This week, on "As the Big Ten turns ..."
Bill O'Brien left Penn State for the NFL's Houston Texans and took Ohio State defensive line coach/top notch recruiter Mike Vrabel with him. Ohio State head coach returned the favor to the Nittany Lions by hiring longtime Penn State assistant/top notch recruiter Larry Johnson to replace Vrabel.
Meanwhile in Arkansas ... Bret Bielema fled Wisconsin for the SEC less than a year after complaining about the SEC-style recruiting tactics Meyer was using. On Tuesday, Bielema's trusted defensive coordinator, Chris Ash, left the Razorbacks to go work for -- you guessed it -- Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Got all that. The coaching carousel is never boring, is it?
The latest news here is Meyer hiring Ash away from Bielema, according to ESPN's Joe Schad, to replace safeties coach/co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, who's now head coach at James Madison. Couple that with the Johnson coup, and Meyer has made two impressive, strategic moves in bringing in outstanding assistants who also know the Big Ten and its footprint extremely well.
Ash has been Bielema's defensive coordinator since 2011 and oversaw the Wisconsin defense on the 2011 and 2012 Rose Bowl teams for the Badgers. He's a secondary coach by trade so that fits in perfectly with what Ohio State needed -- especially after what we saw down the stretch from the Buckeyes' pass defense.
While Wisconsin might have had some noteworthy breakdowns in the secondary during Ash's time, he's never had the pure talent to work with that he'll find in Columbus, where guys like Vonn Bell, Doran Grant, Eli Apple and Tyvis Powell are ready to be coached up.
Ash was making a reported $550,000 at Arkansas so Ohio State obviously made a big commitment to get him. It's another good sign for the Big Ten, which is now bringing SEC guys into the league (James Franklin, Doug Nussmeier) instead of the other way around.
You have to wonder what this means for Luke Fickell, as Ash would seem unlikely to leave the Hogs if he weren't going to at least major input on calling plays. Unless he really got a big raise. (Or unless he decided that "We don't want to be like the SEC, in any shape or forms." Ahem). We'll likely find out more about Fickell's role when Meyer talks about these moves officially later in the week.
Both Ash and Johnson are outstanding hires for Ohio State, and if they tweak some rivals just a bit in the process, well, that's just a bonus for the Buckeyes.