep him on staff.

+ Asked if the corners and safeties will be in the same room, he said he would defer to Jeff Hafley on that. You have to be careful about having too many voices in the secondary. If not everybody is on the same page in the back end, there can be catastrophes.

+ You have to find the happy medium of playing your best players on special teams but also giving the young guys a chance to earn playing time. Special teams aren’t as involved in terms of Xs and Os, which makes it easier for young guys to handle. “It’s technique and effort.”

+ Asked about OSU’s defense that needs fixed, he said that’s tough to answer, but his general thought is when things aren’t going how you want them to go, you’re generally asking your players to do too much. You have to focus on the little things at that point. If you are having issues, you need to go back to the basics.

Linebackers coach Al Washington

+ He’s banged out about 30 push ups so far for having said “Michigan.”

+ It’s an adjustment for sure coming to Ohio State. When he is somewhere, he’s all in, so it’s a unique change.

+ In terms of evaluating the linebackers as a new coach, you have to give the kids a chance to prove themselves to you during workouts and in the spring.

+ He’s been on the road recruiting the past two weeks and is just now getting to see the guys workout. “I’m anxious to see this spring who is going to compete. They all can run. Every kid in that room is pretty talented.” He won’t say jobs or open or anything like that. “Right now I’m just getting to know them.”

+ His decision to come back home to Columbus was a hard decision. Michigan wasn’t a stepping stone place, so he was all in. “It’s tough.” “This is home for me. It’s an unbelievable situation.”

+ Why Ohio State? “A lot of reasons.” His mom and dad are 20 minutes away. He’s got two young kids. His wife is from here. Those were major contributors.

+ Will there be a hybrid linebacker? They are still working through that. They don’t know, but what he does know is that this will be an aggressive, simplified defense.

+ His dad was excited for him, but he empathized with the difficulty of the decision.

+ “I absolutely have a ton of respect for Coach Harbaugh. It was a tough decision. Throughout it all, he really respected where I was coming from.”

+ You have to be thorough when you recruit Ohio or any state. You make sure you get every question answered that you have because if you extend an offer to an in-state player, the kid may take it.

+ Zach Harrison is a great kid. They spent a lot of time together while he was recruiting him at Michigan. “It’s a good relationship.” When Harrison committed to Ohio State, he was bummed out and upset, but he understood.

+ He and Ryan Day coached together at Boston College. Day was really poised in high-pressure situations. He is very knowledgeable and great teacher.

+ It wasn’t necessarily a dream to be at Ohio State, Washington simply wanted to be the best coach he could be. “Ohio State’s the standard,” but a lot has to work out for that to happen. So when the opportunity came up, he thought, “Wow, maybe it should have been a dream.”