Feel free to see it as firing a shot across the bow or simply taking the best talent available. Either way, Ohio State coach Ryan Day has recruited Michigan hard since taking over the football program on Jan. 2.
The twist is that Day did not land a single defensive back or guard from That State Up North. Instead, he brought in a married dad and a grandfather from That Team Up North.
Joining the Buckeyes coaching staff are former Michigan Men Al Washington and Greg Mattison. (What’s next, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vacationing with Howard Schultz at Trump International?)Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Washington, the 34-year-old son of former Ohio State linebacker Al Washington Sr., spent this past season coaching the Wolverines’ linebackers. He now holds the same position with the Buckeyes. Mattison, 69, spent the past eight seasons in Ann Arbor; it was his second stint at UM, where he also worked from 1992 to '96. At OSU he will serve as defensive co-coordinator, a position he held for six seasons with the Wolverines. He coached the defensive line the past four years.
With a sly smile, Day conceded that the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry “was a consideration” in hiring coaches directly from UM. I take that to mean it takes some getting used to — more for the fans than for OSU coaches. But still …
For sure, switching sides rarely happens. Bo Schembechler coached under Woody Hayes in Columbus and later ended up at Michigan. The Buckeyes have had coaches land at Michigan, too. It happened most recently with UM offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who left Ohio State after the 2016 season and spent one year at Minnesota before joining Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan staff this season.
But the Washington-Mattison moves are different. Records from Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library show no UM football coach has ever departed directly to the Buckeyes. And vice versa.
Why now? Upon his elevation after Urban Meyer’s retirement, Day scanned the coaching landscape and saw in Washington and Mattison near-perfect matches for what he was seeking: an older coach (Mattison) who would work in tandem with veteran defensive line coach Larry Johnson to bring experience; and an energetic younger coach (Washington) who has ties to Ohio and worked with Day at Boston College.
“I got a lot of respect for the rivalry,” said Day, who called Harbaugh in December to talk through the hires. “It had nothing to do with anything other than trying to find the best guys.”
I suppose it’s just a coincidence that both guys came from the Maize and Blue. Speaking of which, Washington still hasn’t committed TTUN to verbal muscle memory. He dropped a “Michigan” during his introductory news conference on Wednesday. And apparently it was not his first slip-up. He said he has “banged out about 30 push-ups” for his crime.
“It’s an adjustment for sure,” Washington said of switching sides, adding that he was “all-in” at Michigan, which made the move difficult.
But the adjustment has been good. He grew up in Columbus; attended Watterson; his wife, Melissa, attended Ohio State, and his parents live 20 minutes away. Family considerations factored heavily into his decision.
Mattison said that leaving Michigan was hard, but “I also have spent 19 of the last 24 years coordinating, and to have the opportunity to have a co-coordinator at a great university like Ohio State was … the biggest thing.”
It’s not a great look for Michigan, but at least one UM fan is spinning it positive. Matt Stout, a former Michigan wrestler who practices law in Columbus, pointed out that the Buckeyes just hired two coaches off a defense that gave up 62 points and 567 yards to Ohio State in November.
Buckeye Nation counterpoint? If you can’t beat them, join them.