COLUMBUS – Ohio State’s search for a new safeties coach did not have to take them far as in terms of a map, just down Interstate 71 to the University of Cincinnati and Perry Eliano, a former member of the Bearcats’ coaching staff.
There is a general belief that Ohio State’s defense was the difference between Ohio State getting into the College Football Playoff this past season and not. Ohio State’s loss was Cincinnati’s gain, opening a spot for the Bearcats to make the field, largely behind the nation’s No. 10 total defense and a defensive unit that was No. 2 in passing yards allowed and No. 1 in Team Passing Efficiency Defense.
Eliano was a big part of that under former Ohio State coach Luke Fickell down with the Bearcats. UC’s Coby Bryant went on to win the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.
Now Eliano will be asked to bring his expertise to Ohio State and alongside Tim Walton, restore the Buckeyes defense to its expected standing among the nation’s elite programs.
“As a competitor, you want to be the best,” Eliano said on Monday during his introductory press conference. The new Ohio State coach made sure everyone knew that players are not the only ones who are competitive in the game.
Under the current structure of the College Football Playoff, it is difficult for a team outside of the Power Five to get into the four-team field but that is a yearly expectation within a program like Ohio State and a year outside of the field is viewed as a missed opportunity, or worse.
“Pressure is a privilege, I don’t want to be somewhere where the expectation is not to win championships,” Eliano said. “Whether it be conference championship, national championship, I don’t want to be at a place where the expectation is not to develop your players to be the very best they can be, which ultimately, would be the very best in the country.”
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day made the difficult decision to overhaul the defensive coaching staff and bringing in three new coaches with Eliano, Walton and new coordinator Jim Knowles to shore up a unit that may have only been giving up 23 points per game, but gave up more than 40 points per game in three of the biggest contests of the year (Oregon, Michigan, Utah).
The Buckeyes were giving up nine points more per game than over the course of the 2019 season, the lone season under then-DC Jeff Hafley, and the defense had been trending downwards ever since his departure.
Change is always difficult, but it is necessary too and finding someone who understands those expectations is a must.
“For me having that experience at Cincinnati and being under coach Fickell and understanding that every day there’s an expectation of excellence, that’s been the norm for me,” Eliano said.
Perry Eliano is walking in the door with his eyes wide open to what will be expected of him. Even being on the road for two weeks with recruiting commitments, he has had a chance to sit down with every member of his safeties room, starting to learn the personnel that he has inherited and already coaching his players up.
“For me to come here, and say, ‘Hey, you know, the expectation is to win a National Championship, the expectation is to develop these guys to be the very best they can be,’ that’s how I’m built,” Eliano said.
Coaches are only allowed to meet with players during this portion of the calendar until the start of spring practice in March. That is when the real hands-on instruction will begin, but now is the time for players to see what their new coaches are all about and vice-versa.
“I’m looking forward as a competitor myself, not just a coach, but as a competitor to roll my sleeves up and dive headfirst,” Eliano said. “Let’s go to work, and listen, get this thing right.”