Saturday, November 26th, 2016
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Oh.
Michigan – 3 Ohio State – 0
2nd Quarter 4:10
Wilton Speight lines up under center and reads cover 2/4 zone before he signals for the ball. As he drops back to pass, Malik Hooker steps up into a cover 3 look without Speight even noticing. The ball leaves his hand but its already too late; Ohio State 7 Michigan 3. Hooker goes untouched into the end zone for a pick six. What seems like a misread by Speight is actually a perfect play call from the press box by new co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Hooker read Speight’s decision beautifully but without the presence of Schiano on the Ohio State coaching staff, the Buckeyes’ defense wouldn’t be what it is headed to the Fiesta Bowl on December 31st. To understand the dynamic of what Greg Schiano brings to the Buckeyes however, you first must understand his past.
Greg Schiano was a football player at heart but had the brains to succeed on and off the field. He attended Bucknell University in the late 80s, where he played linebacker, and was an All-American his junior year.
Once his playing career ended, his coaching career began. After a year at the high school level, he bounced around as an assistant where he eventually ended up as a secondary coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions (1990-1995). After finding success at Penn State under Joe Paterno, he traveled to the NFL where he helped coach one of the best defenses in the league with the Chicago Bears. After a short stint in the NFL, he took on a bigger role where he landed his first defensive coordinator job in 1999 with the Miami Hurricanes.
In 2001, Schiano was named the head coach of one of the worst FBS teams in the nation, Rutgers University. There, he made a name for himself, and after four years of struggle for the Scarlet Knights, in 2005, Schiano finally found success. That year, Rutgers went 7-4 thanks to the exploits of running back Ray Rice. They even upset Big East opponent Pittsburgh on national television, and received their first bid to a bowl game since 1978. Under Schiano, Rutgers produced NFL stars such as Rice, defensive back Devin McCourty (Patriots), and wide receivers Mohammed Sanu (Falcons) and Kenny Britt (Rams), just to name a few. He then accepted a head coaching job in the NFL from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2012 season.
I mean…Greg Schiano made Rutgers good? That happened. I can't make that up.
— CONWAY TWEETY (@edsbs) November 30, 2016
Although he struggled to find success with his first NFL head coaching gig, he did improve a Buccaneers defense drastically in what was a tough division at the time. After his firing from the Buccaneers he took a two year break from coaching until long-time friend, Urban Meyer, gave him a call.
In the winter of 2015, Greg Schiano accepted his first non-head coaching job since 1999 at Miami. He would coincidentally take Chris Ash’s position, who had accepted the head coaching job at Rutgers University, the place where Greg Schiano’s career took off. Calling plays from the press box and being tough in Ohio State’s secondary meetings, Schiano expects nothing but the best from his talented defensive roster. He coaches the game like a linebacker would, intense and to the point, and expects his defense to take the field like he would 30 years ago. Sharing the defensive coordinator role with Luke Fickell, Schiano had to adjust not running his own team but has complimented the Buckeyes nearly perfect.
To further break down the difference that Schiano has made to the Buckeyes’ defense in the 2016 season, Ohio State’s secondary has made gigantic leaps in the offseason as they attempted to replace three starters from a year ago (7 defensive starters in total). What was thought to be a down year for the Buckeyes’ defense turned out to be one of their best years in the secondary yet.
Players like Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore have not only eased the transition for Ohio State but improved on a secondary that had three players enter the NFL draft a year ago. Recording seven more interceptions (19 total) than last year, including seven returned for touchdowns, Ohio State’s secondary is arguably one of the best in the FBS and only continues to grow despite sack production decreasing.
Not all of the credit can go to Schiano, as Ohio State’s roster is loaded with talent, but with correct play calling and immaculate defensive coaching, it is a definite fact that he has played a key role in the success of the program in the 2016 season.
As the Buckeyes take the field on the last day of 2016, Schiano will not be running out with his team, nor will he get the credit that he deserves. Instead, he’ll be in the press box, attempting to coach his team to victory. There is little doubt that one day Schiano will leave the program to be a head coach again, but as long as he is dressed in scarlet and gray, the Buckeyes’ secondary will be wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks, including Deshaun Watson.