Rising From The Ash

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has revitalized the Buckeyes' pass defense through relentless work.

Excluding the standard anxiety that comes from making a mistake, Ohio State sophomore safety Tyvis Powell starts wincing the second he goes back to the sideline.

Before that, he’s praying. It’s always unanswered, though, because OSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash sees everything. Never has there been a miscue that went unaddressed by the pass defense guru the Buckeyes snatched away from Arkansas in the offseason.

“He doesn’t miss anything,” Powell told BuckeyeSports.com on Tuesday. “Whoever makes the mistake, he catches it. I always say, ‘Man I hope he didn’t see that,’ and then I hear, ‘TYVIS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’”

Ash lives in the film room and knows everything about every player in his secondary. Powell has no idea when Ash sleeps, especially because he’s been told that his position coach is the first one to show up at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center each morning and the last to leave.

In between his arrival and departure, there’s practice and film. And then more film.

The first-year OSU assistant’s addiction to film got to the point that it became a running joke with the team. On the flight back to Columbus after a game, the specialists – who spend the flight after wins cracking jokes – made an announcement. There would be a new rule: Ohio State’s coaches were forbidden from watching film for the first two hours after a game. The punchline… “Yes, Coach Ash, that includes you.”

Powell looked over to see how Ash took the joke and saw him – wait for it – hunched over a screen watching film.

That never-ending study of his players and opponents has rubbed off on the guys he coaches. Sophomore safety Vonn Bell is tied for the team lead with five interceptions and credits Ash for his improvement as a ball-hawking safety.

“I guess I know what plays are coming,” he said when asked to explain his knack for being in the right place at the right time. “All that film study with Coach Ash where he tells me their tendencies, I really know what’s coming. I take a picture of the play before it happens. I know all the routes that are going to be run, and I can stop them anyways.

“Watching film really brings out the best in players. Know your opponent and what he does. Know who you’re playing and what routes he runs. Is he lazy, or what’s going on. Coach Ash wants to know all of that.”

The improvement in the secondary has been staggering. The Buckeyes ranked lower than 100th in passing yards allowed last season. This year, they’ve allowed just 188.2 passing yards, good enough for 15th nationally. Only three teams have intercepted more passes than Ohio State this year, and one of those (Louisiana Tech) has played 14 games while the Buckeyes have only played 13.

For Ash, though, it’s not enough. Even being No. 1 won’t satisfy his demands for better play out of his safeties.

“Coach Ash makes me mad at him every day I’m at practice,” Powell said. “He has this worry about himself. We became very successful and had this good defensive year, but he’s one of those people that never rests. He wouldn’t care if we were the No. 1 defense in the world and No. 1 in all categories. He won’t let you relax. He’ll stay on you. I respect it and I appreciate it.”

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