Urban Meyer might not care much for Bret Bielema. But it appears he can at least respect the job one of Bielema's assistants performed at Wisconsin and Arkansas -- enough so that Meyer has reportedly made him the Buckeyes' new co-defensive coordinator.
Sports Illustrated and other outlets have reported that Meyer has hired Razorback defensive coordinator and longtime Bielema assistant Chris Ash to replace Everett Withers, the former Buckeye co-DC who was named James Madison head coach last month. Ash will also coach defensive backs.
While defensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012, Ash oversaw back-to-back No. 15 finishes in FBS total defense as the Badgers went to the Rose Bowl both seasons.
But Mike Vrabel's departure to the Houston Texans meant that Meyer had antother position to fill on his defensive staff, and he's reportedly filled it by hiring veteran Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson to the same position at Ohio State . A member of the Nittany Lion staff since 1996, Johnson turned down an opportunity to remain in Happy Valley as part of James Franklin's staff.
The allure of both coaches for Meyer is obvious: both are seasoned Big Ten coaching veterans who stand to upgrade a Buckeye defense that struggled mightily down the 2013 stretch run, particularly against the pass, where Ohio State ranked 112th in yards allowed and 84th in opponent's QB rating. Ash's expertise in the defensive backfield should help, as should Johnson's reputation as one of the Pennsylvania area's best recruiters.
And let's be honest: Meyer's being able to jab a thorn in Bielema's side one more time probably didn't hurt Ash's chances at the Buckeye gig, either.