After a season of spotty defense and 11 days after giving up 42 points to Michigan, Ohio State coach Ryan Day announced Tuesday that Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has been hired to fill that role for the Buckeyes.
Knowles spent the past four seasons at Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys’ defense in 2021 was a major reason why they finished atop the Big 12.
He will stay with Oklahoma State through a Fiesta Bowl appearance against Notre Dame and join Ohio State after the Buckeyes face Utah in the Rose Bowl, also on New Year’s Day.
“Starting Jan. 2, Knowles will be the Buckeyes’ new defensive coordinator,” Day said. “What is most important at this time is that we put our players in the best position possible to finish this season with a win in the Rose Bowl. To that end, we will continue our planning and preparation for the game with our current staff of 10 assistant coaches.”
Significantly, the 56-year-old Knowles helped turned the Cowboys from an offense-oriented program into one that improved its defensive numbers in each of the past four seasons.
While Ohio State was flailing around trying to slow down Michigan as the Big Ten title slipped away from the Buckeyes, Oklahoma State was finishing the regular season with the third-ranked total defense in the country (278.4 yards per game) and was eighth in scoring defense (16.8 points per game), and second in third-down defense (26.1 percent).
Ohio State was 50th in total defense (365.4 ypg), tied for 25th in scoring defense (20.1 ppg), and – notably — tied for 97th in third-down defense (41.4).
Day relieved defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs of play-calling duties after the Buckeyes lost to Oregon, 35-20, back on Sept. 11. Secondary coach Matt Barnes handled that role through the rest of the season, but with the addition of Knowles after the bowl games, Day did not indicate whether Coombs or Barnes will remain on the Buckeyes staff.
Knowles was previously defensive coordinator at Duke (2010-17), head coach at Cornell (2004-09), and linebackers coach at Ole Miss (2003) after earlier stops at Western Michigan (1997-02) and Cornell (1988-96).
–Field Level Media