COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If he couldn't get the guy behind the instructional videos, Urban Meyer might have bought them anyway for the next assistant coach he hired.
Instead, the Ohio State coach will get both the brains behind the three-part series, "Aggressive 4-3 Defense" and maybe a few free copies to pass around at the office as well.
The title of the videos alone certainly would have piqued Meyer's interest in Chris Ash as a candidate to be co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, particularly because there has seemed to be a disconnect at times in the last two seasons between what he envisions from his defense and what he's seen on the field. And it's probably not a coincidence that those instructional videos were mentioned in the release on Thursday that finally confirmed Ash's hiring away from Arkansas, where he served for a year as the defensive coordinator after following Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin.
There was plenty more for Meyer to like in Ash, from his previous success in the Big Ten to the recommendations about his recruiting skills and a likely first-hand account of his coaching style from Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, as Herman and Ash worked together at Iowa State. The news release made no mention of whether Ash will inherit the defensive play-calling duties from Luke Fickell when he arrives, and in terms of title, the co-defensive coordinator/safeties role is identical to the one Everett Withers held before leaving to take over at James Madison.
But it seems logical to bet that a shared philosophy with Meyer might give Ash an edge to become the voice of the unit as the staff collectively tries to repair an enormously flawed passing defense heading into the 2014 season.
“To me, to be successful, I think you have to be detailed,” Ash said in a school release. “You have to be able to coach and teach the fundamentals of the game, and that’s how you develop players. You have to have a consistency with how you prepare yourself so you can prepare them and then get them to play hard.”
Effort never seemed like much of an issue for the Buckeyes last season, and despite not having ideal depth -- and then dealing with key injuries on top of that -- there should have been enough talent on hand to avoid finishing No. 110 in the country in passing yardage allowed. Whether Ash is making the calls or not, his first priority will be fixing that glaring concern for the Buckeyes, who had their hopes of winning the Big Ten, competing for the national championship and then a BCS bowl victory spoiled by giving up big passing performances down the stretch.
The Buckeyes lose safety C.J. Barnett, star cornerback Bradley Roby and, assuming any additional appeals for a redshirt don't come through, safety Christian Bryant. Even without that trio, Ash will still have plenty to work with in the secondary. The Buckeyes arguably have recruited better than any program in the country in the defensive backfield over the last two seasons. They return undervalued cornerback Doran Grant and nickelback Tyvis Powell and also have a potential star in rising sophomore Vonn Bell heading into spring practice.
The Buckeyes have seen before that it takes more than just a collection of individual talent to shut down a passing game, of course. But there's an instructional manual with some tips on the market, and the guy who put it together is officially coming to town to offer his expertise on how to implement it.