FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema may not be done putting together his coaching staff for 2014.
Defensive coordinator Chris Ash is leaving his position with the Razorbacks to become the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, according to a Sports Illustrated report. The publication cited a source as saying the deal was finalized Tuesday morning, but may not be announced by the Buckeyes until later this week.
Bielema was not available for comment, but provided a response on his Twitter page.
“Have always felt transition on my staff has allowed us to get even better. Have had success hiring right people and will again. #woopig #1-0,” Bielema said via Twitter after SI reported Ash was leaving.
Ash has been a part of Bielema’s staffs at Arkansas and Wisconsin for the past four seasons, working as his defensive coordinator for the past three years. He would become the second defensive coach - and the second of Bielema’s former Wisconsin assistants - to leave for other positions after one season with the Razorbacks.
Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge was named the head coach at Florida Atlantic last month and Bielema hired former Samford defensive line coach Rory Segrest as his replacement last week.
Ash’s move would leave Arkansas looking for defensive leadership after struggling last season. The Razorbacks ranked 12th in the SEC in points allowed (30.8 a game) and ninth in total defense (413.4). Struggles at linebacker and in the secondary played a big part in Arkansas’ 3-9 season.
Ash earns $550,000 annually under the terms of his Arkansas contract, which runs through June 30, 2015. The contract includes a $100,000 buyout, which is prorated over the length of the agreement.
Bielema has said numerous times one of the primary reasons he left Wisconsin was because of the inability to retain assistant coaches. He was able to secure more money for assistants with the Razorbacks, paying his 2013 staff $3.2 million. However, he has lost three assistants to other jobs since being hired in Dec. 2012.
Bielema does have one former defensive coordinator on staff he could consider for the position in linebackers coach Randy Shannon. Shannon was Miami’s defensive coordinator from 2001-06 before being elevated to head coach.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau