The interest of Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman in potentially reuniting with former Ohio State Buckeyes colleague Chris Ash as the replacement for fired defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is significant enough that Herman interviewed Ash on Thursday, according to Anwar Richardson of Orangebloods.
Initially, Richardson’s reporting indicated that Ash was in Austin on Friday, which led to a denial from Horns247 and a correction from Richardson that the interview actually happened on Thursday.
An Iowa native, Ash first crossed paths with Herman as the defensive backs coach and recruiting at Iowa State, when Herman was in his first season as an offensive coordinator under Paul Rhoads.
Ash left Ames after one season, landing at Wisconsin, where he stayed for three years before coordinating the Arkansas defense in 2013. In 2014, Urban Meyer hired Ash to co-coordinate his defense and coach the safeties as Herman helped lead Ohio State to a national championship with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones.
During that season, Ash worked under current Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell and helped helm a defense that ranked No. 14 in the FEI rankings and was particularly good at limiting available yards and holding opposing offenses to drives with zero or negative yards.
The Buckeyes also ranked No. 13 nationally opposing third-down conversions at 33.95 percent and No. 3 in opposing red-zone touchdown percentage at 26.7. In addition, Ohio State was No. 13 in opposing passer rating and intercepted 25 passes that season.
Ash’s four years as the Rutgers head coach produced an 8-32 overall record, but Ash was successful enough as the co-coordinator at Ohio State that BON’s CoachLamons endorses the hire.
The concern is Herman settling for another former colleague after firing two coaches who came with him from Houston and reassigning one other. The new coordinators could replace other members of the staff once they’re hired.
So it’s time for Herman to push himself out of his comfort zone as he considers replacements for Orlando and offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Ash may be the right hire on the defensive side, but Herman needs to conduct full due diligence to ensure that he finds the best possible replacement — Herman’s tenure at Texas may depend on it.
Since Ash only has three seasons as a defensive coordinator on his resume in conferences with a much lower level of offensive innovation than the Big 12 — and no such experience since 2013 — there is cause for pessimism that Ash is prepared to turn around the Longhorns defense.