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Ohio State Names Oklahoma State's Jim Knowles New Defensive Coordinator

The Cowboys were among the nation's best in sacks, third-down defense and total defense this fall.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day announced on Tuesday evening he has hired Oklahoma State's Jim Knowles to be the Buckeyes' next defensive coordinator. 

The 56-year-old Knowles – who is in the midst of his fourth season with the Cowboys – will officially join the staff on Jan. 2, the day after Ohio State takes on Utah in the Rose Bowl. Oklahoma State is also set to play Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl earlier that afternoon, which gives him the chance to finish out the season with the Cowboys.

"What is most important at this time is that we put our players in the best position possible to finish this season with a win in the Rose Bowl," Day said. "To that end, we will continue our planning and preparation for the game with out current staff of 10 assistant coaches."

Under Knowles’ direction, Oklahoma State led the nation this season in sacks (55) and tackles for loss (113), was second in third-down defense (26.1 percent conversion rate), third in total defense (278.4 yards per game), fifth in rushing defense (92.1 yards per game) and eighth in points per game (16.8).

The Cowboys' defense has steadily improved since Knowles took over in 2018, and he was named a finalist for the Broyles Award, which honors the nation’s top assistant coach, after leading the program to an appearance in the Big XII title game this fall.

Ohio State, meanwhile, ranks 25th in the country in scoring and 50th in total defense this season, allowing 20.9 points and 365.4 yards per game. That comes just one year after the Buckeyes gave up 401.9 yards per game, the second-highest mark in school history.

A Philadelphia native, Knowles played defensive end at Cornell from 1983-86 and then became the Big Red’s defensive line coach shortly after graduation. He spent nine seasons with the program before being hired as the defensive line coach and later defensive coordinator at Western Michigan.

After a one-year stint as Ole Miss’ linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator in 2003, Knowles returned to his alma mater as head coach from 2004-09. He was later the defensive coordinator at Duke from 2010-17 before heading to Oklahoma State.

With Knowles’ arrival, at least one member of Ohio State’s current staff will have to depart the program or be demoted to a non-coaching position following the Rose Bowl.

It’s unclear at this time who that will be, but one thing for certain is Kerry Coombs will no longer be the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator – though he could remain on staff in a reduced capacity moving forward. 

Knowles will be Day’s third defensive coordinator since he became Ohio State’s head coach in 2019, including Jeff Hafley, who left the Buckeyes to become the head coach at Boston College after just one season – which ended with a berth in the College Football Playoff.

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