Chris Ash is coming back to the Big Ten, but can he help fix a surprisingly porous Buckeyes' defense?
That's the question following Thursday's announcement by Ohio State that Ash, the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator, was coming aboard as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach. Ash spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Arkansas under Bret Bielema, who he followed to Fayetteville after two years as the defensive coordinator in Madison.
Now he's the big get for Urban Meyer and Ohio State.
"I was attracted to this position because it is Ohio State," Ash said in a release, "and I had to wonder if I ever would have this opportunity again. This is one of the top five college football programs in the country. It has tremendous history and tradition, and it is a great academic institution.
"The opportunity to work for coach Meyer and to learn as a part of his staff will absolutely enhance my knowledge of the game and my coaching experiences."
Ash's job is to help shore up the defensive side of the ball in Columbus, working alongside Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. The offense was explosive and prolific last season, but the defense left plenty to be desired, despite a list of talented playmakers and All-Big Ten players. For a team competing for a national championship all the way up until its loss in the Big Ten title game, Ohio State's defense ranked just fifth in the conference in scoring defense (22.6 points per game) and seventh in total defense (377.4 total yards per game). Including the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, the Buckeyes allowed 30 or more points in six games.
Ash brings Big Ten experience from his recent days at Wisconsin. In two years as the head of the Badger defense, that unit twice ranked in the top four in the conference in scoring defense and twice ranked in the top three in total defense. In the release, Meyer pointed to the 2012 Ohio State-Wisconsin matchup, in which Ash's defense held the Buckeyes to just 236 yards of offense.
"We've competed against a Chris Ash defense before, and I have respect for him as a coach," Meyer said. "I like the fact he has experience in the Big Ten Conference and that he is a great recruiter. He was highly recommended by everyone I spoke to."