Ohio State Football: Grading Urban Meyer's New Coaching Hires

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2014

Oct 12, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive line coach Larry Johnson during the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan 43-40 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off back-to-back defeats to close out the 2013 season, the Buckeyes were forced to overcome two more losses off the field when co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel were hired away from Ohio State.

It didn't take long for Urban Meyer to find their replacements.

Withers' role as co-defensive coordinator will be filled by Chris Ash, who was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2011-12 and at Arkansas in 2013. Vrabel will be replaced by Larry Johnson, who was at Penn State for 18 years, 15 of which were spent as the defensive line coach.

Both will be expected to bolster a beleaguered defense that ranked 110th in the nation in defending the pass last season. 

Whether they can turn things around won't be determined until the fall, but based on their past success, it looks like Ohio State made two very good additions to its coaching staff.


Larry Johnson, Defensive Line Coach 

Johnson is one of the premier defensive line coaches in the country. During his highly successful 18-year stretch at Penn State, Johnson coached seven first-team All Americans and produced six Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year or Defensive Lineman of the Year award winners, according to his Penn State profile.

Not only is Johnson one of the best D-line coaches in the country, he's also an elite recruiter. Johnson has strong ties in talent-rich states like Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and he'll certainly provide a boost to Ohio State's strong recruiting efforts.

That boost is already coming through. Following the announcement of Johnson's hire, Jashon Cornell, a 5-star defensive end according to 247Sports, voiced his approval via Twitter.

It's hard to imagine a better replacement for Vrabel. In fact, Johnson could prove to be a dramatic upgrade. No question this was an "A+" hire for the Buckeyes.


Chris Ash, Co-Defensive Coordinator and Secondary Coach

Ash wasn't the biggest name on the market, but when you look at his body of work over the last four years, it's easy to see why Ohio State wanted him.

Chris Ash is looking to boost a beleaguered pass defense.
Chris Ash is looking to boost a beleaguered pass defense.USA TODAY Sports

The former Wisconsin defensive coordinator built a solid and aggressive 4-3 defense for the Badgers that excelled against the pass. In 2011, Wisconsin ranked No. 15 in total defense and No. 4 in pass defense. A year later, the Badgers again ranked 15th in total defense and 18th against the pass.

His defense at Arkansas struggled, giving up 413 yards per game, which ranked 76th in the country. The Razorbacks, though, were undergoing a huge rebuilding process under Bret Bielema.

Meyer knows that Ash can succeed in the right situation, and he's hoping Ohio State is that place. The Buckeyes' pass defense cost them a shot at a national title in 2013, but if Ash can work his magic, he'll have them competing again in the near future.

Because Ohio State found a defensive coordinator who excels where it is weakest, the Ash hire was a solid "A." 


All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.


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