Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has been known to be a quick worker on the recruiting trail when it comes to student-athletes.
It looks like the same could be said about coaches.
According to separate reports by “Sports Illustrated” writer Pete Thamel, Meyer snatched up two defensive coaches within 13 hours — Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash and former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
An OSU spokesman told The Lantern in separate emails Tuesday that he did not “have any information (to) share at this time” regarding the reports, which were released about Johnson and Ash late Monday night and Tuesday at about noon, respectively.
Ash is set to fill the void of former OSU co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers, who was announced as the next head coach at James Madison University Dec. 20. Johnson is slated to replace former defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, who announced that he was leaving OSU for a job with the NFL’s Houston Texans via Twitter Thursday. Vrabel’s move comes after Houston announced the hiring of its new head coach, former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, Jan. 3.
Ash came to Arkansas before this past season with Razorback coach Bret Bielema, whom he coached with the three years prior at Wisconsin, helping lead the Badgers to consecutive Rose Bowls from 2011-13.
Bielema posted a statement to Twitter via his account, @BretBielema, Tuesday about coaching changes, but did not specifically mention Ash’s name.
“Have always felt transition on my staff has allowed us to get even better. Have had success hiring right people and will again. #woopig #1-0,” Bielema’s initial tweet read, sent at 1 p.m Tuesday.
He followed it with another tweet 12 minutes later.
“Very happy for former coaches that decide to move to new challenges, the respect our staff gets nationally will continue to grow. #woopig,” the tweet read.
At Arkansas, Ash made $550,000, according to the USA TODAY coaches’ salaries database. In his second and final year at OSU, Ash’s predecessor, Withers, earned $585,000.
The Razorback defense finished ranked 73rd in passing defense during the team’s 3-9 campaign in 2013, giving up an average of 235 yards per game. OSU’s pass defense finished ranked 112th in the country, giving up an average of 268 yards per game.
Johnson spent the last 19 years in State College, Pa., coaching the defensive line for the last 15 seasons. At Penn State, he groomed a total of seven first team All-Americans, including the top pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, defensive end Courtney Brown. Johnson’s salary was not available on the USA TODAY coaches database, but in his final year at OSU, Vrabel’s base salary was $291,004.
According to PennLive, Johnson was offered to stay as the defensive line coach at Penn State by James Franklin — who was officially hired as the Nittany Lion head coach Saturday — but declined.
The new faces on the OSU defensive staff look to strengthen a unit that has digressed in Meyer’s two year tenure. The Buckeyes finished with the 19th best defense in 2011 — the year before Meyer arrived — 34th in 2012 and 47th overall this past season.
The Buckeyes are set to kick off their 2014 campaign Aug. 30 against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
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