In his two seasons as the cornerbacks coach at Cincinnati, new Ohio State safeties coach Perry Eliano was responsible for one of the nation’s best pass defenses.
The Bearcats finished in the top four in several statistical categories both years, including pass efficiency defense, interceptions and opponent completion percentage, and became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff this past season after reaching a New Year’s Six bowl the season prior.
Eliano was also credited with developing cornerbacks Coby Bryantthe 2021 Jim Thorpe Award winner, and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardnerwho was a consensus All-American and the AAC Defensive Player of the Year last season.
“He helped me understand the game of football more,” Bryant, the younger brother of former Buckeyes safety Christian Bryant (2010-13), said during his media availability at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine. “He sat me down, got me on the board. He helped me not only become a better football player, but a better man, too. He’s done a lot, and I’m extremely appreciative for him. “
Gardner echoed those sentiments, adding that he looks at Eliano more as a mentor than a football coach.
“He just makes sure I’m making the right decisions. Not saying that he had to hold my hand or anything, but he had my best interest, ”Gardner said. “He don’t just talk to me about football, he talked to me about life in general and how he always wanted the most out of me. That’s why I appreciate him and appreciate everything he’s done for me. “
The 43-year-old Eliano has spent the last 21 seasons as a coach, including stints at Stephen F. Austin, Central Arkansas, Sam Houston, UTSA, Bowling Green and New Mexico. During that time, he gained the respect of his peers and his players alike.
“Coach Eliano was a great dude,” safety Bryan Cook said. “Very intelligent. He helped guys like me and the whole secondary get ready for each and every week, whether it was game-planning, mindset-wise or just the daily motivation. “
Defense was not a strong suit for Ohio State the last two seasons, as the Buckeyes gave up 25.8 points and 401.6 yards per game in 2020 and 22.8 points and 372.6 yards per game in 2021, leading head coach Ryan Day to replace defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs with Jim Knowles and add Eliano and new secondary / cornerbacks coach Tim Walton to sure up things on the back end.
That said, the former Cincinnati defensive backs are all certain that Eliano is the right man for the job.
“He’s going to give them all that he’s got,” Bryant said. “He’s going to be completely bought in. He he going to help them understand the game of football more. He’s a competitor, too, with him being a coach and everything, so they’re going to get a great coach. “
To which Cook added, “You’re going to work, for sure. He’s going to get on you a couple times, but he’s going to make sure that you’re doing things right and doing it at a high level. “
Perhaps no player bought in to Eliano’s teaching more than Gardner, who was a three-star prospect and the No. 1,672 prospect overall in the class of 2019 and is widely projected to be a first-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft. He’s now thankful for the “intense” practices and film sessions he’s taken part in over the last two seasons.
“He took us to a different level, making us get on the board and draw what everybody does on film, not just the cornerbacks,” Gardner said. “That’s why I’ve been so good at the interview prep and getting on the board, just because of him.
“If it weren’t for him, I don’t know what I’d be doing when it came to game-planning, getting on the board writing defenses and writing what all of the guys do.”
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