Ash preaches 'staff philosophy' on defense

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The job responsibilities are mostly easy to identify for the newest and final addition to the Ohio State coaching staff.

A tattered pass defense is in need of renovation, and Chris Ash has a track record that suggests he is the right guy to lead it. An influx of aggression is required, and there are literally instructional videos with his name on them on how best to bring it defensively. Anybody working for Urban Meyer had better know how to recruit, and the recommendations were glowing in that area as well.

But there is one part of the gig that remains a bit fuzzy, and Ash did his part to keep it that way shortly after his hiring was finally and officially announced by the Buckeyes on Thursday.

If Ash is the new play-caller for the Ohio State defense, he didn’t have any desire to come out and confirm it. And if that role does belong to him, Ash made clear it’s not one he will be handling alone, anyway.

“We’ve had those discussions, but I’m not here to take anybody’s job; I’m not here to try to get credit for the things that we will do in the future,” Ash said by phone on Thursday night. “I’m here to help make a difference, and I don’t need anything to make me come here other than the fact that I wanted to learn and grow and be a part of Ohio State. That’s it.

“As we move forward as a defensive staff, it’s going to be a staff defense, it’s going to be a staff philosophy. We’re going to do everything as a staff and everyone is going to have ownership. That’s what I believe in. I know that’s what Luke Fickell believes in, and that’s the direction we’re going to go.”

That teamwork, collaborative spirit and an ability to get everybody on the same page is certainly important, and there’s little doubt that making sure there’s input from the staff has value. But somebody has to make the final call on game day, and the Buckeyes have something of a delicate situation on their hands right now that has nothing to do with designating a pair of assistants as co-coordinators.

Ash might not be coming to campus with the intent to take any duties away from a current staff member, and in terms of his title, he’s filling the exact position that Everett Withers held before leaving to take over at James Madison. But after successfully calling the shots at major programs during previous stops at Wisconsin and Arkansas, and then being sought out by Meyer thanks to their shared philosophy, it would seem only natural that Ash would be brought in to provide a fresh perspective and a new voice to deliver the play calls.

That’s a task Fickell has been handling since Meyer arrived, and Fickell filled an even larger role before that while serving as the interim head coach in 2011 after Jim Tressel was fired. Fickell is both loyal to his alma mater and well compensated, but having what amounts to top billing on the defensive staff stripped from him in favor of a newcomer -- after already being passed over for the top job -- could be a difficult pill to swallow.

That’s obviously a decision for Meyer, one that in all likelihood was made before he approached Ash at the coaches’ convention to see if he was interested in joining the Buckeyes. And if there has been a change in the pecking order, it perhaps wasn’t Ash’s place to reveal it just hours after he was formally confirmed.

Either way, Ash had no trouble keeping his focus on the importance of the overall staff, and it’s plain to see he’s not looking to be viewed as a savior for a defense that ranked 110th in the nation in passing yardage allowed last season. But there is no question he’s a big part of the equation, one way or the other.

“I think at the end of the day, Coach Meyer has a vision for what he wants on the football field for his defense, and he wants an aggressive unit,” Ash said. “He wants a defensive back who will challenge receivers. He wants a defense that makes an offense work for everything that they can get, both in the run game and the pass game. That’s what I believe in, that’s my philosophy and that’s what I want to do; that’s what I want to bring here to Ohio State.

“Whether they were conservative or not, whatever the issues were in the past, that’s not for me to decide or comment on. I’m only concerned about what Coach Meyer’s vision is and about us as a defensive staff working together to bring that vision to life.”

That’s a job for more than one guy, and there’s at least no mystery about that.