The Ohio State coaching staff is going to look much different in 2022 than it did last year.
The Buckeyes had some problems that reared their heads early in the season. After some in-season adjustments, Ryan Day found himself outside of the conference championship game for the first time since he joined the Ohio State coaching staff. The Buckeyes were also left outside the College Football Playoff for the first time in Day’s tenure as a head coach.
Ohio State ranked 69th in yards given up per game in 2020, the first year Kerry Coombs took over as defensive coordinator. The Buckeyes made it to the National Championship nonetheless, where Davonta Smith broke the record for receptions in a National Championship, and came six yards shy of the receiving yards record. Not only did he play record-setting football, but he did it all in the first half, as he missed the second with an injury.
Ohio State got another wakeup call against Oregon when the Ducks rushed for 269 yards in their upset in Columbus. That prompted Day to promote Matt Barnes from defensive backs coach to defensive play-caller, but that still didn’t help. Michigan rushed for nearly 300 yards on the Buckeyes, hammering the nail in the coffin for several defensive coaches.
While C.J. Stroud had a Heisman caliber season, the offense had holes too. The Buckeyes’ offensive line was 15th in the country in sacks given up, as opponents found the pressure to be a good antidote to Stroud’s dynamic arm. TreVeyon Henderson had a historic season for a true freshman in Columbus, but his production took a sharp decline by seasons’ end. Henderson averaged 8.8 yards per carry in the first seven games of his career but had only 5.4 in the last six. He also had 11 rushing touchdowns in the first stretch of the season, with only four in the final half-dozen games.
Ohio State Coaching Staff Changes in 2022
Out: Kerry Coombs, Defensive Coordinator
Coombs was in his second stint in Columbus after coaching cornerbacks from 2012-2017. He spent two years coaching the Tennessee Titans’ defensive backs under Mike Vrabel before returning to Ohio State to call plays on defense.
While his first stint with Ohio State was outstanding, bringing and developing talents like Bradley Roby, Marshon Lattimore, and Denzel Ward. Coombs had five cornerbacks drafted in the first round while he was with the Buckeyes.
His second stint will not be so fondly remembered, however. His game planning in the 2020 National Championship alone could have gotten him demoted. But his change in job description only happened two games later, after his unit gave up 471 rushing yards to Minnesota and Oregon.
Coombs was fired outright this winter but landed in Cincinnati. Ironically enough, he is replacing Perry Eliano as the Bearcats’ defensive backs coach after Eliano joined the Ohio State coaching staff.
Out: Matt Barnes, Secondary Coach
When Day took playcalling from Coombs, he gave the job to secondary coach Matt Barnes. Things got a little better, but not by much. The last two games of the season, Michigan and the Rose Bowl against Utah were not games that Barnes would highlight on his resume.
It appears that Barnes wasn’t fired, but left willingly to become the defensive coordinator at Memphis. Ohio State had just hired Jim Knowles, so playcalling would not have gone back to him if he stayed.
Out: Al Washington, Linebackers
This one was a surprise, but Al Washington is out at Ohio State.
The linebacker group had a few gems over the years, but also a few duds. In 2022, the Buckeyes lost three linebackers to the transfer portal, including one who quit at halftime during the Akron game. Things got so bad at linebacker that tight-end Cade Stover played significant snaps there during the Rose Bowl.
Washington will coach the defensive line under Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame.
Out: Greg Studwara, Offensive Line
Greg Studwara, or “Coach Stud,” lost his job seemingly out of the blue. Though in hindsight, his unit had been in a steady decline.
Many award-winning offensive linemen played for Studwara, such as Pat Elflein, Billy Price, and Wyatt Davis. But as mentioned, the run game declined in 2021, and pass protection became a problem.
In: Jim Knowles, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach
Knowles’ defense led Oklahoma State to their first Big 12 Championship Game appearance in school history.
The Cowboys ranked fifth in fewest yards given up per game and ninth in fewest points given up. Both of those rankings far surpassed the Buckeyes in 2021.
With better recruits, Knowles’ system should bring Ohio State football back to the high standards it holds.
In: Perry Eliano, Safeties Coach
Eliano coached the best unit on the Bearcats team that made the College Football Playoff. Cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant led Cincinnati to a historic season under the guidance of their position coach.
While he did an excellent job coaching cornerbacks in Cincinnati, Eliano will coach safeties with the Buckeyes. With Josh Proctor coming back from a season-ending injury and Sonny Styles entering as one of the top recruits in the 2022 class, Ohio State needed a solid safeties coach.
In: Tim Walton, Cornerbacks Coach
Ohio State has a long history of good cornerbacks, including Tim Walton, who played for the Buckeyes under John Cooper. He’s been coaching defensive backs in college and the NFL for the last 20 years.
The Buckeyes are bringing Walton back as a coach, luring him away from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Walton coached Pro Bowlers like Janoris Jenkins and Jalen Ramsey in the NFL. Now gets to mold young talent as a member of the Ohio State coaching staff.
In: Justin Frye, Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator
The Buckeyes ran an unbalanced offense in 2021, due to the fact that passing was infinitely more productive than running. Day wants to change that with Justin Frye out of UCLA.
Frye coached under Urban Meyer at Florida early in his career, before joining the Temple coaching staff. Day joined the Owls a year later as the offensive coordinator, and the two coached until Day took a job under Chip Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Frye wound up coaching under Kelly in Los Angeles but is now reuniting with Day in Columbus.
Promotion: Brian Hartline, Wide Receivers Coach/Passing Game Coordinator
Brian Hartline is getting the title of passing game coordinator added to his job title.
Hartline has coached the Ohio State wide receivers since 2018 and has been one of the best assistant coaches in the nation. He continues to rake in talent at the wide receiver position and yield top production on the field.
It’s common for wide receivers coaches to be the teams’ passing game coordinator, but Hartline was due a promotion anyways. The extra motivation to give him that job was to keep him around. The Buckeyes might want to keep offering him promotions before someone else does.