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Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley appears to be a coach on the rise. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Ohio State: Retooled staff for Buckeyes loaded with future head coaches

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics on Ryan Day and the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the coaching staff? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The jump from assistant to head coach is sizable and challenging to make for a number of reasons. The situation has to be just right for both parties, there are only a limited number of those positions available — and for Ohio State coordinators and position coaches, sometimes the salary is going to be comparable or better just staying put.

But for those guys who want to run their own show at some point, the Buckeyes have also become a respected proving ground for future head coaches. And this staff that Ryan Day has put together is loaded with rising stars in the profession who will annually be listed as candidates for open positions and getting interviews for top jobs. It also doesn’t hurt at all that Tom Herman is bringing Texas back and Luke Fickell has quickly rebuilt Cincinnati into one of the toughest Group of Five squads in the country, which only helps when athletic directors are looking at other resumés that have an Ohio State entry.

So, who will be adding their name to that expanding coaching tree? And how long will the Buckeyes be able to keep this group together?

The first part is easier to identify, of course. Given the recent trend in pursuing offensive-minded coaches that Ohio State itself was a part of in promoting Day, new passing game coordinator Mike Yurcich and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson are obvious candidates.

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Ohio State passing game coordinator Mike Yurcich has a bright future. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Yurcich has been deliberate with the choices he’s made throughout his career, and it’s no secret that he felt joining forces with the Buckeyes could potentially be the springboard that propelled him into a head coaching job. And while Wilson has yet to gain traction since parting ways with Indiana due to allegations of player mistreatment that never produced any charges against him, the work he did turning that program into a competitive Big Ten squad capable of getting to bowl games was remarkable. At some point, Wilson deserves another shot.

Down the road, it’s now possible to start envisioning wide receivers coach Brian Hartline working his way up the ladder and potentially becoming a head coach if that’s what he wants to do. And running backs coach Tony Alford has already been quietly coming up as a candidate for some jobs around the MAC level, and if his alma mater has an opening soon, expect him to be in the mix at Colorado State.

The defensive side of the staff is a bit more complicated to predict, and not just because of the focus on offense in college football right now. New co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley certainly was impressive in his debut press conference, and his arrival is reminiscent of when Day showed up at Ohio State as a relative unknown who instantly proved why he was so coveted on the market. But from there, the rest of that group probably either needs a few more years of seasoning with a guy like Al Washington or happy with the roles they have with the Buckeyes — with Larry Johnson and Greg Mattison both falling in that category.

It’s no certainty with anybody on the staff that the right opportunity will come along. And in some cases, it’s probably premature to even speculate on it before those guys have even coached a single snap in spring practice.

But Ryan Day appears to have put together a staff loaded with potential — and he’ll at least have them all around for this season, which is the only thing that really matters right now.

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