Ash Named Defensive Coordinator

Chris Ash

Chris Ash will follow Bret Bielema to Arkansas as defensive coordinator after two years in the same position at Wisconsin.

It took one week, but Bret Bielema's first hire to his coaching staff at Arkansas was not a surprise. Chris Ash follows Bielema from Wisconsin as defensive coordinator, the new head coach announced Tuesday.

Ash, 38, is a native of Ottumwa, Iowa, and a Drake graduate. He helped lead Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowls. He will remain with the Wisconsin program through its appearance in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013. Bielema was named UA head coach last Tuesday.



"I am excited to welcome Chris to our staff," Coach Bielema said. "In the last three years working together, I gained a great respect for the way Chris teaches the game and develops student-athletes. I've followed his career for a long time, and his knowledge of the way we run our program and specifically the defense will be valuable for us moving forward in our transition. Chris helped us improve drastically in our pass defense at Wisconsin where his defenses consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally in all the major categories."

Ash said the decision to follow Bielema was based on a phone call. He said he had not seen Fayetteville. His relationship with Bielema goes back to their days as graduate assistant coaches -- Bielema at Iowa and Ash at Drake.

"I'm excited to join the Arkansas Nation," he said. "There is great tradition. I want to get started as soon as I can."

However, that may be a few weeks. Ash said he would honor his commitment to the players and administration at Wisconsin to coach the Rose Bowl. Whether or not he would make phone calls to recruit for Arkansas during that time was not clear.

"I'm committed here," he said. "(Recruiting) wasn't discussed so I'm not sure about that."

Ash said he generally works from the press box during game days and will call the defense, like he did the past two seasons.

"But we haven't discussed (game day operations), and that may be determined by the staff makeup, strengths and weaknesses," he said. "I can do either."

The scheme will be based out of a 4-3 alignment, but personnel and opponent will figure into the look, too.

"We are multiple," Ash said. "It's primarily a 4-3, but we can adjust based on a number of things -- the personnel we have and what we have to do to stop the opponent week to week. You have to be flexible. Blitzing? You do what you have to do to get pressure on the quarterback and that will be based from year to year on our personnel."

Ash said philosophy was perhaps more important than scheme.

"We believe in effort and fundamentals," he said. "We will play as hard and as fast as possible. We will play with unbelievable fundamentals. We will run to the football, shed blocks and tackle well."

Ash, who will coach the defensive backs, had begun to study Arkansas personnel even on the day his hire was announced.

"I know a little bit about the young players," he said. "I know two good defensive ends, Chris Smith and Trey Flowers, come back and there are a couple of young linebackers and I know about Rohan Gaines at safety. There is a good nucleus. I'm very excited."

Ash spent the last three seasons at Wisconsin and helped the Badgers win three straight Big Ten championships and become the first Big Ten team to play in three straight Rose Bowls since Michigan following the 1976-78 seasons. Ash brings experience as a defensive coordinator at two other schools and has also been a recruiting coordinator three times in his career.

In 2012, Wisconsin led the Big Ten and ranked third in the NCAA with a three-and-out percentage of 41.72, and the Badgers' 5.23 three and outs per game topped the Big Ten and was fourth in the country. The Badgers' defense was 13th in the NCAA in total defense and tied for 19th in the country in scoring defense. Wisconsin also ranked 21st in the nation in third-down conversion defense in addition to being third in the conference in sacks and ranked 21st in the NCAA in rush defense and pass efficiency defense and 23rd in the country in pass defense.

In 2011, Ash's first as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, the Badgers ranked 13th in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 19.0 points per game, and 15th in the nation in total defense. It was the first time since 2006 that Wisconsin had allowed fewer than 20 points per game. Ten of the Badgers' 14 opponents failed to score more than 17 points. Wisconsin allowed just 163.6 yards per game through the air in 2011, the second-best mark by a Wisconsin defense in 20 years, to rank fourth in the NCAA in pass defense.

Prior to his time at Wisconsin, Ash spent eight of 10 seasons at Iowa State, beginning as a defensive graduate assistant in 2000. He was promoted to secondary coach in 2002 and added the title of recruiting coordinator in 2006.

Following the 2006 season, Ash moved on to become the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at San Diego State. He stayed there for two seasons before returning to Iowa State in the same position.

In 2009, his final season at Iowa State, the Cyclones tied for second in the NCAA in red zone efficiency and ranked ninth in the NCAA with 32 takeaways. In 2005, Iowa State led the Big 12 with 22 interceptions after ranking second in the conference with 17 interceptions the year before.

Ash began his career as a volunteer assistant at Drake in 1996. The next season he served as a defensive graduate assistant for the Bulldogs and then took over as defensive coordinator for two seasons.

Ash graduated from Drake with a bachelor's degree in secondary education in 1996. He received his master's degree in education from Iowa State in 2005. A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, Ash has two children, Tanner and Jacey.

The Ash Bio
Dec. 2012, Arkansas (Defensive Coordinator)
2011-12, Wisconsin (Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs)
2010, Wisconsin (Defensive Backs)
2009, Iowa State (Defensive Backs/Recruiting Coordinator)
2007-08, San Diego State (Defensive Backs/Recruiting Coordinator)
2006, Iowa State (Defensive Backs/Recruiting Coordinator)
2002-05, Iowa State (Defensive Backs)
2000-01, Iowa State (Graduate Assistant-Defense)
1998-99, Drake (Defensive Coordinator)
1997, Drake (Graduate Assistant-Defense)
1996, Drake (Volunteer Assistant)


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