Barnes set to lead Buckeyes’ defense in Rose Bowl, but future uncertain

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Matt Barnes on Ohio State football staff uncertainty

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Barnes will coach the Ohio State defense Saturday in the Rose Bowl.

He was not anxious to talk about anything else when he met with reporters Tuesday morning.

“Right now, I’m just trying to go win this game,” he said. “If you watched Utah on tape, you know how much work it’s going to take to try to take to get that done. Sometimes I can be obsessive, and I really just obsessed about this game and trying to give our kids a great opportunity to go win it.”

The 35-year-old Barnes is a Maryland native who came to Ohio State three years ago as part of Ryan Day’s first staff after Day replaced Urban Meyer as head coach of the Buckeyes.

A 10-year coaching veteran by the time he arrived in Columbus, he has filled the role of special teams coordinator, assistant secondary coach and safeties coach in his time in Columbus.

This year he added play-caller to his list of duties after an early-season shake-up in staff duties.

The experiment seemed to stop the bleeding after Oregon gashed the Buckeyes for 269 yards on the ground in Week 2, but Michigan took it to Ohio State even worse in the regular season finale.

The Wolverines piled up 297 yards on the ground and ran for six touchdowns in a 42-27 upset victory that sent the teams in opposite directions for the postseason.

While Ohio State is getting ready to face Utah in the Rose Bowl, Michigan is preparing to play Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal after beating Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Michigan’s emphatic win in November also set the stage for bigger changes on the Ohio State staff in January.

The first domino fell earlier this month when Day announced he has hired Jim Knowles to be the team’s new defensive coordinator.

What’s next remains to be seen, but at least one assistant will have to go because the NCAA caps full-time, on-field staff at 10.

Knowles won’t start until Jan. 2, but he has met with the players collectively and the current staff members individually.

“I can tell right away he’s an exceptionally talented and intelligent person,” Barnes said. “Seems like a great guy. The nature of our conversation did not go that long. He had a bunch of meetings, and I’m running to try to get practice organized and things like that.”

Barnes did express admiration for Knowles’ scheme, which is similar structurally to what the Buckeyes have been doing.

“I’m a film junkie,” Barnes said. “I’m an Xs and Os guy. I’m at Ohio State because I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some great coaches that I stole everything from. Almost 15 years in coaching, I don’t think I’ve had an original idea.

“I don’t have enough ego to say, well, this is mine. I don’t. I steal from everybody that I think does a good job. He’s done an exceptional job.”

Barnes, who lives in Columbus with his wife and 2-year-old son, said he would welcome the opportunity to remain with Ohio State — if it comes.

“It’s a wonderful place,” Barnes said. “I’ve enjoyed every moment that I’ve been here. I can’t imagine there are many head coaches to work for better than Ryan Day, and Columbus is an awesome place.

“It’s a great place. My wife and I love it here. Henry loves it here. That’s what I can tell you.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

ROSE BOWL

Ohio State vs. Utah, 5 p.m., ESPN, 1410

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