'Both traditional powerhouses:' Notre Dame DL coach Al Washington sets plan for Ohio State

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch

Al Washington knows what it’s like to coach at Ohio Stadium

He spent three seasons with Ohio State football coaching linebackers after a one-year stint with Michigan

When Washington returns to Ohio Stadium Sept. 3 as Notre Dame’s defensive line coach and defensive run game coordinator, he knows what to expect.

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And his message to the Fighting Irish before the season opener has been that the atmosphere between both programs are similar. 

“Both traditional powerhouses, obviously, being at Ohio State for the past few years,” Washington said. “Great, great program, great history, great culture. Not unlike Notre Dame. I say the exact same thing here with our guys and the men in our room. It’s a proud group, and they definitely understand the task at hand.” 

Al Washington is from Columbus and played at Bishop Watterson

Washington grew up in Columbus, attending Bishop Watterson High School before playing four years on Boston College’s defensive line from 2002-05. 

After coaching stints with Boston College, Cincinnati and Michigan, Washington joined the staff at Ohio State and coached linebackers for three seasons. He was not retained heading into the 2022 season after the Buckeyes allowed more than 20 points per game for the second consecutive season. 

Ahead of the 2021 season, Tennessee pursued Al Washington to become its next defensive coordinator.

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson was the only position coach in Ohio State’s 2021 defense that returned, with secondary coach Matt Barnes becoming Memphis’ defensive coordinator and defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs joining Luke Fickell’s staff at Cincinnati coaching cornerbacks and special teams. 

Washington is not the only coach with an Ohio State connection on Notre Dame's coaching staff.

Notre Dame football infused with Ohio State Buckeyes

Head coach Marcus Freeman played linebacker for Ohio State from 2004-08 before joining Fickell's staff at Cincinnati at defensive coordinator for four years. He joined Notre Dame's coaching staff as defensive coordinator in 2021 under Brian Kelly before taking the head coaching job ahead of the 2022 season.

Ohio State Buckeyes linebackers coach Al Washington reacts after the defense gave up a touchdown during the fourth quarter of a NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

James Laurinaitis joined Freeman's staff as a graduate assistant for the Fighting Irish defense after being a three-time All-American linebacker at Ohio State.

In atmospheres like Washington expects Notre Dame’s opener against Ohio State being, he said his emphasis has been on execution and “controlling the fire,” instead of letting it control you. 

“I think what would be my message to them and them haven’t had the chance to be at Ohio State or Michigan is that the difference is not between the elite programs and the good programs,” Washington said. “It’s in the details. 

“It’s not huge things. It’s little things, and so just harping on those little things: how you conduct your business, when you are doing a drill, how you finish. All those little things are really, to me, separators, and our guys get that. They have kind of done that since this whole thing started.” 

Ohio State will take on Notre Dame at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 to open the 2022 season. 

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