COLUMBUS, Ohio – National Football League, Power 5 and Big Ten Conference coaching experience is abundant in the resumes of the two individuals Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day has today chosen to serve as co-defensive coordinators for the Buckeye football program: Jeff Hafley, who has spent the past seven seasons in the NFL and most recently three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, and Greg Mattison, who has coached the past eight seasons at Michigan.
The two will join Larry Johnson as official members of Day’s defensive staff. Johnson has been promoted to associate head coach and will be in his sixth season with the program coaching the defensive line. In addition to being named co-defensive coordinator, Hafley will also be in charge of the secondary. Specific position responsibilities for Mattison will be announced at a later date.
Johnson is established as one of the great defensive line coaches in football. He joined the Ohio State staff in January of 2014 and helped the Buckeyes win the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship later that year.
He has coached, remarkably, 14 Big Ten Conference defensive players of the year or defensive linemen of the year, including a run of four consecutive Ohio State winners of the league’s defensive linemen of the year award: Joey Bosa in 2014 and 2015; Tyquan Lewis in 2016 and Nick Bosa in 2017. Joey Bosa was also named the league’s defensive player of the year in 2014.
Johnson has also coached 11 first-team All-Americans, seven first-round NFL draft picks with Nick Bosa certainly going to add to this total during the 2019 NFL Draft in April. Former Buckeye Sam Hubbard is one of four Academic All-Americans coached by Johnson.
“Larry’s experience at Ohio State will allow him to have a major role in the guidance and direction of this program,” Day said. “His promotion to associate head coach is well earned. Larry is a wonderful teacher and mentor, and his players always become a part of his family. I am thrilled that he will continue to be a part of this program.”
Hafley, who worked with Day during the 2016 season in San Francisco, has been the 49ers defensive backs coach the past three years. Prior to that, he was the secondary coach for two seasons in Cleveland and the secondary/safeties coach with Tampa Bay in 2013 and a defensive backs assistant with the Buccaneers in 2012.
Mattison is a veteran defensive coach who has spent 18 seasons as a defensive coordinator or co-coordinator, including two seasons as a coordinator in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens and six seasons – 1995-96 and 2011-14 – at Michigan. He has been the defensive line coach for the Wolverines the past four seasons.
“I love the idea of having two coordinators on defense,” Day said in making the third and fourth hires to his staff official. “I like having a diversity of opinion, but even more I like the expertise and experience that Jeff has in the secondary coupled with the expertise that Greg brings to the front seven.
“Jeff is a rising star and highly regarded as one of the best secondary coaches in the country. His NFL knowledge coaching the secondary is only going to enhance and improve what has become a marquee area for the Buckeyes. Greg is a terrific coach. His experience as a coordinator and his knowledge of the Big Ten is extremely important to me.
“These are two outstanding coaches and they will provide stability, wisdom and a fundamental approach to everything they teach. They will add to our culture while proving to be excellent coaches and mentors for the young men in our program.”
Jeff Hafley: Co-Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach
Hafley, who will coach his 19th season in 2019, is a native of Montvale, NJ. He played four seasons as a wide receiver at Siena College from 1997-2000, graduating cum laude in 2001 with a degree in history. He earned his master’s degree from Albany in 2003.
His coaching career includes 11 seasons in collegiate football before a move to the NFL in 2012 and seven subsequent seasons there. After starting his career working as running backs coach for one season (2001) at Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic University, Hafley moved on to the University of Albany for four seasons as defensive assistant and defensive backs coach (2002-05).
He then coached at the University of Pittsburgh for five seasons (2006-10). He worked under the direction of Dave Wannstedt and helped mentor Darrelle Revis into a Jim Thorpe Award finalist in 2006. Hafley was a defensive assistant/cornerbacks coach in 2006-07 and was secondary coach from 2008-10.
One season at Rutgers, working under Greg Schiano, followed his positions at Pittsburgh. The Scarlet Knights ranked ninth nationally in passing defense in his one season there, 2011.
Hafley then moved on to the NFL and coached two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, serving as an assistant defensive backs coach in 2012 and secondary/safeties coach in 2013.
Two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, under coach Mike Pettine, followed. In 2014, his second season with the Browns, the team led the NFL in opponent passer rating (74.1), opponent completion percentage (57.1) and in passes defensed with 99, plus ranked second in the league with 21 interceptions.
Three seasons as defensive backs coach with the San Francisco 49ers – 2016-17-18 – precede Hafley’s position with the Buckeyes. He worked under Chip Kelly in 2016 and under Kyle Shanahan the past two seasons. This year the 49ers ranked 11th in the league in passing defense. They were 14th in 2016 after ranking 27th in 2015, the year before Hafley arrived.
Hafley and his wife, Gina, have two daughters, Hope and Leah.
Greg Mattison: Co-Defensive Coordinator
Day adds not only a veteran coach but also one of the outstanding defensive coaches in college football with his hiring of Mattison. The 2019 season will be Mattison’s 19th as a defensive coordinator.
Mattison’s work with the Wolverines the past eight seasons has coincided with the Wolverines’ position as one of the top teams in the Big Ten Conference and nationally.
As defensive coordinator from 2011-14, Mattison’s defenses ranked among the top 20 nationally in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense in three of those four years. His 2014 defense was seventh nationally in total defense.
And as Michigan’s defensive line coach the past four years, Mattison has been a part of four consecutive units that have ranked in the top 5 nationally each year in total defense and pass defense, and has been top 5 in pass efficiency defense during three of those seasons. The Wolverines led the nation in a major defensive category four times during this time – total defense in 2016; passing defense in 2016 and 2017, and pass efficiency defense in 2015 – and have ranked No. 2 three times: scoring and pass efficiency defense in 2016 and passing defenses in 2018. Michigan has featured the No. 3 total defense nationally in each of the past two seasons.
A three-year tenure in the NFL for Mattison preceded his eight-year run at Michigan. Mattison was linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 and defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010. The Ravens were No. 3 in the NFL in scoring defense in both 2009 and 2010 and were No. 3 in total defense in 2009.
The 2019 season will represent Mattison’s 40th as a collegiate coach. He has held defensive line and/or defensive coordinator positions at five different Power 5 schools, starting with Northwestern (1978-80) and then subsequently at Texas A&M (1989-91), two tenures at Michigan (most recently, and also five years between 1992 and 1996), Notre Dame (1997-2004) and at Florida (2005-07), where he won a national championship as part of Urban Meyer’s staff in 2006.
Mattison has also coached collegiately at Illinois (as a graduate assistant in 1976), Cornell (1977), Western Michigan (1982-86) and Navy (1987-88). He was head coach at two high schools in his home state of Wisconsin (Riverdale, in Muscoda, from 1971-73 and Logan, in La Crosse, from 1974-75).
Mattison has a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Wisconsin-La Crosse (1971). He and his wife, Ann, have two adult children: Lisa and Bryan. Both played sports collegiately: Lisa was an all-Big East softball player at Notre Dame; Bryan was a two-time team captain and three-year starter at defensive end for Iowa.