COLUMBUS – Jeff Hafley was the main attraction at two press conferences 750 miles apart on Monday.
At one he was officially introduced as Boston College’s next head football coach. At the other, Ohio State Ryan Day talked about losing Hafley after one year on the Buckeyes’ coaching staff as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach and how he plans to replace him.
Hafley, 40, has been given much of the credit for the dramatic improvement this season by Ohio State’s defense, especially in the defensive backfield, and is known as an outstanding recruiter.
Day said he wants to replace Hafley “as quickly as I can.”
“We’re going to get the best in America because it’s Ohio State. We’re going to get the best coach in America to go coach that position. We want to be smart but move quickly as well.
“You always have a list, you always have people that you have ready,” Day said. “In this world, you go to a place like Ohio State, you do well and things like this are going to happen. You can either go hire somebody that is going to be here for seven or eight years or you hire the best in the country.
“You call around to different people that you respect. But usually the people you bring in are people you know really well and you trust.”
Day didn’t mention any names but there are rumors that former Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, now the defensive backs coach for the Tennessee Titans, is the No. 1 target in the search to replace Hafley. Former Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman, now the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati, is another name being mentioned.
Coombs is in his second season with the Titans. He was an OSU assistant from 2012-2017, was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati for five years and spent 24 years as a high school coach.
Hafley earned $950,000 at Ohio State this season. Coombs was paid $500,000 in his final season in Columbus in 2017.
Another rumor circulating is that OSU linebackers coach Al Washington, a Boston College graduate, might be interested in joining the coaching staff Hafley is assembling.
Day said he would be “very, very surprised” if Washington did that. “I would be shocked, to be honest with you. If that’s what he wanted to do, I’d support him. But I don’t see that happening at all,” he said.
At his Boston College press conference, Hafley said, “I never thought that I would leave Ryan after one season. Quite honestly, that’s not what I planned on doing, but when this one opened, it felt special, and it felt right, and that’s why I’m here.
“I wish I could stay here and begin right now, but I have to go win a national championship. I owe it to Ohio State, to Coach Day, and to the players, and I’m excited. So I’m going to go do that.”
Day said Ohio State’s defense will not change when Hafley’s replacement is on board. And he expects the recruits Hafley helped bring into OSU’s 2020 recruiting class to follow through on their commitments.
“Ohio State has been here a lot longer than Jeff Hafley. It’s going to continue to be great. Coach Hafley is a big reason they came here but it wasn’t the only reason. Our guys have been strong in their response. They’re excited to sign on Wednesday,” Day said.