Dienhart: My 4 biggest assistant coach hires in East Division
When Chris Ash arrived to help run the Ohio State defense as co-coordinator in 2014, he had an immediate impact—especially on the pass defense.
Ash took over a defense that placed 112th in pass defense and 47th in total defense in 2013. In his first season, OSU’s defense ranked 19th nationally in total defense and 29th in pass defense. The Buckeyes also ranked fourth in the country with 24 interceptions en route to Big Ten, Sugar Bowl and national championships.
In 2015, the Ohio State defense continued its strides under Ash, ranking second in scoring defense nationally and ninth-best in total defense. The Buckeyes earned a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, finishing the season with a 12-1 record after defeating Notre Dame in the bowl game.
Now, Ash is gone, off to coach Rutgers. Urban Meyer’s counter move was to hire Greg Schiano, one of the boldest assistant coaching hires in the nation in the offseason.
Here is a look at the four biggest assistant hires in the East among schools that did not have a head coaching change.
1. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Urban Meyer made one of the biggest splashes nationally, tabbing Greg Schiano as associate head coach/defensive coordinator after co-DC Chris Ash left to coach Rutgers. Schiano will work with Luke Fickell, bringing a monster resume to Columbus that includes 11 years as head coach at Rutgers and two with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. When D.J. Durkin left to become head coach at Maryland, Jim Harbaugh turned to Don Brown to be his defensive coordinator. Brown spent the past three seasons coordinating the defense at Boston College. His 2015 defense led the nation in eight defensive categories – total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense, red zone defense, first down defense, third down defense, fourth down defense and tackles for loss – and lists second in pass defense and pass efficiency defense.
3. Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. There was a big shakeup in State College, Pennsylvania. In a move that wasn’t a shock, James Franklin fired offensive coordinator John Donovan. Franklin turned to Joe Moorhead, who was head coach at Fordham and has deep ties in the East. Fordham ranked 19th in the FCS in offense and ninth in scoring in 2015, reaching the playoffs for a third straight season before losing to Chattanooga in the first round. The Nittany Lions ranked 106th in the FBS in total and rushing offense and 126th on third downs. In a move that was a shock, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop left for the same gig at Tennessee. He is one of the best in the nation. Franklin responded by quickly promoting co-DC/linebackers coach Brent Pry to take over the defense. Franklin also tabbed former Minnesota OC and o-line coach Matt Limegrover to run the line after Herb Hand left for Auburn.
4. Indiana DC Tom Allen. The offense loses some key players but should be OK with Kevin Wilson’s steady hand guiding things. The defense? It remains an albatross around the neck of the program, ranking last overall (509.5 ypg) and last in scoring (37.6 ppg) in 2015. That is why Wilson changed coordinators. Brian Knorr is out after two seasons; Allen is in, the third coordinator under Wilson, who originally had Doug Mallory running his defense. Allen was the DC at South Florida. He has been a hot name in coaching searches this offseason. Allen implemented a 4-2-5 defense at South Florida and is looking to bolster this often moribund unit. Another key hire: D-line coach Mark Hagen. A former All-Big Ten linebacker and assistant at Indiana, Hagen is back home again. And, he has a big job rehabbing a d-line that too often gets run over. To wit: The Hoosiers were No. 13 in the Big Ten vs. the run last season (195.7 ypg).