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Ohio State: How Alex Grinch departure impacts Buckeyes, defensive future

Alex Grinch-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is heading to Oklahoma, according to Bruce Feldman. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Ohio State: How Alex Grinch departure impacts Buckeyes, defensive future

COLUMBUS — The Alex Grinch Experiment at Ohio State was short lived.

According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Grinch is heading to Oklahoma and the shakeup of the defensive coaching staff has begun for the Buckeyes.

Ideally, the Buckeyes would have preferred more time for Grinch’s system to take hold and allowed for the safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator to put his imprint on the program, because he’s clearly still viewed as a rising star in the profession. But whether it was frustration on his part after not having as much influence as anticipated alongside Greg Schiano, new Ohio State coach Ryan Day wanting to clean house on that side of the ball or even some combination of both, dramatic changes are coming.

That’s a major development, because a year ago Grinch appeared to be the future for the Buckeyes with his aggressive, attacking style of defense. Now he’s off to Oklahoma following one of the worst statistical seasons in program history, and Ohio State could be looking at multiple openings on Day’s first staff as he evaluates the roles of Schiano, linebackers coach Billy Davis and cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson.

Ohio State isn’t used to having assistants make lateral moves to leave, and that could sting a bit even though Day still has a tremendous amount to sell to any defensive coach on the market. The chance to work with a loaded roster, potentially become the primary coordinator and staying close to home for Grinch was thought to be enough to keep him around moving forward, but only he truly knows what he wants to do with his career.

Greg Schiano-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State will be evaluating defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s future as well. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

If Ohio State wasn’t a fit for Grinch, then, the program is better off finding that out now as Day begins shaping the staff in his image. And the first place he’s likely to look is with a former linebacker for the Buckeyes who has made a huge impression with Cincinnati working on Luke Fickell’s staff.

Marcus Freeman will almost surely be one of the first calls made by Day and a potential home-run hire if he can be pried away from his mentor. Given his ties to the Buckeyes and a roster loaded up to compete for a national championship, there figures to be a strong pull for Freeman if that’s the road Day chooses to pursue.

That would then potentially open up some ties to another assistant coach who is thought to be in the mix as a target for the Buckeyes depending on what shakes out, since Freeman has previously worked with Michigan linebackers coach Al Washington.

If the Grinch departure is followed by those additions, the Buckeyes could look back on the transaction as a positive since both Freeman and Washington are considered dynamic recruiters as well as studs on the sideline.

This wasn’t the ending anybody would have expected after landing Grinch a year ago, and it’s a significant shakeup. But a fresh start for the Silver Bullets after so many struggles in Grinch’s only year on campus might be just what they need.

Stay tuned to Lettermen Row for continued coverage of the changes on the coaching staff and potential NFL departures by the Buckeyes.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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