Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington will remain with Buckeyes after Tennessee offer

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington directs a drill in a March 2020 practice.

After receiving an offer to become defensive coordinator at Tennessee, Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington has decided to remain with the Buckeyes, The Dispatch learned Thursday night.

Washington’s decision comes three days after he reportedly met with Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and athletic director Gene Smith following Tennessee's offer.

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Washington, a Columbus native, has been at Ohio State for two seasons. Day hired him away from Michigan in January 2019 along with Greg Mattison after being named Urban Meyer’s successor as coach.

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.

Buckeyes to lose their top four linebackers

The loss of Washington would have been untimely. The Buckeyes will lose their top four linebackers – Pete Werner, Baron Browning, Tuf Borland and Justin Hilliard. The seniors are now pursuing their NFL dreams.

In December, Washington said he was enthused about the next group of 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 Josh Heupel from Central Florida after firing Jeremy Pruitt, accusing him of committing serious NCAA violations. Washington would have been in line for a significant pay raise if he’d taken the Tennessee job.

The Volunteers paid defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley $1 million in 2020. They paid offensive coordinator Jim Chaney $1.6 million.

Washington signed a two-year contract with Ohio State in 2019 with a salary last year of $515,000.

In a Zoom call last week, Day said he did not plan to name a coach as co-coordinator under Kerry Coombs. That was Mattison’s title before his retirement last month. Matt Barnes, formerly assistant secondary coach/special-teams coordinator, was named secondary coach. Quality control coach Parker Fleming was promoted to special-teams coordinator.