COLUMBUS — Ohio State football coach Ryan Day announced two coaching changes Wednesday for the Buckeyes’ defense, an area which struggled at times in 2020, but the adjustments were about promotions, not demotions.
To fill the vacancy left when Greg Mattison retired recently as co-defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes has been elevated to secondary coach and quality control coach Parker Fleming will take over as special teams coordinator.
These changes mean that Kerry Coombs will be OSU’s only defensive coordinator in 2021.
“Promoting from within is something I believe strongly in,” Day said on a Zoom call.
Coombs, a long time defensive backs coach at Ohio State and in the NFL, will still keep a role in coaching that position, Day said. Coombs’ job title also included secondary coach in 2020.
“He’s still going to have as much influence as he did last year. It’s just a different role. I think Kerry understands he’s not the secondary coach, he’s the defensive coordinator. I think this is going to allow him to take a little bit of a step back and take a little bit of a wider approach on this thing and get with the linebackers, get with the guys up front.
“He’s still going to take some of the corners, some of the nickels and work with them but it will be a little bit of a different role and I think that’s going to really help this year,” he said.
Ohio State ranked No. 122 nationally in passing yards allowed at 304 yards per game last season. Obviously, that is something which will get a lot of attention going forward.
“I thought this (promoting from within) did two things. First, it kept continuity. But, two, it put a little bit more attention on the back end. Coming off that last game, coming off this season, I think that’s something we had to do,” Day said.
“There’s plenty of ideas there. It’s just a matter of how do we implement it and how do we do a better job of coaching. We know the different schemes, we know the different coverages, these guys are really sharp. But how do you implement those the right way and how do you pick the right ones? I think Matt Barnes will do this job better than anyone else in the country. If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t do it.”
Ohio State returned to individual workouts on Monday. Day said OSU is thinking about a mid-March start for spring practice.
“We’re kind of projecting out now, it’s kind of a soft schedule. But we’re hoping we can play the spring game possibly that April 17 weekend and probably start (practice) the middle of March and probably have four weeks of spring ball. That’s not set in stone right now but that’s what we’re targeting,” he said.
“We’re planning on having a somewhat normal spring and having six weeks of a lead up in the facility and then having a normal spring practice. The thing that isn’t different is we’re still under (COVID-19) protocols. We can’t have a lot of group things together and we have to make sure we’re still following all those things. We’re still being tested and all that. But we’re hoping we can all be together and aren’t broken up like we were last year.”
Ohio State did not add any recruits on Wednesday, which was national signing day, to the 21 who signed national letters of intent during the early signing period in December. Fifteen of those recruits have already enrolled at Ohio State.
OSU’s recruiting 2021 recruiting class is ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 2 nationally behind Alabama.