Arkansas hires Ash as D-coordinator

FAYETTEVILLE — Chris Ash, who spent the past three seasons on Bret Bielema’s staff at Wisconsin, has been named defensive coordinator at Arkansas, it was announced Tuesday.

Ash will remain on Wisconsin’s staff through its appearance in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl. He replaces Paul Haynes at Arkansas.

“I am excited to welcome Chris to out staff,” Bielema said in a press release. “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 coached the defensive backs at Wisconsin the past three years and was the Badgers’ defensive coordinator the pas two. He 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 in 1976-78.

Under Ash’s guidance, Wisconsin led the Big Ten and is ranked third in the NCAA with a three-and-out percentage of 41.72 this season. The Badgers, whose 5.23 three-and-outs per game led the conference and ranks fourth nationally, are ranked 13th in the NCAA in total defense and tied for 19th in scoring defense.

Wisconsin defensive backs Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie both ranked in the top seven in the Big Ten in passes defensed, and Smith was third in the league in interceptions. Defensive ends Brendan Kelly and Tyler Dippel are among the Big Ten’s top nine sack artists.

Ash, who will turn 39 on Dec. 24, began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Drake in 1996. He was promoted to defensive coordinator there before moving on to Iowa State, where he spent the 2000-06 and 2009 seasons, and San Diego State for the 2007-08 seasons.

The Ottumwa, Iowa, native has two children.