Ohio State’s coaching staff will be very different in 2022 than it was last year.
The Buckeyes had a few issues that surfaced early in the season. After some adjustments during the season, Ryan Day found himself outside the conference championship game for the first time since joining the Ohio State coaching staff. The Buckeyes were also left out of the college football playoffs for the first time since Day’s tenure as head coach.
Ohio State ranked 69th in yards given up per game in 2020, the first year Kerry Combes took over as defensive coordinator. The Buckeyes nevertheless made it to the national championship, where Daventa Smith broke the national championship receiving record and came within six yards of the receiving yards record. Not only did he play record football, but he did everything in the first half as he missed the second through injury.
Ohio State got another wake-up call against Oregon when the Ducks rushed for 269 yards in their upset at Columbus. This prompted Day to promote Matt Barnes from coaching defensive backs to defensive caller, but that still didn’t help. Michigan rushed for nearly 300 yards on the Buckeyes, driving the nail into the coffin of several defensive coaches.
While C.J. Stroud had a Heisman-caliber season, the offense had holes in it too. The Buckeyes offensive line was 15th in the nation in sacks dropped, as opponents found pressure to be a good antidote to Stroud’s dynamic arm. Tre Veyon Henderson had a historic season for a true freshman at Columbus, but his production dropped sharply as the seasons ended. Henderson averaged 8.8 yards per carry in the first seven games of his career, but had just 5.4 in the last six. He also had 11 rushing touchdowns in the first half of the season, including just four in the last half dozen games.
2022 Ohio State Coaching Staff Changes
Out: Kerry Coombs, defensive coordinator
Coombs was in his second stint at Columbus after coaching cornerbacks from 2012 to 2017. He spent two years coaching defensive backs for the Tennessee Titans under Mike Vrabel before heading back to Ohio State to call the plays on defense.
While his first stint with Ohio State was outstanding, bringing in and developing talent like Bradley Roby, Marshon Lattimoreand Neighborhood Denzel. Coombs had five cornerbacks drafted in the first round while with the Buckeyes.
However, his second stint will not be remembered so fondly. His game planning alone in the 2020 National Championship could have caused him to be demoted. But his job description change didn’t happen until two games later, after his unit gave up 471 rushing yards to Minnesota and Oregon.
Coombs was fired this winter but landed in Cincinnati. Ironically, it replaces Perry Eliano as the Bearcats defensive backs coach after Eliano joined the Ohio State coaching staff.
Departure: Matt Barnes, secondary coach
When Day took the call play from Coombs, he gave the job to the secondary coach Matt Barnes. Things have improved a bit, but not by much. The last two games of the season, Michigan and the Rose Bowl against Utah weren’t games Barnes would highlight on his resume.
It appears that Barnes was not fired, but left voluntarily to become Memphis’ defensive coordinator. Ohio State had just hired Jim Knowlesso the playcalling would not have returned to him had he stayed.
Out: Al Washington, Linebackers
This one was a surprise, but Al Washington came out in the state of Ohio.
The linebacking group has had a few gems over the years, but also a few duds. In 2022, the Buckeyes lost three linebackers to the transfer gate, including one who dropped out at halftime in the Akron game. Things got so bad at linebacker that tight Cade shorts played important shots there during the Rose Bowl.
Washington will train the defensive line under Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame.
Out: Greg Studwara, offensive line
Greg Studwara, or “Coach Stud”, lost his job seemingly out of the blue. Although in hindsight, his unit had seen a steady decline.
Many award-winning offensive linemen have played for Studwara, such as Pat Elflein, Billy Priceand Wyatt Davis. But as mentioned, the racing game has declined in 2021 and pass protection has become an issue.
In: Jim Knowles, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach
Knowles’ defense led Oklahoma State to its first Big 12 Championship Game appearance in school history.
The Cowboys ranked fifth in most yards given up per game and ninth in most points given up. Both of these rankings have easily surpassed the Buckeyes in 2021.
With better recruits, Knowles’ system should bring Ohio State football back to the high standards it holds.
In: Perry Eliano, Safety Coach
Eliano coached the best unit on the Bearcats team that made it to the college football playoffs. Cornerbacks Ahmed Gardner and Coby Bryant led Cincinnati to a historic season under their position coach.
While he did a great job coaching cornerbacks in Cincinnati, Eliano will coach safeties with the Buckeyes. With Josh Proctor returning from a season-ending injury and Sonny Styles Entering as one of the top rookies in the 2022 class, Ohio State needed a strong safety coach.
In: Tim Walton, cornerbacks coach
Ohio State has a long history of good cornerbacks, including Tim Waltonwho played for the Buckeyes under John Cooper. He has coached defensive backs in college and in the NFL for the past 20 years.
The Buckeyes bring Walton back as a coach, moving him away from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Walton has coached Pro Bowlers like Janoris Jenkins and Jalen Ramsey in the NFL. Now, he’s shaping young talent as a member of the Ohio State coaching staff.
In: Justin Frye, Offensive Line Coach/Running Game Coordinator
The Buckeyes ran an unbalanced offense in 2021, due to the fact that passing was infinitely more productive than running. Day wants to change that with Justin Frie out of UCLA.
Frye trained under Urban Meyer in Florida early in his career, before joining Temple’s coaching staff. Day joined the Owls a year later as offensive coordinator, and the two coached until Day took a job under Kelly Chip with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Frye ended up coaching under Kelly in Los Angeles, but is now reuniting with Day in Columbus.
Promotion: Brian Hartline, wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator
Brian Hartline gets the Passing Game Coordinator title added to his job title.
Hartline has coached receivers at Ohio State since 2018 and has been one of the top assistant coaches in the nation. He continues to harvest talent at wide receiver and produce the best production on the field.
It’s common for wide receiver coaches to be the passing game coordinator for teams, but Hartline owed a promotion anyway. The added motivation for giving him this job was to keep it. The Buckeyes may want to keep offering him promotions before someone else does.