Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Which Ohio State player will be most impacted by recent coaching changes?
Jami’s Take: Zach Harrison
The recent shakeup of Ohio State’s defensive coaching staff left Matt and I agreeing for once, in that we were both saddened by the way defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs’ tenure with the Buckeyes ended. But given the lackluster performance of the defense over the past two seasons, it’s also evident that these changes were necessary for the future of OSU football.
The staffing turnover, which was to be expected and began almost immediately after Ohio State’s Rose Bowl win against Utah, involved the departure of Coombs, Matt Barnes, Greg Studrawa, and Al Washington. Joining the staff are Jim Knowles, Justin Frye, Perry Eliano, and Tim Walton.
Whether you’re excited about the coaching changes, or like Matt and me, have some bittersweet feelings around them, we can all agree we hope this is a positive move for both individual players and the team as a whole. But who stands to gain the most from this coaching shift?
This might be a hot take (Matt will surely think it is), but I actually think it’s defensive end Zach Harrison.
Why is this a hot take exactly? Because Harrison’s position coach Larry Johnson is the only holdover from this current staff.
Still, Harrison was a player who came to Ohio State with extreme promise and to date he has put up relatively mediocre numbers. In 2021, he had 22 solo tackles and 11 assisted tackles, along with 3 sacks. There’s nothing wrong with those numbers, but they certainly don’t match up to the expectations that people had around Harrison when he first arrived.
And though Johnson will remain as Harrison’s position coach, sometimes an overall change to the scheme is all it takes to light the fire.
Jim Knowles’ defensive schemes could be the difference maker for Harrison, who announced his decision last week to stay at OSU for his senior season. Historically, the Buckeyes’ defensive ends have been dominant, but Harrison has as of yet been unable to live up to the hype surrounding him and hasn’t quite filled the shoes of his predecessors Joey and Nick Bosa or Chase Young, though many people expected he would.
Still, Harrison has expressed his desire to work on his consistency in the coming season, and he feels confident he can be an exceptional player. So the coaching shifts overall could really help him find his stride. Under Knowles, I expect that Harrison might finally take off.
Certainly, his motivation to boost his NFL Draft prospects won’t hurt either, but I do believe that the coaching changes will give us more from Harrison, allow him to step up as a veteran, and really highlight what he’s capable of.
Matt’s Take: Josh Proctor
A lot has changed since Ohio State’s most veteran safety was last on the field. When the 2021 season started, Josh Proctor was expected to be the steadying force for a mostly otherwise inexperience and/or banged up Buckeyes’ secondary, but in the third quarter of the team’s Week 2 loss to Oregon, he sustained a broken leg that ended his season before it really even began.
That led the Ohio State coaches to have to rely on guys like Bryson Shaw, Lathan Ransom, and Ronnie Hickman — to varying degrees of success — to man the backend of the defense. If the Buckeye defense was staying essentially the same as in recent years, with a mostly single-high safety look, the return of a healthy Proctor would be incredibly important, but with new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles bringing his safety-heavy scheme to Columbus, the senior could end up being the leader of a resurgent Silver Bullets.
Now, of course, we don’t exactly know if Knowles will completely transfer his Oklahoma State defense to Ohio State, or if he will tweak it to suit the talent on his new team in anyway, but what we do know is that traditionally his scheme is very aggressive up front, and that he likes to have a set of safeties on the back-end that can be a sturdy line of defense.
In addition to the returning Buckeye DBs, former Cowboy safety Tanner McCalister has transferred to Columbus, adding some depth and experience with Knowles’ system to the secondary. But, if the new DC’s scheme is similar to what it was in Stillwater, Proctor should still be the best of the bunch. I think that OSU is still one more recruiting cycle away from being able to have their talent level up to where fans expect it to be. However, they don’t have to be a top-10 defense to win a national title, they just have to be better against the pass, and with Knowles’ whole “Mad Scheming Scientist” vibe and one of the best safeties in the country back healthy and serving as the stopper in the secondary, this could be a really big change for the Buckeye defense.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Zach Harrison
Matt: Josh Proctor