Coach Ryan Day decided to replace retired co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison in house; Barnes is moving from special teams coordinator to the secondary, and Fleming from quality control solely to special teams.
Columbus – The second of the two national letter of intent signing days turned out to be an empty bag for Ohio State when four-star linebacker Raesjan Davis signed with home town Southern California.
Davis is ranked as the No. 48 overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4 outside linebacker.
For weeks, the Trojans were expected to be his choice leading to Wednesday. He’s a SoCal man and graduated from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.
But it wasn’t a dead news day by any means.
Coach Ryan Day announced that the Buckeyes have loose plans to begin four weeks of spring practice in mid-March and conclude with the spring game on April 17.
But the noteworthy release of the morning was two promotions within the team’s defensive staff, and it was hardly the shuffling of deck chairs on a cruise ship.
Quality control coach Parker Fleming will shift solely to special teams, allowing Matt Barnes to move over to the secondary.
“Promoting from within is something I believe strongly in,” Day said during a Zoom teleconference. “I believe that it’s going to be an opportunity for these guys to really be part of our program for a long time. It keeps some continuity.”
The moves were made necessary when co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, 71, retired at the end of January. He spent five decades in high school and college coaching.
That means Kerry Coombs will be the sole defensive coordinator going into the 2021 season.
Day was comfortable going in house and bypassing a national search to replace Mattison. His thinking is that the talent was on his staff to begin with. He conferred with Coombs before making the decision.
“You say to yourself, do you go get a secondary coach somewhere throughout the country that knows our scheme, that understands what we want to get done and fits?” Day said. “All of a sudden the list gets smaller and smaller and smaller. And then I watched the way that Matt Barnes works, I think he’s really good. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t just do it. But I think to bring in somebody who has a different set of thoughts on coverages and beliefs, and all those things, that’s a different dynamic. I think Matt Barnes will do this job better than anybody else in the country for what we need.”
Barnes will be entering his 12th season as a college coach since graduating with honors from Salisbury. He was nominated for the Draddy Award, the academic Heisman Trophy of NCAA Division III, as a senior.
He came to Ohio State from Maryland, where he has been linebackers and special teams coach for three seasons. Day hired him in January 2019.
His other stops were at Michigan (defensive analyst in 2015), Florida (graduate assistant from 2012-14), West Virginia Wesleyan (quarterbacks coach in 2011), Delaware Valley College (running backs in 2009) and West Virginia Wesleyan (running backs in 2010).
Fleming has been with the Buckeyes the last three seasons after a two-year stint at Texas State as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and two years at James Madison as receivers coach.
This is his second tour with Ohio State. In 2012 and 2013, he was hired by Urban Meyer as a graduate assistant.
Working with Barnes, Fleming helped the special teams rank No. 2 nationally in kickoff return defense, No. 6 in net punting, No. 8 in punt return defense and No. 10 in blocked kicks.
“I think it’s really important that we have a lot of guys who have been two, three, four years in this program and in this style of special teams,” Day said. “Parker believes in what we do. He believes in our system, and so because of that, I think it’s going to be great.”
Day heaped praise on Fleming, calling him “bright’’ and “sharp’’
“Parker Fleming is somebody who knows what we’re doing very, very well,’’ he said. “The players think he brings a wealth of knowledge.’’
As for the spring schedule, Day said that it’s “not set in stone.’’ Of course, a lot will depend on how the struggle to get COVID-19 under control is faring in Central Ohio.
The Buckeyes are amid six weeks of off-season workouts.
The coaching staff is hoping to have a spring schedule without interruptions after a state-wide lockdown eliminated all but two practices last March.
The stakes are high to get the players up to speed with Ohio State having 15 true freshmen on campus. The class is ranked No. 2 nationally behind Alabama, and that includes quarterback Kyle McCord of the Philadelphia area.
Day said last month that the team has one more scholarship to give. Yesterday, he said the staff is still recruiting to fill that spot.
That spot probably is being reserved for five-star defensive lineman JT Tuimoloau of Sammamish, Washington.
Tuimoloau, who is the No. 3 recruit in his class, has narrowed his college search to Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Southern California and Washington. He has visited every school on the list except for the Buckeyes, and will hold off until April if he has to in order to tour the facilities.
It is thought that Ohio State is the front-runner because of his relationship with line coach Larry Johnson.