Urban Meyer fills defensive coaching vacancies with Arkansas’ Ash, Penn State’s Johnson

With the departures of two defensive assistants, co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Everett Withers and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, Urban Meyer wasted no time fill those vacancies.

Chris Ash. (WholeHogSports.com Photo)

Chris Ash. (WholeHogSports.com Photo)

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated is reporting that Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash has accepted a position as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach with the Buckeyes to replace Withers, who accepted the head coaching position at James Madison last month.

Ash, who was named Arkansas’ defensive coordinator in December of 2012 following in the footsteps of head coach Bret Bielema, spent the three prior seasons at Wisconsin as co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach where he helped the Badgers win three straight Big Ten championships.

Before being elevated to co-defensive coordinator under Bielema, Ash was the secondary coach at Wisconsin for the 2010 season. Prior to that, Ash spent eight of the last 10 seasons at Iowa State, beginning as a defensive graduate assistant in 2000. He was promoted to secondary coach in 2002 and added the title of recruiting coordinator in 2006.

Following the 2006 season, Ash moved on to become the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at San Diego State. He stayed there for two seasons before returning to Iowa State in the same position.

Ash got his first chance coaching in the college ranks at Drake when he was a volunteer assistant at his alma mater in 1996. In 1997, Ash was a graduate assistant, and for the 1998 season, he was the team’s defensive coordinator under head coach Rob Ash (no relation).

Ash graduated from Drake with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 1996. He received his master’s degree in education from Iowa State in 2005. A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, Ash has two children, Tanner and Jacey.

While I was predicting last week that it was possible that Meyer would hire an assistant from Arkansas, my best guess was Randy Shannon.

Swing and a miss.

Regardless, Ash is a great hire and his expertise in coaching the defensive backs is greatly needed.

Thamel also reported that Penn State assistant coach Larry Johnson has accepted the job to become the Buckeyes’ defensive line coach replacing Mike Vrabel, who left to join Bill O’Brien’s staff for the NFL’s Houston Texans.

Larry Johnson. (PennStateMag.com Photo)

Larry Johnson. (PennStateMag.com Photo)

Johnson spent the last 18 seasons on the Penn State staff with 15 of those being employed as the defensive line coach. He was named the Nittany Lions’ interim head coach on January 2, 2014.

Johnson, though, decided to leave after Penn State hired James Franklin as their next head coach last week.

During his tenure in State College, Johnson developed seven first-team All-Americans and six Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year or Defensive Lineman of the Year honorees.

A highly-successful high school head coach in the Washington, D.C. area for more than 20 years, Johnson is a graduate of Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University, earning NAIA All-America honors at linebacker.

Johnson is another great hire. Not only is he a tremendous defensive line coach, but he’s a very good recruiter as well.

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