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Ohio State had a “down” season, failing to qualify for the College Football Playoff and watching dreaded rival Michigan do it instead.
And a big reason for all of it was the Buckeyes’ defense. So coach Ryan Day did the best thing he could think of, and that’s to hire a new defensive coordinator.
Not just any defensive coordinator either. The man running the defense next season will be Jim Knowles, who arrives from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had one of the nation’s best defenses, and Knowles was the architect.
Despite failing to make the CFP, Ohio State has one game left — the Rose Bowl vs. Utah. That game takes place Jan. 1. Knowles starts Jan. 2.
That means current DC Kerry Combs is out — at least in his current capacity. Reports say he could remain on staff, just not as a coordinator. Either way, at least one member of the coaching staff will need to move on (perhaps forcibly so) with the arrival of Knowles.
Knowles guided Oklahoma State’s defense to fourth in the country in opposing yards allowed per play (4.42), sixth in yards allowed per rushing attempt (2.74) and 14th nationally in yards per passing attempt (6.26).
Best of all, the Cowboys were second in opposing third-down conversion percentage (25.8%), an area where Ohio State really struggled this year. The Cowboys also led the nation in tackles for a loss (113) and sacks (54).
Granted, a lot of success in any sport is based on personnel, but it also has something to do with schemes. Ohio State generally has the personnel to be among the nation’s best. So a change to a proven, successful coordinator is a good start.
Maybe Knowles can get the Buckeyes’ defense back to where it belongs, and it won’t have to watch Michigan take its place during the most meaningful part of the year.