Two years ago, it was clear that Urban Meyer needed to make changes to his defensive staff and he looked to Chris Ash to fix his beleagured defense. That move paid off brilliantly, and now Ohio State once again is looking to a new leader for the defense.
Why does Greg Schiano fit? So much of coaching success is based not only on knowledge, but understanding the scheme you will be asked to run. There's no doubt that Everett Withers and Luke Fickell are fine defensive minds, but their philosophies on that side of the ball were the polar opposite of what Urban Meyer wanted to do. Fickell was raised under the Jim Tressel/Jim Heacock style of playing zone and keeping everything in front of you on the corners. Meyer wanted a man coverage, blitz-heavy defense, and neither Fickell or Withers were well versed in that scheme. That led to conflict and confusion, and neither work well in conjunction with winning. Schiano fits what Meyer wants to do defensively.
What is Schiano's background? Joe Paterno hired Schiano at Penn State, where he coached the defensive backs for the Nittany Lions. This is key, because if the staff stays as it is, Schiano will once again be handling the defensive backs. Schiano's formative years were spent at Miami, and he learned the aggressive Hurricane style of defense under Butch Davis. For Ohio State, look for Schiano to play man on the corners, just like Ash did. The strong safety will be used in the box to help control the run, so being able to cover on an island is key. Again, this is what Meyer wants. While Ash looked to eliminate big plays in the passing game first and foremost, Schiano loves to overload the box to stop the run on early downs. But like Ash, Schiano will look to be aggressive with his blitz packages in obvious passing situations.
What is there to like? Greg Schiano has been a successful college assistant coach, and he is known as a relentless recruiter. He is strong on the East coast and in Florida, two areas Meyer loves to target. With NFL and college head coaching experience, look for Schiano to also be named assistant head coach to Meyer. This could be far more than a title, and give Meyer a confidant on the staff that has sat in the big chair before. Where Schiano's personality might have rubbed people wrong as head coach, he won't have to play that role at Ohio State. There's really nothing to dislike about the hiring of Greg Schiano at Ohio State. An added plus is the fact that Meyer and Schiano are friends, and that relationship should eliminate any on the job adjustments for either party.
What is the overall impact of Schiano? In terms of pure coaching ability, it's hard to not put Schiano in the top spot of Ohio State assistants. When you combine his experience as a head coach in the NFL and college, with his experience as defensive coordinator for the great Miami teams, and his ability to recruit, how could Meyer have done any better in replacing Ash? On a scale of one to ten, this hire screams out as a ten. I don't believe there's any way Meyer could have done better.