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New Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Hafley is ready to make some changes in the secondary

The new co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach isn’t ready to completely abandon press coverage, but knows some other schemes are needed to improve the Ohio State secondary.

NFL: San Franciso 49ers-OTA Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

“We have talent here. So I think we’ve got to make the most of our talent and I think we have to make it easy for our players to play fast, do what they do best, coach them up, fundamentals, technique. We need to do a good job with that. But there will be scheme involved, as well. It’s a little bit of both.”

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley via Patrick Murphy, Bucknuts

Ohio State unveiled new co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley to the media on Wednesday. The Buckeye secondary are coming off their worst season in quite some time, with their pass defense finishing just 86th in the country. Ohio State had employed a press-man coverage philosophy, and while it had worked for a number of years, opponents figured the Buckeye coverage scheme out last season.

New co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley does believe in playing press coverage, but also knows that it can’t be the only type of coverage that is used in pass defense. Ohio State’s pass coverage going forward will depend on who they are playing and what type of personnel the Buckeyes have out on the field.

One area which could see a bigger change in the Ohio State secondary under Hafley is the rotation that is used for defensive backs. In evaluating Ohio State defensive backs during his time in the NFL, Hafley was confused by how often some of the star Buckeye cornerbacks came off the field. But, Hafley also knows that if talent is stockpiled in the secondary, a rotation is needed to help all of that talent see the field.

Last year Ohio State’s secondary suffered a bit with the loss of energy of Kerry Coombs, who joined the Tennessee Titans coaching staff following the 2017 season. Hafley should be able to bring back some of that energy. Hafley has had success coaching at both the college and NFL levels, which should help Ohio State’s secondary make a big improvement this season.


“It was more of a business decision. Coach Day, he’s been in the NFL. He knows what it takes to get quarterbacks to the NFL. Just the offensive mind he has, he’s a smart guy. So that’s why [I came to Ohio State].”

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields via Kyle Rowland, The Toledo Blade

Things have been moving fast and furious over the past month for transfer quarterback Justin Fields. After placing himself in the NCAA’s transfer portal late in 2018, Fields moved into his dorm on Jan. 5, and just a couple days later was attending classes at Ohio State. Ever since making it to campus, Fields has been working at learning Ohio State’s playbook with new quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich and quality control coach Corey Dennis.

Yesterday, Fields spoke with the media for the first time since transferring to Ohio State, sharing the spotlight with some of the early enrolls who had committed to the Buckeyes on National Signing Day. While Fields didn’t comment on what caused him to leave the Georgia program, he did rave about Day’s ability to develop quarterbacks that are prepared for the NFL.

As long as Fields’ transfer waiver is granted by the NCAA, something that Fields and Ohio State are waiting on the NCAA to rule on, the quarterback would give the Buckeyes about as perfect a replacement for Dwayne Haskins as they could imagine. Not only does Fields have the tools to pass the football like Haskins, but he offers up even more ability to make plays with his legs than Haskins did. If Fields is allowed to play in 2019, Ohio State will again be in the thick of the College Football Playoff race.


“I want to leave a legacy here. I want people to be like, ‘Oh, Zach Harrison, he was one of the greatest to come through Ohio State.’ That’s going to mean a lot more to me because, coming from home, I’ll be able to take my kids here and grow up in a community where they know my name and stuff like that.”

Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison via Colin Hass-Hill, Eleven Warriors

A month into his time at Ohio State, defensive end Zach Harrison is already hard at work with his Buckeye teammates. The Olentangy Orange product committed to Ohio State over Michigan and Penn State in December, and has already turned his focus to leaving a legacy at Ohio State. The lure of staying close to home at Ohio State was too much for Harrison to pass up.

Little did Harrison know that when he committed to Ohio State, he would be playing for a couple of coaches from Michigan who tried to get the defensive end to play in Ann Arbor. New Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and linebackers coach Al Washington spent a lot of time with Harrison during the recruiting process, and now are part of Ryan Day’s first coaching staff at Ohio State.

Harrison has already earned positive reviews for the work he is doing in the weight room, but he knows there is still plenty of work to do. The defensive end is still working on maximizing his freakish physical tools, but he has an incredible group of coaches to help him reach his goals. Along with talented defensive ends like Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper working with him, it isn’t far-fetched at all to think Harrison could turn into one of the best to play for Ohio State by the end of his playing career.


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