The 35-year-old Haynes has spent the last two years in the same position at Michigan State. His hiring was notable as he is a graduate of Columbus DeSales High School. He played college football at Kent State and has worked his way up through the coaching ranks including stops at Bowling Green (graduate assistant, 1994), Ferris State (1995-96), Northern Iowa (1997-98), Kent State (1999-2000), the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars (quality control coach, 2001), Louisville (2002) and MSU.
We caught Haynes as he was preparing to come down to Ohio and begin his work with the Buckeyes. He discussed the reasons why he decided to leave one Big Ten school for another.
"It's a great opportunity for me to come home," Haynes said. "It was a tough decision. My family loved it here. We had a great staff that came up from Louisville. John L. Smith is an excellent head coach and a great guy to work for, but again, it was an opportunity to come home and to have a chance to work at a place like Ohio State is like a dream come true for me."
Haynes is a 1987 graduate of DeSales. He said he enjoyed watching the Buckeyes as he was growing up in Columbus.
"All of those guys I looked up to – Pepper Johnson and Chris Spielman and (Art) Schlichter, all those guys," he said. "I've always been a Buckeye fan and followed the Buckeyes. Even during my coaching career, you always look in the paper and see what they were doing and how the program was going."
The DeSales coaching "mafia" helped put the word out that Haynes might be interested in the OSU opening, which was created when Mel Tucker left for the NFL's Cleveland Browns just nine days earlier.
"It happened pretty quickly," Haynes admitted. "(OSU assistant and DeSales grad) Luke (Fickell) helped me out a lot. It was kind of a two-way street with a bunch of high school coaches that I've known, some guys who were at DeSales when I was a player. These guys have been following me for a long time and they know the goal I had to come back to Ohio State. When the opportunity arose, I think they blew up Coach Tressel's phone and helped me out a lot.
"And I think it always helps when a guy on staff brings your name up to the head guy because I'm sure he wants to feel comfortable with them knowing a guy."
The transition should be smooth for Haynes, his wife Danita and their three children as much of their family is still in central Ohio.
"Everybody is still in Columbus," Haynes said. "I have two older sisters who moved away from New York, but both of them graduated from Ohio State. These last couple of years have been tough for them. They've had Ohio State headbands and Michigan State T-shirts on. They were so happy when this came about. Everybody can be a full-blooded Buckeye now."
Haynes discussed having the chance to spend three years working with Smith, known in coaching circles as an innovator.
"It's been awesome," he said. "Everything you see is exactly how he is. He is a fun loving, energetic guy. He lets you coach. He treats you well and treats you fair. He's a family guy and a team guy. The players love him. I have learned a lot this last three years and I have learned a lot for my future in coaching."
And he talked about the chance he has to go to work for a coach like Tressel, who boasts five national championships.
"I've had a lot of respect for Coach Tressel for a long time, ever since the time I played against his teams at Youngstown in 1988," Haynes said. "He's a well known name in Ohio. I'm eager to get under his wing and pick his brain and learn a bunch from him. He's been very successful at Youngstown and at Ohio State. He is a very disciplined coach and a very focused coach."
Tucker was one of OSU's strongest recruiters, working well in Cleveland, Georgia and also in Florida, at times. Haynes knows that will be a big part of his responsibilities as well.
"Everywhere I've been – ever since my first job at Ferris State – I have spent time recruiting in Ohio," he said. "I have been in every part of Ohio in my years of coaching. Being from Columbus, I've had a lot of focus in Columbus. But I have also been in Atlanta and all parts of Florida – north Florida, south Florida, Chicago, Michigan, D.C., Maryland. I've been around in a lot of different areas. Hopefully, wherever Coach Tressel sees a need for me to be, I'll get in there and dig some guys out."
Haynes inherits a veteran group of defensive backs. Senior Nate Salley and junior Donte Whitner return at the safety positions with junior Ashton Youboty at corner and junior Tyler Everett at the nickel back spot. The new coach will get his first chance to work this group during spring practice, which starts March 31.
"I'm very excited about this group," he said. "They are very talented and it is a veteran group, which helps. Mel did a great job with those guys. When you first get there, everybody just tries to feel each other out. The faster we can do that and more we've been around each other to build relationships, then the more you can do on the football aspect of it.
"But there is a phase where we have to get a feel for each other. I'm kind of looking forward to it. From everything I've heard from everybody, they're great kids. I'm very excited to get started."
To hear our interview with Coach Haynes, check out next week's edition of the Bucknuts Radio Hour.