Ohio State football names former All-American James Laurinaitis linebackers coach

Ohio State football has filled its 10-person assistant coaching staff, as Ryan Day tabbed former Buckeyes All-American James Laurinaitis to be the linebackers coach.

The 37-year-old Laurinaitis, who played at Ohio State from 2005-08, was a graduate assistant last season after spending a year at Notre Dame. He provided an instant recruiting boost. Though he couldn’t go on the road, he was able to help identify recruits and assist with on-campus recruiting efforts. Now he gets to head on the road as a full-time assistant, enhancing his value in that area.

Nobody knows what it’s like to be a standout linebacker at Ohio State more than Laurinaitis. He’s one of the most accomplished defensive players in Ohio State history, and now he’ll have a bigger hand in developing the next generation of Buckeyes linebackers, too.

Special teams will be a joint effort

With Ohio State moving on from special teams coordinator Parker Fleming and Laurinaitis taking on the full-time linebackers role, a hole is left on special teams. That is something that the Buckeyes will likely fill by committee. Day, when he met with the media earlier this month, mentioned safeties coach Matt Guerrieri as somebody who could help in that area, for one. Day said he could also help out on special teams now that he is relinquishing offensive play-calling duties to Chip Kelly.

Ohio State’s special teams struggled under Fleming. With a defined coordinator, the units could benefit from a more collective effort from the staff.

Jim Knowles can focus on one thing

The promotion of Laurinaitis is a big deal for Knowles, who had linebacker coaching duties on top of being the defensive coordinator. After having a strong second season as the defensive coordinator, he can focus further on how he wants to build on that success with the unit as a whole.

Knowles being the head coach of the defense, so to speak, will allow him to have more oversight over everything rather than having his attention divided. That should only make Ohio State’s defense better, on top of more aggressively mobilizing Laurinaitis as a recruiter.

More assistant coach news

Ohio State made a few changes to assistant contracts this offseason:

• After turning into arguably the best outside hire Day has made, Tim Walton has been promoted to assistant head coach/secondary and cornerbacks coach. He also has received a two-year contract extension through the 2026 season.

• Knowles received a two-year contract extension through the 2026 season.

• Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has a new two-year contract through the 2025 season.

• Tight ends coach Keenan Bailey has received a one-year contract extension through the 2025 season.

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(Photo: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

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