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B1G Thoughts: New Year, New Everything?

In this week’s B1G Thoughts, I get into some of the big changes already made in the Big Ten.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One Venture X - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Every week, I will be bringing you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments and maybe a joke or two. Be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holy Land podcast feed for more in-depth analysis, and to preview the next week of B1G games.

Ohio State’s coaching changes

Ohio State has made changes to their coaching staff for the second time in roughly three weeks, and there are more to come.

The first change, and the biggest one, was the hiring of Jim Knowles. After Ohio State’s defense has underperformed for the last few years and especially this season, we knew there would be changes coming. Former safeties coach and acting play-caller Matt Barnes left to become the defensive coordinator at Memphis, clearing the spot for Knowles to take over as the leader of the Buckeye defense.

On Thursday, Ohio State confirmed the firing of offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Many Ohio State fans, and some Michigan fans on the message boards, believe the firing of coach Stud was an overreaction, but they just weren’t paying attention. For years Stud has missed on key recruits, especially national five-star offensive tackles. Stud has had success in Ohio, but recruiting outside the state has been largely unsuccessful. Stud got hired in 2016, and since then there has only been one first round offensive lineman drafted. For a program like Ohio State, that is unacceptable.

The real question is what change comes next? I have some opinions.

The easy answer is Parker Fleming. This is not the NFL. There is no reason for there to be a full-time special teams coordinator on staff. Fire or demote Fleming back to an analyst, add special team’s coordinator to someone else’s title for a pay bump, and hire another defensive assistant.

The harder answer is Kevin Wilson. Wilson is largely a scapegoat because I don’t believe Wilson has a large role in designing this offense. Day is the acting offensive coordinator, and this offense was record breaking, so why fire Wilson? Well, largely because certain aspects of the offense, especially the run game, has gotten stale. Ohio State needs fresh ideas on offense. They need a coach who can present Day with a more diverse and creative running game. More importantly, this staff needs to get younger, and they need a more dynamic recruiter. Not only does Wilson not have a major role in this offense, but his tight end room has been a weak spot.

Most people are clamoring for Al Washington to lose his job, but the last point in firing Kevin Wilson is why Washington won’t get fired. His linebackers have underperformed, but he is a young coach who recruits well. If you ask me, I would’ve fired him three weeks ago, but at this point I don’t believe he’ll be let go. Ryan Day is not going to remake his entire staff, but firing Fleming and Wilson in addition to Stud and Barnes would allow Ohio State even out their staff, get younger, get more innovative and more importantly hire coaches who can teach fundamentals and a sound defensive scheme.

Larry Johnson in rare form

Admittedly I have been down on Larry Johnson. I recognize that he is the greatest defensive line coach in college football history — a certified hall of famer. If he was an athlete, his jersey would be hung up in the rafters of Ohio State and Penn State. Yet the last few years it seems like he was slipping. Since he recruited Chase Young in 2017, there have been three recruiting classes that largely missed. I mean, look at the defensive line this year and tell me you think Johnson has done a good job. Johnson, similarly, to Stud, has struggled to get some of the top of the line recruits out of the south, and the development of late hasn’t been there.

For whatever mistakes and misses Johnson had from 2018-2020, he has absolutely made up for it in his 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes. In the last two years, Johnson has gotten commitments from five stars in J.T. Tuimoloau (DE) and Jack Sawyer (DE), as well as high-four stars in Mike Hall (DT), Tyleik Williams (DT), Kenyatta Jackson (DE), Caden Curry (DT/DE), Hero Kanu (DT), and Omari Abor (DE). Every player I just listed is a top 200 player in their class and expected to be a stud. In two years, Johnson has entirely remade his defensive line room, and I just hope he puts off retirement long enough to see them blossom into stars and high draft picks.

Scott Frost is trying, but is it enough?

Anyone who reads this consistently knows that I have a huge gripe with Nebraska for keeping Scott Frost. I think it is a mistake, and I don’t understand how you can keep a coach who has failed in every aspect of his job. In four seasons at Nebraska, Frost has a 15-29 record and has failed to reach a bowl game. Nebraska retained a coach who has secured four consecutive losing seasons, and I will never understand that line of thinking. It feels like their accepting mediocrity. I’m not even a fan of the program and it offended me, but I’m not here to continue telling you how much I hate that they kept him. This is me acknowledging that in his second chance, he is at least trying to get it right.

Frost just landed a commitment from former Texas quarterback Casey Thompson. That is a HUGE recruiting win. Thompson was one of the better quarterbacks on the market, and should be an upgrade over Adrian Martinez. Frost poached Mark Whipple, Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator, who agreed to the same role at Nebraska. He upgraded his offensive line coach by hiring Donovan Raiola form the Chicago Bears. He also hired Mickey Joseph, a stud recruiter away from LSU and former Nebraska quarterback, to serve as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

I will give Frost credit — he is not resting on his laurels. He has changed his staff, his quarterback and hit the transfer portal hard. All things are not perfect though, as Nebraska is in last place in the 2022 Big Ten recruiting rankings. I’m skeptical that Frost can turn it around, but so far, he’s dead set on making me a liar. That should make Nebraska fans a little excited going into next year.

Jim Harbaugh staying or going?

You heard it here first.... and everywhere else on Twitter. Jim Harbaugh is the next head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, or is it the Chicago Bears? Maybe miraculously it’s both. Either way, rumors are rampant that Harbaugh is on his way out of Ann Arbor, and I believe them.

To me, Michigan was a rebound job. Harbaugh got forced out of the 49ers organization when they sided with their horrible GM Trent Baalke. At the same time, his alma mater was open, and it was a match made in heaven. I believe that Harbaugh wanted to be the guy to fix Michigan, but he would always end up in the NFL again. Objectively the NFL job is significantly better. You don’t have to recruit, no more texting 16-year old’s, no worrying about player grades, everyone is an adult, and you have more free time and can take a vacation.

If this is true, and I think it is, Harbaugh was destined to take the leap, and there is no better time to take that leap than after you take your team past their rival for the first time in 10 years, win the Big Ten for the first time in 18 years, and make the playoffs for the first time ever. Not to mention two of the three jobs open are quarterbacked by Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, and the third is an organization run by a friend. Maybe this is all smoke to get a bigger contract like some people believe, but I think Harbaugh is genuinely considering going back to the NFL, and if he is this is the best time to do it.

Don’t be surprised if Harbaugh is on an NFL sideline in August.