On Jan. 13, Ohio State announced that former Buckeye wideout and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline had been chosen to succeed Kevin Wilson as its new offensive coordinator, with the added title of Overall Recruiting Badass. Okay, so perhaps that supplementary title was made up by yours truly, but if the shoe fits...
Hartline’s promotion was his second in as many years, and a well-earned one at that. He became the second former Buckeye hired as one of the team’s coordinators since 2000, joining Luke Fickell.
But Hartline is not the only former OSU player making waves as part of Ryan Day’s current staff. Cornerbacks coach Tim Walton returned to the program prior to last season, to mixed reviews thus far. And James Laurinaitis was recently hired as a graduate assistant, making him arguably the most decorated former Buckeye to land a coach/analyst position with his alma mater’s football team.
Time will tell if any or all of these moves pay off, but it’s at least a cool story in the meantime.
The addition of Laurinaitis naturally got me thinking: What if Ohio State filled its entire coaching staff with former players from the program? And why stop there? How about the support staff as well?
There was only one problem with this thought process and wanting to write about it: LGHL’s own Brett Ludwiczak had beaten me to it. A month ago. I discovered his January piece when I was already about 1,000 words into mine, and thought “Oh, sh*t, two bloggers can’t possibly write about the same, completely non-serious topic.” But I had come too far.
I guess it is entirely possible that I saw Brett’s piece last month and was subconsciously inspired. Because he puts out some great stuff and uses Ron Swanson as his Twitter avatar. So I mean, how could one not be inspired by such a clearly wise individual?
In the end, I decided to finish this piece anyway. But I want to give full credit to Brett for laying the foundation. My version is a slightly different spin on the same concept, but I would encourage you to also read Brett’s if you have not already done so.
Obviously the likelihood of an all-Buckeye staff ever happening is beyond miniscule (never say never), but I still decided to put together a small list of my perfect candidates. And we’re talking legitimate candidates, not just a collection of legendary players. Because I could tell you it would be awesome to have Archie Griffin coach running backs, but I think that window has passed, no?
Also, to avoid alienating current coaches – because I really found no reason to point fingers or call for anybody’s job – I put this list together as if the fictitious staff were being built from scratch. No current coach gets fired, nobody needs pack up and leave Columbus. Just a Buckeye fan using his imagination. Without further ado:
Quarterbacks coach — J.T. Barrett
Let’s start with the most important position on the field, and potentially the most divisive choice for my fake staff. Despite setting several Ohio State and/or Big Ten records, winning 38 games as a starter, and going 4-0 against TTUN, Joe Thomas Barrett IV does not garner proper love and admiration from Buckeye Nation. And I will die on this hill.
However, me choosing Barrett as QB coach has little to do with stats or records. More than anything, I wanted a leader, of which he was among the best and most successful. He also got the job done with his brain more so than his arm and/or legs, leaving no doubt in his ability to teach the game. Barrett was born to coach. And guess what... He does! In the NFL!
Barrett spent 2022 as an offensive assistant for the Detroit Lions, before receiving his own promotion to assistant QB coach earlier this month. I am going to go out on a limb and say that he is the sole reason for Jared Goff’s resurgence, so who better to mentor the OSU signal callers? This one seems like a no-brainer.
Running backs coach — Eddie George
You want to talk about qualified... Eddie George is one of the greatest players in Ohio State football history. He is a Heisman Trophy winner, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, a future NFL Hall of Famer, an actor, and oh yeah, a head football coach. I would say he meets the desired qualifications.
George is currently the man in charge at Tennessee State University and made a ton of money during and after his playing career, so I doubt he would come back to Columbus as a position coach. But if his love for the Buckeyes is strong enough, then who knows?
Wide receivers coach — Kenny Guiton
Kenny G was a backup QB turned folk hero during his time at OSU. He was then (sort of) employed by the band KISS. But Guiton really always seemed like a guy who was destined to coach. And in 2015 he began a career doing just that.
Interestingly enough, “Smooth Jazz” has transitioned from QB to the WR room. He is currently at Arkansas as the Razorbacks’ WR coach, but I have a feeling he would hop on a plane immediately if offered a job by his alma mater.
Offensive line coach — LeCharles Bentley
Yet another accomplished player for the Scarlet and Gray, Bentley’s NFL career was unfortunately cut short due to the Cleveland Browns being the Cleveland Browns. Well, not the team per se, but their medical advisors. Remember kids: Nothing good ever happens to the Brownies.
But Bentley has remained very active in the football universe and was hired by the NFL as their senior advisor of player performance and development in 2021. His time as both a player and a talent developer would serve him well coaching Buckeye linemen.
Offensive coordinator — Brian Hartline
Defense/Strength & Conditioning:
Defensive line coach — Vernon Gholston
Wild card alert! Thus far, all candidates for the Ohio State dream staff have been at least somewhat realistic. Probably not the case here. Gholston’s NFL career was underwhelming, to say the least. And his lasting football legacy is primarily (and unfairly) that of a draft bust. But you know what Gholston could do in college? Get after the quarterback. You know what the Buckeyes have struggled to do in recent years? Get after the quarterback.
One place in which Gholston should always be cheered is The Shoe. In Columbus, Ohio, where he was one of the most prolific sack artists in OSU history. I have no idea if the No. 6 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft has any interest in coaching, but I would be willing to give him a call. And if he has maintained anything resembling his playing shape, I might even pivot to offering him a strength and conditioning role.
Strength and conditioning coach — Anthony Schlegel
Speaking of strength and conditioning: I have one more wild card, and I might as well reveal it now. Schlegel actually was a member of Ohio State’s S&C staff from 2011-2015. He clotheslined a total stranger who dared to rush the field. He then founded his own S&C equipment company.
And if you have ever listened to him on local (OH) sports radio, you know that he might be out of his mind — in the best way imaginable. Welcome back, Schlegs!
Linebackers coach — James Laurinaitis
Well, this was an easy decision.
Defensive backs coach — Richard McNutt
While he may not have the highest profile among former Buckeyes turned coaches, McNutt is one the most experienced (coaches). A member of the 2002 national championship team, he spent 2003 as a student assistant under Jim Tressel while injured. He then got into coaching full-time and has since spent most of his time at the college level, although he did endure one season with the Cleveland Browns.
McNutt would bring familiarity and cohesion to this hypothetical staff, as he currently works under George at Tennessee State. With nearly two decades of experience under his belt and a clear Scarlet and Gray connection, I would not be surprised if McNutt actually does return to the program in the future. This piece will serve as my Simpsons episode if such a move ever comes to fruition.
Defensive coordinator — Luke Fickell
Let’s face it: We are getting further and further away from reality here, so I will not go too in-depth. Fickell just misses out on the Ohio State head coaching gig in this dream scenario, but returns to Columbus as second-in-command to his BFF...
Head coach — Mike Vrabel
The current coaching alpha among former OSU players, Vrabel could have just about any job he wants. So I ask: What better job than head coach of THE Ohio State Buckeyes? Trick question because there isn’t one.
At the same time, we all know (or can assume) the baggage that comes with being head coach at Ohio State. The expectations, the truly fanatical fans, recruiting, kissing babies and shaking hands... It’s not for everybody. And Vrabel already has a job. In the NFL. At which he excels. So he may never look back, and I don’t think you or I could blame him.
But wouldn’t it be cool? Vrabel stalking the sidelines, surrounded by nothing but Buckeyes? No offense whatsoever to the current staff – especially Ryan Day, whose fan club I am a charter member of – but you could easily sign me up for at least a year (or a decade, damn the results) of this.
A guy can dream, I guess. Go Bucks!