When Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State two seasons ago, he ruffled the feathers of then-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema by attempting to woo committed prospects from the Badgers to the Buckeyes. Wonder how Bielema feels today knowing that Meyer has lured away his defensive coordinator?
Chris Ash — named the Hogs D-coordinator in December of 2012 – is pulling up stakes and joining Ohio State’s staff as co-defensive coordinator. Ash is the second key coach to leave Arkansas’ defensive staff this offseason. Charlie Partridge became the head coach at Florida Atlantic.
Here’s the irony in UA losing two coaches from it’s defense — it’s defense struggled in 2013. The Razorbacks ranked 12th in the SEC in scoring defense (30.8 points per game allowed), 9th in total defense, 11th in rushing defense, and 11th in passing defense.
Bielema attempted to calm any Razorback fan who might be concerned that their defensive coordinator had bolted after one year by tweeting the following: “Have always felt transition on my staff has allowed us to get even better. Have had success hiring right people and will again.”
He then added: “Very happy for former coaches that decide to move to new challenges, the respect our staff gets nationally will continue to grow.”
Sounds good, but Bielema has previously stated that one of the main reasons he left Wisconsin — in addition to coaching in Barry Alvarez’ shadow — was that school’s unwillingness to pony up big cash to retain assistants. One can’t blame Partridge for taking a head coaching job, but Ash’s move is different. Granted, Ohio State is closer to a national title right now than Arkansas, but the Razorbacks — as Bobby Petrino proved — are capable of competing at an awfully high level, too. And Ash will be moving from a coordinator position to that of a co-coordinator. In other words, it’s likely the Buckeyes offered the ex-Hog coach more money.
This leaves Bielema in the position of trying to find a new coordinator. Or does it? Former Miami (FL) and NFL defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is already on the Arkansas staff, serving in the role of linebackers coach. Ash worked with the safeties at Arkansas so there is some wiggle room if Shannon fills the coordinator slot. Taver Johnson, cornerbacks coach, could take over the secondary in full, leaving room for a new linebackers coach to be filled. Or Shannon could continue to work with the linebackers as coordinator and Bielema could hire another safeties coach. Or he could just bring in a new coordinator altogether.
One name to keep an eye on? The once rising star, Manny Diaz. Diaz has coached safeties and linebackers and became a hot name nationally while briefly serving as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator. Mack Brown tossed him overboard midseason in 2013. He should have recruiting ties to the Lone Star State after three years on the Longhorn staff.
Bielema hired Samford defensive line coach Rory Segrest to replace Partridge.
Ash had worked for Bielema for four seasons, including the coach’s final three years at Wisconsin.