Tennessee reportedly pursuing Ohio State linebackers coach Washington

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington is reportedly being pursued by Tennessee to be the Volunteers' defensive coordinator.

When Ryan Day announced Parker Fleming as the 10th on-field assistant coach on his staff to replace the retired Greg Mattison, the Ohio State football coach figured he had his staff completed for the 2021 season.

That might not be true. On Sunday, reported that new Tennessee coach Josh Heupel was pursuing Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington to become the Volunteers' defensive coordinator. reported Monday that Day and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith had met with Washington in hopes of enticing him to stay.

Smith said in a text Monday afternoon to The Dispatch that he does not comment on personnel matters.

Washington, a Columbus native whose father, Al, played for OSU from 1977-80, has been at Ohio State for two seasons. After being named Urban Meyer’s successor, Day hired Washington away from Michigan in January 2019 along with Mattison.

Washington, 36, is considered a rising star in the coaching business. A Watterson High School graduate, Washington played and later coached at Boston College. He coached the defensive line at the University of Cincinnati in 2017 in Luke Fickell’s first year as UC coach before his one season in Ann Arbor.

If Washington were to leave, it would come at a time of transition at his position group. The Buckeyes lose their top four linebackers from 2020. Seniors Pete Werner, Baron Browning, Tuf Borland and Justin Hilliard are now pursuing their NFL dreams.

In December, Washington was enthused about the next wave of OSU linebackers.

“We’ve got a great group,” he told The Dispatch. “Who will start? We'll leave it up to the players. They'll decide that, but I'm very excited about where we're heading — very much so.”

Tennessee is trying to rebuild after several disappointing seasons. The Volunteers hired Heupel from Central Florida after firing Jeremy Pruitt, accusing him of committing serious NCAA violations.

The Volunteers have been a mess on and off the field, but they have paid their assistant coaches generously. Tennessee paid defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley $1 million in 2020. It paid offensive coordinator Jim Chaney $1.6 million.

Washington is scheduled to make $515,000 in 2021 under the terms of his current contract.

In a conference call last week, Day said he did not plan to name a coach as co-coordinator under defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs. That was Mattison’s title before his retirement last month.