In a way, what Ohio State football is going through right now is similar to what the Buckeyes were dealing with 10 years ago. Urban Meyer closed out the 2013 season on a two-game losing streak, losing to Michigan State before falling to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The former Ohio State head coach responded by making a number of changes to the coaching staff, bringing in Chris Ash as co-defensive coordinator and Larry Johnson as defensive line coach. Shaking things up with a few changes on the coaching staff helped the Buckeyes win the national title the following season in the first year of the College Football Playoff.
Following their third straight loss to Michigan this year, as well as an embarrassing showing in the Cotton Bowl in a loss to Missouri, current Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was forced to take a long look at his coaching staff. Day responded by firing special teams coordinator Parker Fleming and not retaining safeties coach Perry Eliano. Not only did Day replace Eliano with former Ohio State defensive senior advisor and analyst Matt Guerrieri, Day also lightened his load a bit by bringing in Bill O’Brien as the team’s offensive coordinator. O’Brien will also serve as quarterback coach, with Corey Dennis expected to take on another role with the program.
As of the time of posting, there is still one open spot on Ohio State’s coaching staff. Today we want to know who you want to see filling the opening. Even though the openings on the coaching staff are limited, the names the Buckeyes are likely considering could carry some weight. Would you prefer Day to cut ties with legendary defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who is near the end of his coaching career? Or maybe you want to remember what it feels like to have a competent special teams coordinator. Then there is the linebackers coach position, which is currently held by defensive coordinator Jim Knowles but could easily be given to someone else if it benefitted the program.
Today’s question: Who should be the final addition to Ohio State football’s coaching staff?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: James Laurinaitis as linebackers coach
Obviously, this option would be most popular with Buckeye fans. Two years ago Laurinaitis joined Marcus Freeman’s staff at Notre Dame as a graduate assistant. Last season the “Li’l Animal” was lured back to Columbus by Day to serve in a similar position with the program. To the surprise of nobody, Laurinaitis has been killing it in his short time with Ohio State, and it feels like he’ll have a permanent position on the Buckeye coaching staff sooner rather than later. What remains to be seen is if Day thinks it would be more beneficial to keep Laurinaitis as a GA for another season so he could fill the last open spot on the coaching staff in another area.
For me, hiring Laurinaitis would essentially be like bringing in the defensive version of Brian Hartline. Much like Hartline, the former Ohio State linebacker has been doing strong work on the recruiting trail. Plus, since Knowles also holds the title of defensive coordinator, hiring Laurinaitis could take some of the responsibilities off Knowles' plate but also still have an experienced former linebackers coach around to support Laurinaitis as he steps into the role and becomes comfortable with his first true position on a coaching staff. There’s no question Laurinaitis has the intelligence and desire to succeed as a coach, but it often takes some time for coaches to find the techniques they are most comfortable with.
I really wanted my answer to be Bill Belichick as special teams coordinator since it doesn’t look like the former New England Patriots head coach won’t be coaching in the NFL in the upcoming season. Who knows, maybe Ryan Day can be the next landing spot for fired head coaches since Nick Saban recently retired! Since there is a better shot at winning the lottery than Belichick coaching for the Buckeyes in 2024, Laurinaitis is the next best option. Within five years it feels like Laurinaitis will be a defensive coordinator, so what better way for Day to show the former Buckeye how much he values him than by giving him a spot on the Ohio State staff, setting him up to take over for Knowles down the road.
Matt’s answer: Jason Taylor as Co-Defensive Line Coach
I love Larry Johnson, you love Larry Johnson, recruits love Larry Johnson, but Larry Johnson is 72 years old, and his age — which has been a point of contention for years — will only increasingly be a focus of negative recruiting the older he gets. Now, I am not here to say that LJ needs to be kicked to the curb. As the best defensive line coach and recruiter in the country, he has earned the right to retire whenever he thinks that it is time, but that doesn’t mean that Ryan Day and the Ohio State staff shouldn’t have a succession plan in place.
After the Cotton Bowl, I laid out a number of moves that I thought were imperative for Day to get the football program back on its path to being the best team in the Big Ten and competing for national championships. Fortunately, Day has taken head and followed through on many of them (you’re welcome Buckeye Nation), but one that is still in the air is bringing in Ohio State’s next defensive line coach. At the time, I said that I wasn’t worried about what position they occupied for the 2024 season, just that they would take over after Larry left, which in my proposed scenario would be at the conclusion of the upcoming campaign.
While the specifics of the succession plan can be figured out later, I think that OSU needs to find a talented, dynamic, and experienced defensive line coach to continue the Rushmen legacy. I am putting Jason Taylor as my “official” pick, just because his name has been floated, but given the fact that people have been talking about him as a possibility for weeks and nothing has happened, I’m assuming that the NFL Hall of Famer doesn’t plan to leave Miami and come back to the state where he played his college football.
However, given the fact that he is originally from Pittsburgh, went to school in Akron, and coached at St. Thomas Aquinas High School — which has many Ohio State connections — I think he would be an excellent fit to follow in LJ’s footsteps.
But, if Taylor isn’t the answer, then why else could Day be waiting to make an announcement? Perhaps, his pick is still coaching in the NFL Playoffs and he is waiting until after the Super Bowl to make it official. Now, I don’t think this is likely at this point, but it would explain the delay.
Here are some options that I came up with of options gearing up for the Super Bowl:
- Darryl Tapp: San Francisco 49ers Assistant Defensive Line Coach. Played in the NFL for 12 seasons. Originally from Virginia. Coached three years in college football before joining the Niners in 2021.
- Cameron Brown (no, not that Cameron Brown): San Francisco 49ers Defensive Quality Control Coach. Originally from Westlake, Ohio. Served as the assistant defensive line coach and outside linebackers coach at Case Western Reserve University before joining San Fran’s staff this season.
- Alex Whittingham: Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Quality Control Coach. The son of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. Two-time Super Bowl champion. Served one season as the Chiefs’ assistant defensive line coach, has been in current role for five seasons.
Now, none of these have the cache or sexiness of a Jason Taylor, but they do all bring NFL cred and could see coming to Columbus as a big career move.
Of course, if we are talking about defensive line coaches with NFL experience who would almost certainly enjoy being in Columbus, we have to discuss recently unemployed Mike Vrabel. The former Ohio State All-American and assistant coach had a successful run as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, but is now out of work. While it would be a coup to bring him in as a co-position coach, I have a feeling he has other things on his mind.
Since it doesn’t look like he will be taking any of the open NFL head coaching jobs this offseason, I would not be surprised if Vrabes sits out this season and waits to see what happens with Ryan Day. If the improvement that we all anticipate following an incredible month of moves doesn’t come to fruition and OSU’s new president and AD decide to move on after the 2024 season, Vrabel would be available to step in right away, no buyout needed.
Now, if we’re throwing out extremely unlikely options, I might as well go on the record staining for Cameron Heyward. Yes, I know that he is still an active NFL player and was a Pro Bowler just last year, but hear me out.
Cam was injured in Week 1 of this past season and ended up missing a total of six games. He only accumulated 33 tackles in 11 games, his lowest total since 2017 when he had 21 in seven games. If, after 13 seasons in the NFL, six Pro Bowls, three All-Pro selections, and six Walter Payton Man of the Year nominations, Cam decides to hang it up, Day needs to be the first person hitting him up.
Not only does he have an incredible NFL pedigree, but he is known as one of the best human beings in the game. I don’t know if Heyward wants to coach, but if he does, he would be an incredible college coach and leader of young men.