COLUMBUS — Kerry Coombs doesn’t need long to make an impression.
That’s coming in pretty handy right now for Ohio State, because he’s barely had any time to work with.
Spring camp was cut short after three practices. A recruiting window was abbreviated before his arrival because Coombs and the Tennessee Titans just kept winning games. Then coronavirus wiped out the chance to hit the road or host recruits during the key months of March and April.
Certainly that wasn’t how Coombs envisioned the first couple months of his return to the Buckeyes playing out. But his super-caffeinated, relentlessly-positive approach is clearly having an impact for the program anyway — especially this week with three of the nation’s best defensive backs lining up to play for him.
“So, when I saw [Jeff] Hafley was leaving, I was kind of wondering where they were going to go with that position,” Nashville four-star Andre Turrentine said. “I talked to Coach [Tony] Alford every day and Coach [Matt] Barnes, and they assured me that they person they had stepping in I was going to love. So, I trusted them in that process, and they stuck with me. As soon as [Coombs] came in, he came to see me and let me know that he was really serious about this thing. I let him know that I was serious, too, and we started building that relationship.
“It was wonderful that someone so close, I guess, as a coach of the Tennessee Titans would take over at Ohio State.”
The resumé and reputation of Coombs were already plenty impressive without those two years in the NFL. But his stint with the Titans has only enhanced his value to the Buckeyes, and he was the first to admit that his experience at the game’s highest level made him better.
It’s changed the way he handles meetings, which should allow him to be a more efficient teacher and potentially make up for lost time with his returning players whenever the Buckeyes can resume normal football activities. It’s expanded his defensive playbook, which should only help Ohio State continue to evolve schematically. And there’s also no question that his track record of developing guys into NFL Draft picks is now even more appealing since he proved he could coach them at the next level, too.
“More than anything though, I learned to be a better coach,” Coombs said. “To relate better in a different way to players who make a lot of money, and how to get those guys to maximize what they do for themselves and for the team. Instead of just saying: ‘Go do this,’ now I gotta say: ‘Here’s why we’re going to do this.’ I’m bringing that back to the room.
“I think it helps me with kids when I say to them, ‘This is how an NFL player does his business.’ I’m pretty sure they’re going to think that I’m credible because I spent two years doing it. So it’s not just, ‘I think it’s this way.’ This is what I know now. ‘This is what’s going to happen for you.’ I can tell a recruit that. I can tell a recruit: ‘I know what you look like now, I know what they look like at Ohio State and I know what they look like in the NFL, and I know how to get you in each place.’ And I feel very confident in that, and I’m very excited about that.”
Coombs, of course, finds a way to get excited about everything. And while the Buckeyes have been on lockdown, it’s a safe bet that he’s found whatever positives might exist in this historic situation and embraced the challenge of trying to coach and recruit remotely.
So far, it appears to be working just fine, and nothing has been able to slow down the Kerry Coombs Effect.
“Well, when he came to visit me and I first met him, we talked and talked,” Jakailin Johnson told Lettermen Row. “He was breaking down the game, and I like the way he teaches. His teaching reminds me of my coach’s teaching, and I really like that.
“I really feel he could push me and prepare me to be the best at the next level out of all the other coaches. I feel confident with him.”
Johnson certainly isn’t alone in that regard, and that’s exactly why bringing Coombs back was such a huge priority for the Buckeyes.
No surprise, he’s wasted no time making his mark.