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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Hire of Chris Ash Brilliant Move to Help Defense

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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Hire of Chris Ash Brilliant Move to Help Defense
USA TODAY Sports

Urban Meyer is serious about getting the best and brightest available on his staff. Not only did he hire ex-Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, on Thursday the Buckeyes made the hire of former Wisconsin and Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash official. 

Rumors of Ash's hire surfaced nearly 10 days ago, based on a report by SI.com's Pete Thamel, yet nothing was said by Ohio State or Urban Meyer until Thursday.  

It's a hire made possible thanks to former co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers' departure from Ohio State for the head coaching job at James Madison. 

Some thought with Withers leaving that Luke Fickell or someone new coming in would become the defensive coordinator, especially given the struggles of the Ohio State defense in the past few years. 

However, making Ash the co-defensive coordinator and allowing him to focus on the secondary, his area of expertise as a position coach, is a brilliant move. 

It becomes even more brilliant when you see what Meyer is doing across the board with his defensive staff. In the same SI.com report, the rumored hire of former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson was said to have been accepted. 

Those moves indicate Meyer knows he has the resources available and the need to get the best coaches available to right the ship on defense. 

After seeing his secondary, one that included a returning All-American in Bradley Roby, get torched repeatedly throughout 2013, something needed to change. 

Ohio State finished the season allowing 268 passing yards a game, good for 110th nationally and 11th in the Big Ten. 

Ash has a track record of coaching some pretty good defenses in the past, according to Rob Hernandez of the Wisconsin State Journal, who points out his success while a member of the Wisconsin staff

In 2012, the Badgers led the Big Ten and ranked third in the NCAA with a three-and-out percentage of 41.72, and their 5.23 three and outs per game topped the Big Ten and was fourth in the country. The Badgers' defense was 13th in the NCAA in total defense and tied for 19th in the country in scoring defense.

In three games against Ohio State while at UW, the Badgers defense held the Buckeyes to less than 120 yards per game passing despite losing two of those games. Braxton Miller was Ohio State's quarterback in two of those games and Terrell Pryor was under center in the other.

For a team that gave up nearly 700 yards in the pass game in its two losses to Michigan State and Clemson to end this past season, those are numbers that would make people happy. 

Sure, Arkansas struggled a bit against the pass, giving up 235 yards a game and ranking 72nd nationally. But some of that can be chalked up to a year of transition and dealing with what was left over from the previous regime. 

The one thing that seems to be buried in the headlines of these hires is perhaps the most important thing of all—recruiting. 

Ash and Johnson are considered to be some of the better recruiters out there, and with Johnson's ties to Pennsylvania it gives the Buckeyes even more tools at its disposal in the western part of the state. 

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It will also help increase Ohio State's presence in the Washington D.C. area, where Johnson was a high school coach. Meyer's hire of Johnson will also serve to blunt any advantage new Penn State head coach James Franklin could've had in that region, where he's considered a master recruiter. 

Ash, on the other hand, isn't known as a star-recruiter, and that could be just fine on a staff full of them already. Instead, he's a pure coaching hire and a smart choice with a long history of coaching defensive backs.

The only question is if Ash can co-exist with his fellow defensive coordinator, Luke Fickell. Again, his tenure at Wisconsin points to this situation working out well. 

Let's not forget that Ash split the defensive coordinator duties with Charlie Partridge while at Wisconsin, and those results were already pointed out. 

Fickell may have been a popular scapegoat this past season, but with Meyer hiring some of the best minds in the game for the defensive line and secondary, there could be less pressure on Fickell and more responsibility delegated this upcoming season.

Hiring Chris Ash was the right move at the right time for Meyer and Ohio State. He certainly will be given the tools to be successful with all the talent coming in to the secondary and to the defense as a whole. 

 

Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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