Ohio State head coach Ryan Day announced today that the Buckeyes have hired Oklahoma State football defensive coordinator Jim Knowles for the same position. Knowles was in his fourth season with the Cowboys and was a finalist for the 2021 Broyles Award, which is annually given to the nation’s top assistant coach.
The OSU defense was the unquestioned strength of the team in 2021. The Cowboys led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss and were third in total yards allowed and second in third-down conversions allowed. It was a banner year for the Cowboys, who finished 11-2 and came within inches of winning a conference title for the first time in a decade.
Oklahoma State football lost the architect of one of the nation’s best defenses in 2021 after Ohio State hired defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
According to Pokes Report, Oklahoma State had discussed a five-year contract worth $6.5 million total ($1.3 million per year) with Knowles, but Ohio State came swooping in with an offer worth $2 million per year.
Knowles was making $800,000 per annum with the Cowboys.
It’s frustrating to see one of college football’s blue bloods poach away the top assistant coach in Stillwater, especially one who was the foundation for such a successful season. It’s a compliment to the Cowboys, though, that a perennial Top 5 program with massive resources would look to the sidelines at Boone Pickens Stadium to make a national title run.
Assistant coaches come and go; it’s the lifeblood of college football and the less noticed part of the coaching carousel. If you’re a school like LSU, Oregon, Miami, or Texas Tech, your head coaches come and go somewhat frequently, too.
Former Cowboys assistants like Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken, former UNC head coach Larry Fedora, Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen, and Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have moved on to find success after spending time under Gundy in Stillwater.
Gundy is known for making under-the-radar hires for his assistant coaches. While notable names like now-former Miami head coach Manny Diaz might be tempting (though expensive and probably short-lived), it’s more likely that Gundy would promote from within and look to someone like defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements, who’s been in Stillwater since 2013.
Knowing Gundy, the next defensive coordinator candidate could be an FCS coach at a school that few Cowboys fans know.
Just as important as the replacement defensive coordinator is the talented cast of players on OSU’s defense. Four defensive players were named to the all-Big 12 first team for a unit that powered OSU to an 11-win season. 2021 marked the third-most conference individual awards for Cowboys players behind only the Big 12 2010 and 2011 teams.
Defensive end Collin Oliver had the nation’s second-highest sack total for a freshman and was named the Big 12 Player of the Year. Continuing his development and attracting talented high school recruits to Stillwater must be paramount in Knowles’ absence and as the early signing day looms on Dec. 15.
For OSU’s defense to come close to repeating its 2021 performance, it will need to replace leaders like the four first team all-conference performers Brock Martin, Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Malcolm Rodriguez, and Kolby Harvell-Peel, all seniors this year.