Ohio State hires Arkansas' Ash, finalizes deal with Penn State's Johnson

Tuesday January 14th, 2014

Chris Ash returns to the Big Ten after spending three years at Wisconsin, two as defensive coordinator.
David Stluka/AP

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State finalized two key additions to its coaching staff Tuesday morning.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash has accepted a position as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach with the Buckeyes, according to a source. Penn State assistant coach Larry Johnson has accepted the Buckeyes' defensive line coach position, according to a source. SI.com reported Monday night that Johnson and the Buckeyes were close to a deal. Johnson accepted Tuesday morning. The deals are expected to be formally announced later this week.

Ash spent last season at Arkansas under Bret Bielema and is a familiar name in Big Ten circles from his time at Wisconsin. He was part of a defensive staff that led the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowls. He served as defensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012 at Wisconsin, and his expertise comes where Ohio State needs it most -- the secondary.

Ohio State had a dismal pass defense last season, finishing No. 110 in passing yards allowed (268 per game). It proved the weakest area of the team and a big reason why Ohio State finished the year on a two-game losing streak. In its final two games, Ohio State gave up a combined 682 passing yards to Michigan State and Clemson.

Ash brings expertise in that area, as in 2012 the Badgers ranked No. 23 nationally in pass defense. His first task will be to shore up Ohio State's porous secondary.

The hires of Ash and Johnson complete Ohio State's staff for the upcoming season. Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel left for the Houston Texans and co-coordinator Everett Withers departed to become the head coach at James Madison.

The moves will have a significant impact on both the field and the recruiting trail. For nearly two decades at Penn State, Johnson established himself as one of the country's most prolific East Coast recruiters and a top-notch defensive line coach. Johnson has been a linchpin of the Penn State staff for two decades, spending the last 15 seasons as the Nittany Lions' defensive line coach.

Johnson is considered an elite teacher of defensive linemen, as he developed seven first-team All-Americas at Penn State, including Jared Odrick, Tamba Hali and Courtney Brown, the No. 1 pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

The move will carry big recruiting implications, as Johnson was long considered Penn State's most important recruiter. His presence on the Ohio State staff will increase the Buckeyes' recruiting arm in both Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., where Johnson was a longtime high school coach.

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