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Football: Return of Greg Schiano bolsters already strong coaching staff

Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano speaks to the media on Dec. 27 prior to the 2017 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Rumors swirled about Greg Schiano’s future all offseason. The Ohio State defensive coordinator was most recently named as a possible replacement for New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.

Schiano also had “at least a dozen” college coaching offers, including several to become head coach, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday.

None steered Schiano away from Columbus. He put all rumors to rest by saying he will coach at Ohio State for a third season.  

“After the season there were opportunities both in college football and in the National Football League, but at the end of the day, my family, myself, we love it here,” Schiano said Wednesday. “It’s a tremendous people at the university and town, and this has become home. So you make those decisions as a coach and keep moving.

Beyond just the return of a renowned defensive mind, Schiano’s return will pay dividends for Ohio State recruiting. He also will be able to provide the cornerbacks with a temporary leader until a replacement is found for former cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, who left in January for the same position with the Tennessee Titans.

“[Schiano is] essential to our program right now,” Meyer said. “If he is not my best recruiter, he’s certainly right there near the top. He manages so much for me off the field as well as being one of the top defensive coordinators in America.”

The official news of his return was made on National Signing Day, the final day for 2018 recruits to sign with college teams. Ohio State received a boost when Nick Petit-Frere, the top-ranked offensive tackle in the nation, committed to the Buckeyes.

His commitment was largely the result of a long-standing relationship with Schiano. Meyer said Schiano was “knee deep” in the recruitment of Petit-Frere and was one of the major reasons the program was able to land the highly sought-after offensive tackle.

Schiano has worked to recruit several prospects, some while he knew he was being considered for other coaching positions at other institutions. He said no matter the distraction that all the rumors might provide, he does not allow them to interfere with his recruiting.

Despite the fact a coach might look to be on his way out, Schiano said he believes those rumors don’t have much effect, even on the players’ side.

“I think it’s all about the relationship you’ve established before that point. And if they have experienced you doing what you said you were going to do, then they trust you,” Schiano said. “I’m always very, very open and honest with our recruits, it’s the only way to do it and we communicate. But when you have that trust and you have that communication, those issues aren’t as paramount as people believe.”

That trust between the recruits and the coaches becomes even more important when another key coach on the staff departs. Coombs, the energetic cornerbacks coach, left for the Tennessee Titans, leaving behind those players he helped recruit and the others who were going to play at his position.

With Coombs gone and no replacement currently lined up, Meyer said the cornerbacks will be left under the care of Schiano for now. Schiano is no stranger to defensive backs. He has been the safeties coach the past two seasons, as well as the defensive coordinator.

He also said he enjoys working with corners and that he has done it as the head coach of both Rutgers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Schiano said even after a new cornerbacks coach is hired, he will continue to assist them.

Schiano also will find that new defensive assistant coach Alex Grinch could start to relieve Schiano of some of his responsibilities in the upcoming season.

Ohio State will make sure to utilize as much of Schiano as it can while he remains in Columbus. He will be around for the 2018 season, but his future beyond then remains in doubt.

He did not shy away from expressing interest in returning to a head coaching role in the future.

“I do have aspirations of doing that because I kind of feel that’s what I’m called to do, but it doesn’t have to happen, if that makes sense,” Schiano said. “I’ve done it for 13 years, I enjoy doing it, but I love what I’m doing right now and that’s part of every decision.”

Schiano’s days in Columbus are still numbered. He will not remain defensive coordinator of the Buckeyes for the rest of his career. But as long as he’s donning Scarlet and Gray, Schiano will continue to provide Ohio State with the services of one of the most versatile coaches in the country, from the recruiting trail to in-game coaching.

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