UPDATE at 3:30 p.m. -- Ohio State has issued a release confirming Everett Withers hiring as co-defensive coordinator/assistant head coach and also that assistant Mike Vrabel will be retained. Here is that release, followed by our earlier story with comments from Withers.
Withers Named Co-Def. Coord./Asst. Head Coach
Defense taking shape; Withers, Fickell, Johnson and Vrabel all on board
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has added another member to his coaching staff today with his announcement that 24-year coaching veteran Everett Withers would be the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Withers is currently the interim head coach at the University of North Carolina.
“Everett is extremely well respected across the country,” Meyer said. “I’ve known about him for a number of years and followed his progress as a college and NFL assistant coach. He will be a great fit for this staff and I think he and Luke [Fickell] are going to work well together as the co-coordinators of our defense.”
Withers has been a collegiate coach for 17 years and has also worked seven seasons in the National Football League: six years (2001-06) as defensive backs coach with the Tennessee Titans under Jeff Fisher, and a year (1994) as a defensive quality control coach for the New Orleans Saints.
Finishing up his fourth year at North Carolina, Withers was promoted to interim head coach at the school this past July and led the Tar Heels to a 7-5 record and to a berth in the Dec. 26 Independence Bowl against Missouri. He will coach the Tar Heels in the bowl game.
“I am excited, and I couldn’t be more excited to be on coach Urban Meyer’s staff at The Ohio State University,” Withers said. “Ohio State is obviously one of the storied programs in college athletics. Having an opportunity to work at that university, and as part of Coach Meyer’s staff, is something that you just can’t pass up.”
Withers’ collegiate coaching resume includes nine years as a defensive coordinator with a vast majority of his time – 15 seasons – spent coaching the defensive backfield. His Tar Heel defenses were top notch.
His first unit – 2008 – ranked eighth in the country with 20 interceptions, a number that was just one off the UNC single season record.
His 2009 defense was among the nation’s elite, ranking sixth in total defense, 10th against the run, 13th in scoring and 14th in pass defense.
His 2010 unit ranked fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 30th nationally. Five players off that unit were taken in the NFL draft, including first-round pick Robert Quinn.
And this past year the Tar Heels ranked 14th against the run.
Additionally, Withers’ UNC defenses have picked off 71 passes in the past four years.
Withers spent one year as defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota prior to his North Carolina position. He also has been an assistant coach at the University of Texas (1998-2000; defensive backs), Louisville (1995-97; defensive coordinator/assistant head coach/defensive backs), Southern Mississippi (1992-93; defensive backs/assistant special teams), Tulane (1991; outside linebackers) and Austin Peay (1988-90; defensive coordinator/defensive backs; tight ends/special teams).
A native of Charlotte, N.C., Withers attended Appalachian State University and was a four-year letter-winner as a defensive back. He served as team captain in 1984.
Withers and his wife, Kara, have a daughter, Tia, and a son, Pierce.
Mike Vrabel on Meyer’s Staff
Head coach Urban Meyer also announced today that Mike Vrabel, who coached the team’s linebackers this season after a decorated, 14-year career in the National Football League, has accepted an assistant coaching position with Meyer and will remain at his alma mater.
“I had heard such great things about Mike Vrabel as a player, but the key thing for me was I wanted to talk football with him,” Meyer said. “I wanted to see him recruit, and I wanted to meet his family. I have since spent a lot of time with him, and he has a wonderful family.
“I also spoke to a number of people I know well, who also know Mike very well, including Bill Belichick. Coach Belichick and I had a really good discussion about Mike. While Mike is young, we both agreed that the unique experiences he has had as a player, coupled with the things he has already accomplished as a coach and recruiter for Ohio State, has prepared Mike for this opportunity. I am very pleased he will be on the staff.”
The announcements of Withers and Vrabel increase the number of assistants on Meyer’s staff to six, and the number of defensive assistants to four. Luke Fickell, who will call plays as co-defensive coordinator, and Taver Johnson are additional defensive assistants. Stan Drayton will move from wide receivers coach to running backs coach. And Tom Herman, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Iowa State University the past three years, has accepted the same position with Ohio State.
Initial Story Posted at 1 p.m.
North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers told reporters in Chapel Hill today that he will be coming to Ohio State as Urban Meyer's co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
Withers’ name had been mentioned for the open head coaching job at Houston, although he has not reportedly interviewed for that job. Withers will coach the Tar Heels through their AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl against Missouri on Dec. 26.
Ohio State has not released any information on Withers’ hiring. It is unclear how the defensive staff will work. Luke Fickell, OSU’s current interim head coach, will be retained and Meyer has said he will call the defense. Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson will also be retained. It’s unclear whether linebackers coach Mike Vrabel will be retained.
Safeties coach Paul Haynes has left already to become defensive coordinator at Arkansas. Current OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has been rumored to take a job with new Illinois coach Tim Beckman, whom he worked with previously at OSU.
Here are comments from Withers today at UNC, courtesy of CarolinaBlue.com:
What did you think about the sanctions that came down at Ohio State yesterday?
Withers: “I feel very fortunate to be apart of the Ohio State University. I think the sanctions are what they are. I think that coming in on the front end gives us a chance to build a program and it gives us a chance for it to be a very positive thing in the long run.”
What will your title be?
Withers: “My title is assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator.”
How soon will you make the move after getting back from Shreveport?
Withers: “It will be within days I’m sure.”
When people say ‘O-H’ you know you’re supposed to say ‘I-O’ after that right?
Withers: “(laughs) I’m learning.”
How well do you know coach Urban Meyer?
Withers: “We’ve known each other for a couple years. A couple years ago we talked when the Florida defensive coordinator job came open so we’ve got a little bit of a past and I’m looking forward to working with coach Meyer.”
What kid of challenge will it be to recruit with a bowl ban and sanctions?
Withers: “I think when you’re recruiting at Ohio State, kids want to go to Ohio State.”
When is it that UNC and Ohio State play?
Withers: “It’s 2015 but I’m worrying about 2012.”
Have you spent time in Columbus?
Withers: “Yes, I have.”
Here is Withers’ bio from the UNC web site:
Everett Withers was named Carolina's interim head coach on July 28, 2011. Withers is in his 24th season as a coach and has experience at both the professional and college level. He has served as Carolina's defensive coordinator and secondary coach the last three seasons.
Decimated by personnel losses and injuries in 2010, Carolina's defense still ranked fourth in the ACC and 30th in the country as the Tar Heels played with a new lineup virtually every week. Defensive tackle Quinton Coples earned first-team All-ACC honors and linebacker Bruce Carter was a second-team pick. Following the season, five Tar Heel defensive players were taken in the NFL Draft, including first-round selection Robert Quinn, who missed all of the 2010 season.
In addition to his duties as the coordinator, Withers oversees the defensive secondary, which has developed into one of the best units in the country. Carolina picked off 19 passes in 2010 to match the previous year's total, and has 58 interceptions over the past three seasons. Safety Da'Norris Searcy, a fifth-round pick by Buffalo, led the team with four interceptions in 2010.
In 2009, the Tar Heels' defense was among the nation's elite, ranking sixth in total defense, 10th against the run, 13th in scoring defense and 14th in pass defense. Carolina was the only school in the country ranked in the top 15 in total yards allowed, scoring defense, run defense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, third-down defense and tackles for losses. Six Carolina defenders were named all-conference, including first-team picks Quinn, Quan Sturdivant, Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams. Carolina had 19 interceptions and set a single-season ACC record with 508 interception return yards. Withers was nominated in 2009 for the Broyles Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
In 2008, the opportunistic Tar Heel defense ranked eighth in the country with 20 interceptions, just one shy of the school record.
Withers came to North Carolina after serving one season as the University of Minnesota's defensive coordinator in 2007.
Withers spent six seasons with the Tennessee Titans from 2001-06 under head coach Jeff Fisher. From 2002-04, Withers helped the Titans defense tally 57 interceptions, which was the most for the franchise over a three-year period since 1993-95. The 57 interceptions also ranked fourth in the AFC and eighth overall during that time. The Titans totaled 21 picks in 2004, including 16 by the secondary.
In 2002, Withers directed a revamped secondary that added safeties Lance Schulters and rookie Tank Williams. The new arrangement helped the defense earn a top 10 ranking and Schulters' six interceptions were the most by a Titans safety since 1993. Withers also developed Andre Dyson into a starter as a rookie in 2001 and helped him total 16 interceptions during his four-year Titan career, including six his final season.
Prior to working with the Titans, Withers was defensive backs coach under Mack Brown at Texas from 1998-2000.
Withers joined the Longhorns after three seasons (1995-97) as defensive coordinator at Louisville. While at Louisville, Withers helped current New York Giants All-Pro cornerback Sam Madison earn All-America honors for the Cardinals.
Withers' first National Football League experience came with the New Orleans Saints where he worked as defensive quality control in 1994. Prior to his experience with the Saints, Withers was defensive backs coach at Southern Mississippi for two seasons (1992-93) and outside linebackers coach at Tulane in 1991. The first three years of Withers' coaching career came at Austin Peay, where he was defensive coordinator (1988-89) and special teams/wide receivers coach (1990).
Withers earned his bachelor's degree from Appalachian State in 1985. He was also a standout defensive back and captain for the Mountaineers from 1981-85. Withers and his wife, Kara, have two children, Tia and Pierce.
Withers At A Glance
Born: June 15, 1963
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
High School: West Charlotte
Alma Mater: Appalachian State, 1985
2011: North Carolina interim Head Coach
2008-10: North Carolina Defensive Coordinator/Secondary
2007: Minnesota Defensive Coordinator
2001-06: Tennessee Titans Defensive Backs Coach
1998-2000: Texas Defensive Backs
1995-97: Louisville Defensive Coordinator
1994: New Orleans Saints Defensive Quality Control
1992-93: Southern Mississippi Defensive Backs
1991: Tulane Outside Linebackers
1990: Austin Peay Wide Receivers/Special Teams
1988-89: Austin Peay Defensive Coordinator