Thamel reported Tuesday morning that Ohio State is poised to replace the departed duo with Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash and Penn State assistant Larry Johnson. Ash will join the Buckeyes as co-defensive coordinator with a focus on the secondary, while Johnson will replace Vrabel as defensive line coach.
Ash comes from Arkansas but spent 2010-2012 at Wisconsin, with the Badgers going to the Rose Bowl in all three seasons of his tenure. He began as a defensive backs coach in 2010 but served as defensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012. Arkansas finished No. 72 in the country in pass defense in 2013, yielding 235.0 yards per contest. While that number was in the bottom half of the country, it represented a drastic improvement from the 113th-ranked pass defense he inherited from the previous coaching staff. Also, Ash's 72nd-ranked pass defense was still well above the Buckeyes, who came in at No. 110, having allowed 268.0 yards per game through the air.
Johnson spent his previous 18 seasons at Penn State and was named the interim head coach when second-year coach Bill O'Brien left to take the same position with the Houston Texans. He had hoped to be a candidate for the Nittany Lions' head coaching job, but PSU hired Vanderbilt's James Franklin instead.
Johnson brings to Columbus a reputation as a ferocious recruiter, especially on the East Coast. At Penn State, he coached seven first-team All-Americans, six Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year or Defensive Lineman of the Year choices and 15 first-team All-Big Ten selections.
The announcement of the hirings comes just as the recruiting dead period is set to end, giving the Buckeyes a complete coaching staff for the final weeks leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 5.