Chris Ash, who helped lead Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowls, has been named Arkansas’ defensive coordinator, head coach Bret Bielema announced Tuesday.
Ash will remain with the Wisconsin program through its appearance in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013. “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 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. Defensive backs Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie both ranked in the top seven in the Big Ten in passes defensed with Smith fifth and Cromartie tied for seventh. In addition, Smith also tied for third in the conference in interceptions. The Badgers also produced two of the top nine sack artists in the conference, with defensive end Brendan Kelly tied for seventh with an average of 0.45 sacks per game and defensive end Tyler Dippel’s 0.42 tied for ninth. Linebacker Chris Borland tied for third in the Big Ten in forced fumbles and fourth in the conference in fumble recoveries, and linebacker Mike Taylor ranked fifth in the Big Ten with an average of 1.15 tackles for loss per game. 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. Five Wisconsin defenders earned All-Big Ten honors, including four first-team selections. Taylor and Borland finished first and second, respectively, in the conference in total tackles, and both finished in the top 10 in the country. Taylor's 150 tackles were the most by a Badger since 2001. Defensive backs Aaron Henry and Antonio Fenelus tied for second in the conference with four interceptions, and as a team Wisconsin was second in the Big Ten with 16 interceptions. In 2010, Ash oversaw marked improvement in the Badger pass defense. Wisconsin allowed just 193.9 passing yards per game through the air. Three of the starters in the Badger secondary earned all-Big Ten honors as Fenelus earned first-team all-conference from the media, Henry was a second-team pick by the coaches and cornerback Niles Brinkley was a consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten pick. Henry, a first-year starter at free safety in 2010, scored three defensive touchdowns, recovered three fumbles, recorded two interceptions and led the team with 47 solo tackles. Fenelus led the team with four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. 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.