With the introduction of Ohio State’s new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash, some questions had to be answered.
What is he going to do to fix a pass defense that finished 2013 ranked 112th in the country? How does he feel about the group of young players that will be playing next season?
But perhaps the most important quandary is how cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs and Ash will get along.
“What I would tell you is that Chris and I are going to function as a team in the back end. We will have one voice,” Coombs told the media on National Signing Day Wednesday. “We both may be saying it, but we’ll be saying the same thing so that when we meet together, when we coach together, when we’re practicing together, we’re all using the same terms, the same phrases, the same words, coaching things and I don’t know, the same style. I haven’t been able to watch Chris coach, I don’t know his style yet, but (we’ll be) using all of the same language and verbiage out there. And I think that’s very important.”
Coombs, who has been with the program for each of the last two seasons, added that there is not a rigid set of rules dictating who coaches what on any given day.
“I believe very strongly that those things, the more you can do things in a group setting, the better off you’re going to be,” Coombs said. “And so our approach — Chris and I will work together to make that happen and there will be times when we will be working right half and left half. And at times, we’ll be working corners and safeties and at times we’ll be functioning with four guys doing things together … I would think they would tell you the same thing, that all of that will lead, I think, to great communication, which should be our objective moving forward.”
Ash spent 2013 at Arkansas after spending three seasons with one of OSU’s Big Ten rivals, Wisconsin.
Agreeing with his new coaching partner Coombs, Ash said coaching on the defensive side of the ball will be all about balancing everyone.
“Everything we’re going to do is going to be a team effort,” Ash said. “You know a lot of people have asked about coach Coombs and I coaching the secondary. It’s going to be a team effort, and the defensive staff is a team, putting this package together. Trying to identify the direction we’re going to go and what we need to get fixed, and gameday, it’ll be a team effort.”
At Wisconsin, Ash was a part of three consecutive Big Ten Championships and led a pass defense that finished an average of 16th in the country during his tenure.
A big part of improving the Buckeyes’ struggles against the pass is changing the mentality, Ash said.
“Well you play fast, you play with reckless abandon, you’re fast, you’re physical, you throw your body around,” Ash said. “There’s no confusion, you know exactly what you’re doing. You can react to your key and there’s only one speed: it’s full speed. And that’s the way we gotta play.”
Coombs agreed, saying the intensity of play is likely to increase in 2014.
“Yeah, I would think you would see a more aggressive style of play across the board from alignment to attack and so forth,” Coombs said.
The secondary is only returning one regular starter in junior cornerback Doran Grant, and Coombs said it’s impossible to predict who is going to win the starting positions because players are battling for them.
“There will be some changes. The competition I would tell you is wide open,” Coombs said. “You’ve got to perform to play. And I think that the expectation on the part of every player on this football team is you gotta show up every day and you’ve got to perform in order to play in the fall. We’re going to work really hard on finding those guys who can compete and who will challenge in tough situations.”
Coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday the defense needed something new after struggling in the latter part of the season.
“We won a lot of games, but there were some holes,” Meyer said. “Holes very easy to blame players or blames coaches. Just overall, we need to freshen up our defense. That’s what’s going to take place over the next few months.”
Ash and Coombs are set to receive their first chance to patrol the Buckeye sidelines together Aug. 30 when OSU is scheduled to take on Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.