It was announced Friday that former Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis would be returning to Columbus to join the football coaching staff as an assistant coach with a degree. Of course, Laurinaitis is supposed to work with the team’s linebackers. The move comes less than a year after the legendary Buckeye linebacker joined Notre Dame as a research assistant to Marcus Freeman, another former Ohio State linebacker.
The only surprise of Laurinaitis joining the Ohio State coaching staff was that the move didn’t come sooner. After his NFL playing career ended, Laurinaitis co-hosted a morning show with Beau Bishop on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, and it was obvious to those who listened to the show that the linebacker still had a passion for the game even as interesting for entry into the trainer ranks.
Now, Laurinaitis joins another former Buckeye on the coaching staff, as wide receiver Brian Hartline has crushed him as wide receivers coach since replacing Zach Smith ahead of the 2018 season. Since taking over Smith, Hartline has not only put some of the best talent in the country down the recruiting path, but also helped those talents grow their skillset. In the 2022 NFL Draft, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were drafted 10th and 11th picks in the first round, while former Ohio State wide receiver Jameson Williams was picked right after Olave.
If head coach Ryan Day was smart, he would continue to add former Buckeyes to his coaching staff. Not only will Laurinaitis help shape the linebacking corps, but he knows exactly what it takes to beat Michigan, which is an area where Ryan Day recently failed. With more Ohio State alumni on the coaching staff, the Buckeyes have a better chance of beating That Team Up North.
With Hartline being promoted to offensive coordinator this offseason to match his role as wide receivers coach and Laurinaitis getting his feet wet as an assistant with a focus on the linebackers, there are two former staff chestnut positions at hand. Although Laurinaitis isn’t technically the linebacker coach, which is a position held by defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, we’re going to just put Laurinaitis in that position for this drill.
Here are some other fun former Buckeyes who could fill some of the assistant coaching staff positions.
Quarterbacks Coach: JT Barrett
Barrett comes back to Columbus as the quarterbacks coach feels it would be a no-brainer. While Barrett saw no future coaching after the end of his career in Ohio State, the quarterback joined the Detroit Lions coaching staff in the summer as an offensive assistant.
Say what you will about what happened to Urban Meyer in his last few seasons as a coach, but he’s a good assessor of coaching talent. Meyer saw coaching in Barrett’s future, even if Barrett didn’t. Although Barrett hasn’t found success in the NFL, he holds a slew of Ohio State records and knows exactly what’s expected of quarterbacks these days.
Running Backs Coach: Maurice Clarett
There’s no better candidate to be a running backs coach than Maurice Clarett. The Youngstown product burst onto the scene, giving a jolt to an Ohio State misdemeanor as a freshman. Clarett and his teammates shocked the world by beating Miami in the BCS National Championship Game at the end of the 2002 season.
We saw how Clarett’s story unfolded after his first season. While most people couldn’t recover from what Clarett went through, he was able to survive and become a better man. Now Clarett finds joy in making sure kids don’t make the same mistakes he did. As NIL changes the landscape of college football, there is no one better to mentor student-athletes and teach them not to give in to the temptations that come with being a star athlete.
Oh yeah, Clarett was great to watch on the field too. Players with his power, toughness, agility, and speed don’t come around too often, and it’s even rarer to see them all together like we’ve seen with him. The combination of football lessons and life lessons he was able to teach makes him a very interesting option to coach running backs.
Tight Ends Coach: Jake Stoneburner
Finding an option for a tight ends coach wasn’t easy since Ohio State doesn’t use its tight ends all that often. While thinking of Ricky Dudley here, I chose Jake Stoneburner just because he’s not that far from the game. In addition, Stoneburner has experience with Urban Meyer’s system, elements of which Ryan Day still uses. With Dudley, I feel like there could be a bigger learning curve just because the game has changed so much since he played in Scarlet and Grey.
Offensive Line Coach: Orlando Pace
If there was anyone who could command respect from the moment he joined the coaching staff, it would be Orlando Pace. “The Pancake Man” has done just about anything you can do on the football field. During his time at Ohio State, Pace was a Heisman Trophy finalist, which was all but unheard of for an offensive lineman. Pace is a Super Bowl Champion and a member of the Pro and College Football Hall of Fame.
Not only has Pace probably forgotten more about playing the offensive line than others will ever know, it feels like there’s no chance Ohio State would ever miss an offensive line recruit if Pace were the position coach . Though he’s reduced his playing weight since retirement, Pace is still an imposing figure that I wouldn’t want to say no to if he wanted me to play on the Buckeye offensive line.
Defensive coach: Cameron Heyward
There are so many great options when it comes to former Ohio State defenders. While Joey and Nick Bosa, Chase Young and Sam Hubbard would all be great options to join the coaching staff, they all have plenty of time left in their NFL careers. Cameron Heyward is still an active player in the NFL, but he’s just finished his 12th year in the league. Though he doesn’t want to admit it, retirement is coming sooner rather than later for Heyward.
In a sport so physical, Heyward was the model for consistency on the defensive end. There was only one season in the NFL that Heyward didn’t play at least 15 games in a season. The defensive end has seen everything you can imagine on the football field and could teach young defenders as much as they try to prepare them for a future on the field after leaving Ohio State.
Cornerbacks Coach: Antoine Winfield
It’s impossible to list the greatest defensemen in Ohio State history without mentioning Antoine Winfield. While Winfield’s numbers in college or in the NFL won’t blow you away, he had tremendous all-around ability. In addition to defending the pass, Winfield was a great tackler. It’s obvious that Winfield knew what he was doing or he wouldn’t have played 191 games in the NFL.
Winfield is just what the Ohio State cornerbacks would need, especially given the struggles they’ve had in recent years. The former Buckeye was never a big talker, preferring to let his game speak for itself on the field. Plus, Winfield knows a little about setting up younger defensemen for success, since his son has become a staple in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ high school.
Safety Trainer: Mike Doss
Aside from Jack Tatum, it’s impossible to say there’s ever been a better security agency in the state of Ohio than Mike Doss. Three-time First Team All-American and three-time First Team All Big Ten honoree. Doss was the MVP of the Fiesta Bowl win over Miami. If it wasn’t for Doss, the Buckeye defense would likely falter at some point during the season and they wouldn’t even have a chance to beat the Hurricanes.
Since the end of his playing career, Doss has gained a lot of experience working with young people and trying to give them the skills to succeed. I’m just surprised Doss hasn’t found a career as a coach yet. It feels like it’s impossible for Doss to turn down a position on the coaching staff when his alma mater calls.
Special team coach: Mike Nugent
Although Ohio State has had some great kickers over the years, none of them will ever compare to Mike Nugent. The Centerville kicker was so good he got a second-round pick in the NFL draft, which is very rare for a kicker. Nugent even spent a good chunk of his NFL career downing I-71 for the Cincinnati Bengals.
That’s not to say that Noah Ruggles is going to take the kick in the Peach Bowl to send Ohio State to the College Football Playoff Championship Game, but he might have a little more confidence in throwing a kick that hard if Nugent was the coach of the Special teams would be. No one has performed clutch kicks in scarlet and gray more than Nugent, and it would be great if he shared his knowledge with the special teams.