Ohio State football: 5 things to know about coaching staff changes

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day met with reporters on National Signing Day, but he did not have much recruiting news to discuss.

With the majority of his class having already signed, he instead spoke mostly about what is happening with his staff.

Here are five things to know about how it will look different this season:

1. Ohio State is promoting from within to replace Greg Mattison.

Day confirmed Wednesday morning the newest member of his 10-person on-field coaching staff will be Parker Fleming, who was promoted to special teams coordinator after working with those units as a quality control assistant the past three seasons.

“Parker Fleming is somebody that knows what we do very, very well and gets the respect of our team, and we think that’s a really good move there,” Day said. “Promoting from within is something that I believe strongly, and I believe that it’s going to be an opportunity for these guys to really be part of our program for a long time and keep some continuity.”

An Atlanta native who played quarterback at Presbyterian College, Fleming is entering the fourth season of his second stint with Ohio State.

He first came to the Buckeyes in 2012 and spent two seasons in Columbus as a graduate assistant for offense and special teams.

Fleming returned to Ohio State in 2018 after working at James Madison and Texas State.

College football teams can have as many quality control assistants and analysts as they choose to carry, but only 10 members of the staff (including the head coach) can coach on the field or recruit. Those will be new duties for Fleming in this new role.

2. In a corresponding move, Matt Barnes will become solely coach of the secondary.

After coaching special teams and defensive backs the past two seasons, Barnes will concentrate on the latter this season.

He was listed as safeties coach last season after being the assistant secondary coach in 2019, but in both seasons someone else was also assigned to coaching at least part of the secondary. That will no longer be the case.

3. Kerry Coombs will concentrate more on his duties as defensive coordinator.

A long-time high school head coach in Cincinnati, Coombs joined the college ranks as a defensive backs coach at the University of Cincinnati in 2007.

He coached cornerbacks at Ohio State (along with other duties) from 2012-17 then spent two seasons as secondary coach for the Tennessee Titans.

Coombs returned to OSU in a new role last year — primary defensive coordinator — and Day expressed the belief he and the team will benefit from that being Coombs’ primary focus this season.

“I think this is going to allow him to take a little bit of a step back, take a little bit of wider approach on this thing,” Day said.

He expects Coombs to continue to have input with the defensive backs but also consult with linebackers coach Al Washington and defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

“He’s got a really good staff there,” Day said.

4. Day passed on the opportunity to bring in someone from the outside.

There was some thought the Ohio State head coach could tap an outsider to help right the ship — particularly one with first-hand knowledge of the single-high safety defense he has expressed a desire to see the Buckeyes continue running primarily — but ultimately Day chose to rely on the institutional knowledge of Coombs and the rest of the current staff instead.

“I think that to bring in somebody that has a different set of thoughts on coverages and beliefs and all those things, that’s a different dynamic, and I think Matt Barnes will do this job better than anybody else in the country with what we need,” Day said. “And if I didn’t think, that I wouldn’t do it, but after a lot of talk and a lot of conversation and watching a guy work the last couple years, I believe in Matt and think he’s going to do well.”

5. Day believes in the people he already has in the building.

That goes for coaches and players.

Some decline to the defense was to be expected last season after losing NFL Draft first-round picks Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette (among others) from the stellar 2019 unit, but the rebuilding job was made more difficult by the disruptions to the calendar by the coronavirus pandemic.

Day hopes this year is more normal in terms of work the coaching staff can put in both toward scheme development and preparing players for bigger roles.

“Looking at back in the year, a lot of great things we did in a tough spot,” Day said. “And I think now that we have a full year with an offseason and a spring and a preseason, this is going to allow us the best chance to put our guys in the best position to be successful.”

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