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Ohio State: Major defensive staff shakeup has arrived for Buckeyes

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Greg Schiano's tenure with Ohio State appears to be over. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Ohio State: Major defensive staff shakeup has arrived for Buckeyes

COLUMBUS — Change was inevitable for Ohio State on the defensive staff.

Now it’s here.

At the end of his first week in charge, Ryan Day is now rebuilding his first group of assistant coaches with a dramatic overhaul that started by parting ways with some holdovers. The Buckeyes didn’t provide specific details in announcing the arrival of new co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison from Michigan and former San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach about the rest of the previous staff, but they were conspicuous in their absence.

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson was given an additional title as the associate head coach, and the legendary assistant was the only other person named as an official member of Day’s first defensive staff — appearing to confirm the departures of coordinator Greg Schiano, linebackers coach Bill Davis and cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson.

“I love the idea of having two coordinators on defense,” Day said in a school release. “I like having a diversity of opinion, but even more I like the expertise and experience that Jeff has in the secondary coupled with the expertise that Greg brings to the front seven.

“Larry’s experience at Ohio State will allow him to have a major role in the guidance and direction of the program. His promotion to associate head coach is well earned. Larry is a wonderful teacher and mentor, and his players always become a part of his family. I am thrilled that he will continue to be a part of this program.”

Johnson was always expected to be sticking around for Ohio State. And honestly, the departures aren’t likely to come as significant surprises for the Buckeyes, who struggled mightily in Schiano’s third season with the program.

Sources had indicated to Lettermen Row that he was being given the green light to continue looking for a new job this offseason, with options in the NFL again presenting themselves as Schiano kept popping up as a name for a head-coaching job in college. And Davis had proven to be a terrible fit for Ohio State right off the bat, with his unit of linebackers having breakdowns in every loss the program suffered during his two seasons as an assistant.

Ohio State-Billy Davis-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Ohio State linebackers coach Billy Davis struggled during his two seasons with the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Hafley wasn’t a name that was widely known or on the radar, but he has previous experience working with Day in San Francisco and spent 11 seasons working in the college ranks, most recently at Rutgers.

“Jeff is a rising star and highly regarded as one of the best secondary coaches in the country,” Day said. “His NFL knowledge coaching the secondary is only going to enhance and improve what has become a marquee area for the Buckeyes.”

He’ll partner with Mattison, who is changing sides in the most heated rivalry in college football after spending his last eight seasons with Michigan as a defensive coordinator initially and then a defensive line coach. His positional responsibility with the Buckeyes has not yet been determined.

“Greg is a terrific coach,” Day said. “His experience as a coordinator and his knowledge of the Big Ten is extremely important to me.

“These are two outstanding coaches and they will provide stability, wisdom and a fundamental approach to everything they teach. They will add to our culture while proving to be excellent coaches and mentors for the young men in our program.”

Stick with Lettermen Row as this developing story continues to play out for the Buckeyes.

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rshackelford0917
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rshackelford0917

If Davis is gone then it’s a good day for OSU regardless of any other news.

Kid Buckeye
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Kid Buckeye

Got to get rid of Johnson. Grinch , Davis and Schiano.
Looks like we got 2 replaced and a third possible with the 4th almost.
WTG Coach Day.

Meatchicken Sux
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Meatchicken Sux

I hope when you say Johnson, you are referring to Taver, not Larry

Meatchicken Sux
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Meatchicken Sux

Hopefully the new linebackers coach will get the clue quickly that Tuf Borland is too slow to play linebacker, and Pete Werner is too weak, small, and cannot cover anyone in pass protection…THIS IS GREAT NEWS~!!!!!!!!! YEEEEE-HAWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!! GO BUCKS!!!

Nick
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Nick

A baby could coach defensive better than the last staff.

Meatchicken Sux
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Meatchicken Sux

Buhbye Schiano

Brunstar
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Brunstar

Not sure what to think about Mattison yet. He was good at UF but not so much at TTUN. Hopefully Washington comes to Ohio State as the LB coach and DL coach in waiting.

WorldWideScoop
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WorldWideScoop

He was great at UM. They had a top 20 total defense six of the eight years he was on staff (top five the last four years with him as DL coach).

Ace
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Ace

Getting Greg Mattison as DL coach might have helped to get Zach Harrison. I think Harrison might have known before the rest of us. Recruiting came down to ttun and us. Just my opinion.

Capt Curt
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Capt Curt

There is no way in Hades that Greg Mattison will supplant Larry Johnson. Zach Harrison came right out and said Johnson is the best DL coach in the country and is the main reason he came to OSU

710
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710

Anyone else a little underwhelmed by these hires? I get addition by subtraction but these guys don’t move the needle for me. I had heard Hafley bc of his unemployed status and relationship with Day. Replace Taver with him as DB coach? Sure. Call him Co-DC? You’d think if he was a rising star someone would have employed him the last 2 years. Mattison? I mean. I guess. It’s just hard not to see his age (69) and demotion at TTUN and get fired up over his hiring. It feels like a minor upgrade over Schiano, maybe. I’m not sad… Read more »

Meatchicken Sux
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Meatchicken Sux

You need to do a little more research on Hafley to realize that he is an upcoming star. Hafley has never been “unemployed”. He improved every secondary that he took over in his stints in the NFL, and the only reason he kept getting shuffled around were two-fold, for he was a victim of coaching overhauls in Cleveland and Tampa bay and were not a result of his performance, but rather the head coaching staffs of said teams. The second reason is he is a highly coveted coach and was immediately hired in same capacities by other NFL coaching staffs.… Read more »

710
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710

Hey, thats a fair criticism I don’t know much about him.

I thought he only coached SF in 2016 and not through this season. Regardless my ignorance shouldn’t cloud my opinion of him.

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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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