Withers will stay with the Buckeyes through the bowl season before taking over the FCS program.
"We are so thrilled to welcome Coach Withers and his family to James Madison," JMU director of athletics Jeff Bourne said. "Everett is a proven winner and has shown his ability to lead, having spent time as a head coach. The entire committee was incredibly impressed when we met with him, and I have no doubt that he will be a great leader for our football program and mentor to our student-athletes for many years to come."
Withers is the first coach to leave the staff of head coach Urban Meyer since the group came together two winters ago. Withers was hired after having served as interim head coach at North Carolina the year before.
His time in Columbus has been somewhat topsy-turvy as the Buckeyes struggled on defense the past two seasons while trying to marry schemes preferred by Luke Fickell and Withers. The OSU safeties were also hurt this season when leader and three-year starter Christian Bryant suffered a broken ankle in game five of the campaign.
The Dukes made the FCS playoffs in 2011 but finished 7-4 and 6-6 the past two seasons, leading to the departure of head coach Mickey Matthews.
Where Meyer goes from here will be interesting for a couple of reasons. The coach initially put together a strong staff at Florida, as well, highlighted by current FBS coaches Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong, but that group eventually split apart, somewhat leading to the health issues Meyer fought near the end of his tenure with the Gators.
"He was able to delegate early at Florida," Meyer's wife, Shelley, said the day of his hiring. "He had a great staff that he could do that with, and just some things happened and he just took on too much on his own.
"You lose some of your great coaches that went and became head coaches themselves. You know, when your core staff, that great staff, started to pull apart, then you don't have the trust with maybe some new guys that you have to hire. It was just a whole lot of things."
That likely won't be a problem at OSU, though, as Meyer was able to put together a staff of "aligned" coaches, as he likes to say, despite having not worked with many of them before. Keeping that alignment in place will likely be a key part of finding a replacement with Withers.
Whoever the Buckeyes hire will also likely show the direction of the defense going forward, as the team has struggled at times coming up with a defensive identity given the different schematic philosophies of Meyer, Withers and Fickell.
In addition, Withers was one of the team's top recruiters in the South, and he was instrumental in the recruitments of prospects like Vonn Bell and Raekwon McMillan in Georgia.