Ash, Schiano trading places at Ohio State
COLUMBUS — They are friends and co-workers by day, rivals by night.
In a script Ohio State perhaps swiped from Trading Places, Chris Ash and Greg Schiano are unlikely bedfellows in the Buckeyes’ football headquarters.
Ash is the defensive coordinator recently introduced as the new coach at Rutgers. Schiano is the former Rutgers coach just hired to replace Ash as the Ohio State defensive coordinator.
With Ash sticking around to coach the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl, he has spent the past two weeks both game-planning for Notre Dame and recruiting for Rutgers.
For advice on the latter, he naturally seeks out Schiano, who rebuilt Rutgers from one of the nation’s worst programs into a postseason fixture. The 49-year-old New Jersey native parlayed five bowl wins in six years into a crack at the NFL, where he spent two years at the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before he was fired in 2013.
Counsel is just a shout down the hallway.
“I’m in a different office,” Schiano said, smiling. “But we have seen a lot of each other in the past six days. And anyway I can help him, I’ve tried to. And he’s done the same for me. I’m going to be coaching guys that he coached and he’s helped me try to get up to speed with them. So it’s been really, really a good thing.”
And, yes, he concedes, “I guess it is odd.”
At Ohio State, it is not uncommon for assistants to remain in Columbus through the bowl game despite already accepting a head coaching job elsewhere. Defensive coordinator Everett Withers stayed for the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2013 season and offensive coordinator Tom Herman coached the Buckeyes during their national title run last year. But Withers was bound for James Madison and Herman for Houston.
Rutgers is not only in the same vaunted division of the Big Ten as Ohio State — “Don’t remind me,” Ash said — but in the heart of one of the Buckeyes’ top national recruiting territories. Ohio State claims five players from New Jersey, and, along with Michigan and Penn State, almost always beats Rutgers for the top prospects in its backyard.
As if battling Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was not difficult enough, Ash, an Iowa native, must now also recruit against Schiano.
And the race is on.
Ash is burning the fuse from before dawn to midnight, cramming two full-time jobs into his 18-hour days. Schiano, a longtime Meyer confidant, has no such concerns. He has no coaching duties until after the Fiesta Bowl, leaving all of his time for recruiting. Sometimes, Ash and Schiano are calling the same prospects.
Both coaches, for instance, are fighting to put their respective schools back in the mix for Paramus (N.J.) Catholic five-star defensive end Rashan Gary, the top-rated player in the Class of 2016.
“It’s been fine — it’s been great, to be honest with you,” Ash said last week in Columbus, wearing a neutral red logo-less polo T-shirt. “I was fortunate enough to be able to build a relationship with Greg during my two years here. He’s had a great relationship with coach Meyer, he’s been around here several times, I picked up the phone and called him on a lot of things and he’s been a great resource for me.
“I think it will work out great here having him on staff. From an outsider looking in, having Greg and I here together and me going out to go to Rutgers and him coming in to take my job here at Ohio State looks odd and looks a little challenging. But it’s been fine.”
FINAL PREPARATIONS: The Buckeyes broke for Christmas after practice Monday. They will reconvene on campus Saturday, then fly to Phoenix on Sunday in advance of the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl.
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