By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – It was a first. Never before had two Big Ten head football coaches stepped up to the lectern at an Urban Meyer press conference.
Actually, if you count new Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who used to be Rutgers’ head coach, it was three.
Meyer looked ahead to the Buckeyes’ Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl match-up against Notre Dame in his turn at the microphone on OSU’s bowl media day Thursday.
Then Schiano – the head coach at Rutgers for 12 years from 2001-2012 before two unsuccessful seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – talked about why he was interested in becoming a college assistant coach.
Finally, Ash – the newly hired Rutgers head coach after two seasons as OSU’s co-defensive coordinator – discussed balancing his new position with helping to get the Buckeyes ready for the Fiesta Bowl.
The top three items from Meyer were that offensive coordinator Ed Warinner will remain in the coaches booth to call plays for the Fiesta Bowl, that OSU could be missing two starting defensive linemen, not just one, against Notre Dame and that he has not decided if there will be any changes on the offensive coaching staff next season.
Warinner moved to the booth for the Michigan game after spending the rest of the season on the sideline in his dual role as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. Ohio State had its best offensive game of the season in a 42-13 win with Warinner upstairs.
Meyer said Warinner will return to the coaches booth “this game,” but did not say if it would carry over into next season.
Adolphus Washington’s suspension made OSU’s interior defensive line, already a question mark, a potential weak spot. Now, with Tommy Schutt battling a foot injury, the Buckeyes could be without two starters there.
“Tommy Schutt hurt his foot. I don’t know how bad it is. Not quite sure what it is. But we’ve got depth issues right now inside,” Meyer said.
When asked if he planned to make changes on the offensive staff, Meyer said, “I’m not sure. I think, right now, I don’t. I’m not in that evaluation phase yet. All the focus is on recruiting and winning this game.”
Schiano averaged eight wins a season his last seven years at Rutgers and was once considered a leading candidate to become Penn State’s coach several years before Joe Paterno’s career ended with the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Meyer has brought in high-profile assistants at other schools, like defensive line coach Larry Johnson, before but getting a very successful former head coach to join his staff went far beyond any previous hires.
Meyer and Schiano both said it started with the two of them being longtime friends.
“I’ve done a lot of different things. At this stage of my career this is what’s best for me and my family,” Schiano said.
“Truthfully, as an assistant it would have been with only a very few people. And Coach Meyer is at the head of that list,” he said. “It ended up working out that way and I’m very excited about it.”
Meyer said, “Coach Schiano and I go back many, many years. I first met him when I was at Notre Dame and he was with the Chicago Bears. We kind of hit it off. We’ve just always remained in touch and became very close.”
Schiano will not officially begin coaching at Ohio State until Ash, who was hired as Rutgers head coach last week, leaves.
Ash agreed to stay on through the Fiesta Bowl and has spent his days working on Ohio State things and his early mornings, lunch breaks and evenings doing Rutgers things.
“It’s a challenge but it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.
Ash said he also has asked Schiano for advice about Rutgers’ football program. “I’ve had a chance to sit down with Greg a couple times just to talk about Rutgers and his experience there. He has been very helpful.
“All the things I hoped to accomplish by coming here, I’ve been able to do,” Ash said.