Ohio State football coaches Taver Johnson and Alex Grinch met with the media Wednesday, their first opportunity to do so since they joined Urban Meyer’s staff.
This is a homecoming for both, though in different ways.
Here are five things to know about the duo and what they bring to the Buckeyes
1. Johnson is in his second stint at Ohio State.
A Cincinnati native who starred at Wittenberg, he was cornerbacks coach for the Buckeyes from 2007-11, including four of those seasons under head coach Jim Tressel.
He is coaching that position again, but it sounds like not much is the same as when he left.
The Woody Hayes Athletic Center received a significant upgrade (still ongoing) and Meyer has established a different mindset inside it.
“You walk in the door every day and you’re going 100 miles an hour,” Johnson said. “We were able to do some really good things when I was here with Coach Tressel, which I’m thankful for again. It allowed me to come back.”
Johnson also has the title of special teams coordinator.
2. He wants to keep sending players to the NFL.
Five Ohio State cornerbacks have been drafted — four in the first round — since Kerry Coombs replaced Johnson as the coach of that position six seasons ago.
(That includes Bradley Roby and Doran Grant, who were recruited by and also played for Johnson).
“Kerry has done a great job with those guys,” Johnson said. “The whole staff has done an outstanding job. Not just producing those first-rounders but the quality young men who have come through these doors.”
Three corners were drafted during Johnson’s tenure with Malcolm Jenkins being the only first-rounder.
“I told the guys I already know I have some big shoes to fill, and I’m accepting that challenge,” Johnson said. “That’s the one thing about Ohio State: Not just the talent base, the people who come into the program are just really, really great people. (Coach Meyer) attracts those types of people to the staff as well as players.”
3. Grinch is glad to be back home, too.
He was happy at Washington State, where he said coach Mike Leach gave him full control of the defense, but Ohio State presented too great an opportunity for the Central Ohio native who graduated from Mount Union to pass up.
“Any time you devote your life to a profession and one of the elite programs or organizations with an elite coaching staff and elite leadership, when you have a chance to take one of those phone calls you have to really have your antennas up,” he said. “If that’s not an opportunity you’re going to look into, you better have some good reasons.”
He will coach safeties and serve as co-defensive coordinator with Greg Schiano in Columbus.
4. Not much figures to change schematically.
Grinch often deployed a three-man defensive line with the Cougars, leading some to wonder if that might be in the cards for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have mostly used a four-man front since the early 1990s, but Grinch said there are more similarities than differences between his attack and what has been done under Schiano.
Grinch explained he is more about an aggressive, pressure-packed style of play than play call, and “that style of play is evident here when you turn on the film.”
5. They both are impressed with the environment Meyer has created.
While Grinch declined to compare Meyer with the quirky Leach, Johnson ticked off positives of working for both Tressel and Meyer, whose success has been largely credited to an all-consuming drive for perfection.
The high expectations put in place by his new boss have already paid dividends, Johnson said.
“It challenges you as a coach. It challenges you as a person, and just these eight or nine days I’ve been back, it has already made me better.”
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