Ohio State defensive co-coordinator Greg Mattison to retire from coaching

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Greg Mattison spent two seasons in Columbus as Ohio State defensive co-coordinator.

Greg Mattison is retiring after nearly five decades in coaching.

Mattison, who spent the past two seasons as the defensive co-coordinator at Ohio State, will leave the program at the end of January. He turned 71 in November.

In announcing the news during a call with reporters on Friday, coach Ryan Day praised Mattison for an “unbelievable career” and called him a “special guy.” 

He was hired as a part of Day’s original coaching staff in 2019, poached from Michigan along with linebackers coach Al Washington.

Mattison had spent 13 seasons over two separate stints with the Buckeyes’ archrival, but also worked alongside Day when they were at Florida together in 2005. Day was a graduate assistant for the Gators when Mattison coordinated the defense.

“I know he’s really going to miss it,” Day said, “but he’s going to have an opportunity to spend some time with his grandkids and his children after an unbelievable career.”

His first coaching job in college came in 1976 as a graduate assistant at Illinois.

A search for Mattison’s replacement is underway, but Day offered no updates on potential candidates or a timeline for the search. It is the eighth consecutive offseason in which Ohio State has had some coaching staff turnover.

While Mattison worked with the team’s linebackers and shared coordinator duties with Kerry Coombs this season, Day left open the possibility for a new hire to take on a different role. The Buckeyes could promote a current position coach to coordinator with Coombs, then fill his vacated spot with someone else.

“We're going to look at all options,” Day said. “Is there somebody else out there that can take Greg's spot in the same exact role that he did, or are we going to just move some things around and reassign some of the job descriptions? That's all on the table.”

Day also said he would look for assistants with varied coaching philosophies. Though the Buckeyes have run a single-high safety scheme in his two seasons, experience with the approach is not a requirement for candidates.

“Anybody who has a background in four-down, single-high defense certainty would fit quicker,” Day said, “but bringing in somebody that has a little bit more of a diverse background can give us a different perspective in areas where we can maximize what we have. And I think that's what's important.

“We try to do that all the time on offense, and I think that's going to be important that we do that on defense. Based on who we have that year, what gives us the best chance to be successful? And if it's to continue to be in a single-high Cover 3, let's do it. But if it's not, what are the things?"

Mattison helped install the single-safety scheme alongside Jeff Hafley in 2019 when the Buckeyes were coming off one of the worst statistical seasons in school history.

Day retained only one defensive on-field assistant from Urban Meyer’s final staff, defensive line coach Larry Johnson. When Hafley left after 2019 to become head coach at Boston College, Mattison remained to provide continuity and ease the transition for Coombs.

“Greg was right in the middle of that,” Day said. “He was just a steady force and a calming force with a ton of experience who meant so much to everybody in that room, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.”

The Buckeyes led the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense in 2019, but regressed this past fall during a season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The 52 points they surrendered to Alabama in the national championship game loss were the most allowed by a defense in a title game in the College Football Playoff era.