|Winslow Townson/Associated Press|
|Mike Vrabel made a Pro Bowl and won three Super Bowls as a member of the Patriots.|
Ohio State defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is leaving to become linebackers coach on Bill O'Brien's staff with the Texans.
I am thankful for everyone assoc with TOSU for 3 great years and my family and I are excited to join the Houston Texans as the LB coach.— Mike Vrabel (@CoachVrabel50) January 9, 2014
Vrabel, an Ohio State alum, just finished his third season as an Ohio State assistant. He played 14 seasons in the NFL and won three Super Bowl rings as a linebacker with New England. O'Brien was an offensive assistant for the Patriots during Vrabel's final two seasons with the team.
Vrabel oversaw arguably the best position group for the Buckeyes this season. Despite an all-new starting front four, Ohio State was third in the Big Ten and ninth nationally in rush defense. In addition, junior tackle Michael Bennett and sophomore end Noah Spence emerged as burgeoning stars.
Vrabel also was a good recruiter, and with National Signing Day less than a month away, his departure stings a bit. Still, it's extremely likely that the defensive linemen who are committed to the Buckeyes end up signing with them.
Urban Meyer's defensive staff is in some flux. Co-coordinator Everett Withers, who also was the secondary coach, was hired as coach at FCS member James Madison, giving Meyer two positions to fill on that side of the ball. The other co-coordinator is linebacker coach Luke Fickell, but it seems unlikely he will be given the coordinator title. Fickell is a former Ohio State player and served as the interim coach in 2011, but despite his status as a favored alum, he received a lot of criticism for the defense's mediocre showing this season.
Despite the strong play of the line, the defense underachieved this season, especially the secondary, which was expected to be a strength. All four starting linemen will return next season. But the Buckeyes will lose junior Ryan Shazier, their best linebacker, to the NFL draft, and the secondary will need three new starters next season, so the revamped defensive staff will be busy during spring drills.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.