Matt Guerrieri

Matt Guerrieri Back Home At Ohio State With A Limitless Defense

New Ohio State safeties coach Matt Guerrieri is back home, even if his previous stop in Columbus was only for one year as a defensive analyst.

Guerrieri first came to Ohio State with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles in 2022. Knowles brought his defense from Oklahoma State and then made a call to bring former right-hand man Guerrieri over from Duke to help him install a brand new scheme.

The two had worked together at Duke from 2012-2017, and when Knowles left Duke for Oklahoma State, Guerrieri replaced Knowles as Duke’ co-defensive coordinator. That’s where he was when Knowles called him in 2022. Guerrieri’s first stint at OSU lasted just one year because he was hired away by Indiana head coach Tom Allen to be the Hoosiers’ co-defensive coordinator in 2023.

With a coaching opening at the safety position for the Buckeyes following the 2023 season, Guerrieri was a logical choice for Knowles and head coach Ryan Day. For one, there will be no down time in learning the defense because Guerrieri already knows it. Not only can he teach it, but he also knows the history of it. He has seen what worked in the past and what didn’t, which will be valuable feedback as Knowles finalizes the ins and outs of what this year’s defense will look like.

Guerrieri will also be dealing with players who have been in this defense before, which goes a long way in teaching and improving.

“I think it’s different. When you put the film on when [Knowles] first came here, it was Oklahoma State film,” Guerrieri explained. “Now, it’s two years, it’s all Ohio State film. So when you start talking about what does it look like, these guys are watching themselves on film. And it makes a big difference when you say, ‘Okay, what does it look like for those guys?'”

The Allure

The opportunity to work with Jim Knowles again was obviously a motivating factor for Matt Guerrieri to return to Ohio State, but that wasn’t the only incentive.

“This is the best place in the country,” he said. “You get a chance to be at Ohio State. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. This is home to me. Working with the best coordinator in the country, Jim Knowles. Working for the best head coach in the country, Ryan Day. This place has everything that you ever dreamt of. So to be able to be here and work with these young man on a daily, this is a special opportunity.”

The opportunity to work with players as talented as Ohio State has on an annual basis is also impossible for any coach to ignore. The Buckeyes have lost just one starter from last year’s secondary, and they have replaced him with Alabama Freshman All-American Caleb Downs.

It’s not just the talent on hand but the collective goal that has brought them all back together. They simply want to win. That aspect of coaching at Ohio State is not lost on Guerrieri.

“It’s great to be able to have everything right in front of you,” he said. “You know, I tell it all the time to recruits. As a player, there’s nothing that you long for here at Ohio State. You get it all right in front of you. As a coach, the same thing. Everything that you ever dreamt of or you wanted, you’ve got right here. And it’s our job to take advantage of that.”

The Potential

Matt Guerrieri knows that he is not being brought in to fix this defense. There is nothing broken, after all. The Buckeyes have 13 players with starting experience on defense, including eight in the secondary.

Ohio State led the nation in just about every major pass defense category last year, so there isn’t a lot of room for improvement. But that’s not going to stop Guerrieri and the rest of the Buckeye coaching staff from striving for more.

In fact, even though the expectations are to once again best the best defense in America, there are ways to make improvements.

“I would say playing as one,” Guerrieri said. ” I mean, you’re talking about the number one pass defense in the country right now. Right? So the expectation is that — and to be the best in America. ‘BIA’ as we say. But I would say playing as one heartbeat across the board, whether that’s in our run fits together or our disguises together being coordinated. I think having that and working hand in hand with [cornerbacks coach] Tim [Walton] and making sure that our guys are functioning at the absolute highest level.”

There is obviously a lot to like with this Ohio State defense. Especially with eight players choosing to play one more year at OSU over declaring for the NFL Draft.

So just how good could this Buckeye defense be?

“There’s no limit on it,” Guerrieri said. “I mean, you’ve got great pieces from the front, to the middle of it, to the back end of it. And it’s on us as coaches to be able to put those pieces in place to accomplish our goals.”

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