Ryan Day stays in-house in filling Ohio State opening on defensive staff

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Parker Fleming has been part of Ohio State's coaching support staff since 2018, after serving as a graduate assistant in 2012-13.

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day on Wednesday announced that quality control coach Parker Fleming has been promoted to special teams coordinator.

The move fills the on-field assistant coaching vacancy left by Greg Mattison, the defensive co-coordinator who retired at the end of last month.

In conjunction with elevating the 32-year-old Fleming, Matt Barnes will move from special teams coordinator to secondary coach, and Kerry Coombs will oversee multiple position groups in addition to his role as the defensive coordinator. Last season, Coombs also coached the secondary.

“Promoting from within is something I believe strongly in,” Day said during a conference call with reporters, “and I believe that it's going to be an opportunity for these guys to really be part of our program for a long time. It keeps some continuity.”

It is the second straight offseason in which Day has promoted a member of the program’s support staff to one of the 10 on-field assistant roles. Last winter, Corey Dennis moved from senior quality control coach to quarterbacks coach.

Day praised Fleming as “really bright” and “very sharp,” noting the assistant’s well-rounded base of knowledge.

He joined the staff during Urban Meyer’s final season, in 2018, and had previously been a graduate assistant with the Buckeyes in 2012 and '13. Before a second stint in Columbus, he was an offensive co-coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas State.

“I think it's really important that we have a lot of guys who have been two, three, four years in this program and in this style of special teams,” Day said. “Parker believes in what we do. He believes in our system, and so because of that, I think it's going to be great.”

Parker Fleming

The promotion of Fleming was precipitated by a desire to expand Barnes’ role in the secondary after he had worked with the safeties during the past two seasons.

The Buckeyes ranked 122nd in Football Bowl Subdivision in pass defense in 2020, allowing 304 yards per game through the air, prompting Day to point to a greater need for attention placed on the back end of their defense and leading him to target Barnes over an outside hire.

“You say to yourself, do you go get a secondary coach somewhere throughout the country that knows our scheme, that understands what we want to get done and fits?” Day said. “All of a sudden the list gets smaller and smaller and smaller. And then I watched the way that Matt Barnes works, I think he’s really good.

“If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t just do it. But I think to bring in somebody who has a different set of thoughts on coverages and beliefs, and all those things, that's a different dynamic. I think Matt Barnes will do this job better than anybody else in the country for what we need."

None of the defensive assistants will serve as a co-coordinator, as Mattison did the previous two seasons.

Since the NCAA first allowed teams to have 10 on-field assistants in 2018, the Buckeyes have used co-coordinators for the defense, starting with the tandem of Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch. Day kept the model when he took over for Meyer in 2019.

Day first paired Mattison with Jeff Hafley, who was replaced by Coombs after he left to become head coach at Boston College after one season.

No longer serving as the Buckeyes’ secondary coach will allow Coombs to focus more on coordinator responsibilities and maintain the flexibility to work with the whole defense.

Day said Coombs would be "freed up a little bit more to move within the linebackers, the defensive line and also have his hands in the secondary.”

“Certainly he's still going to be involved with the corners and safeties,” Day added.