Three Early Potential Candidates for OSU’s Vacant Defensive Coordinator Spot

December 7, 2021

Jim Knowles has switched his orange and black for scarlet and gray and his OSU for … well, OSU.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day announced Tuesday that he had hired Knowles, formerly Oklahoma State’s defensive coordinator, away from Stillwater, leaving Mike Gundy’s DC position vacant for the first time since 2018.

With the news being hours old, here are three potential ways the orange OSU could fill its vacancy.

1. Doug Belk, Houston

Doug Belk is one of the hot names on the defensive coaching carousel this offseason and for good reason.

In his first season as a solo DC with the Houston Cougars, Belk’s defense ranks sixth nationally in total defense and leads the country in third-down conversion percentage (a stat Knowles’ defenses were always good in).

Belk is young, too, which often leads to being solid on the recruiting trail by being able to relate to players easier. He graduated from Carson-Newman University (Tennessee) in 2010 before spending time at Alabama as a graduate assistant and corner backs coach from 2014-16. He then moved to West Virginia to be a corners coach in 2017 and 2018 before following Dana Holgorsen to Houston. During the 2019 season he was the Cougars’ co-DC and safeties coach. He picked up an associate head coach title in 2020. He dropped the “co” in 2021.

One of the tough parts with Belk, though, is that he has a handful of suitors. Back when Florida was reportedly interested in Knowles, reports also read that the Gators were interested in Belk. Houston also has a good amount of money surrounding the program. The Cougars took Holgorsen from a Big 12 team for crying out loud. So, it’s a wonder if Houston would be able to match whatever OSU could offer monetarily.

2. Promote From Within

OSU’s defense is coming off arguably its best year in program history, and an argument could be made that adding a new chef to the kitchen could mess with the recipe. So, why not promote from within?

The Cowboys have some tenured-coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Joe Bob Clements (defensive line) and Tim Duffie (corners) have each been with the program since 2013. Dan Hammerschmidt (safeties) has been with the Pokes since 2015, and former OSU standout Greg Richmond (defensive line) has been back with his alma mater since 2018.

Having been around Knowles all these years, someone from that group might be able to best replicate the success Knowles has had.

3. Gary Patterson, Country Music Artist/Formerly TCU

Alright, let’s get weird.

Mike Gundy has always shared his admiration for former longtime TCU coach Gary Patterson. Here is what Gundy said about Patterson after OSU’s game against TCU in 2019:

“I have a lot of respect for (Patterson),” Gundy said. “He and I are good buddies. Before the game we almost think about siding up with each other every time because we enjoy each other’s company so much.”

This would take some doing and some want-to on Patterson’s part because OSU wouldn’t be able to pay Patterson a head coaches’ salary. It seems as if Patterson wants to stay around the game, as reports have recently surfaced suggesting Patterson could join Texas’ staff in some form or fashion. So, if Patterson and Gundy get along as much as they say they do, maybe Patterson could coach football by day and play at Calf Fry by night.

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