COLUMBUS — Kerry Coombs is officially returning to Ohio State, and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center better prepare for a jolt of energy.
The Buckeyes weren’t exactly lacking in that department a year ago during the impressive defensive turnaround following the worst statistical season in school history. But a big part of the reason the defense was in that hole in the first place was thanks to the sagging effort in the secondary after Coombs left to try his hand in the NFL.
Now after two years of proving his fiery, relentless and technically-sound coaching translated for the Tennessee Titans as well, Coombs is returning to the Buckeyes to replace Jeff Hafley and again complete the coaching staff. Ryan Day vowed to find the best defensive backs coach on the market, and he landed arguably the most successful assistant Ohio State has ever had at that key position for a reunion in the secondary.
“You always have a list, you always have people that you have ready,” Day said last month. “In this world, you go to a place like Ohio State, you do well, things like this are going to happen. You can either go hire somebody that is going to be here for seven or eight years, or go hire the best in the country. We’re going to hire the best in the country.
“I told the [defensive backs] last year at this time, I am going to go get the best guy in the country. They didn’t know who Jeff Hafley was, now they love him, they’re going to miss him. Going to do the same thing again next year, go get the best there is. You call around to different people that you respect. But usually the people you bring in are people that you know really well and you trust.”
Coombs checked all of those boxes for the Buckeyes, plus he comes with the benefit of previous experience at Ohio State and with a resumé-boosting stint at the next level. What else does the hiring of Kerry Coombs mean for the Buckeyes? Lettermen Row is diving into it now.
Kerry Coombs knows how to reload at Ohio State
The situation isn’t exactly the easiest to inherit with Ohio State needing to replace two starting cornerbacks, security-blanket safety Jordan Fuller and having lost two other veterans to the transfer portal last season. But if anybody knows how to deal with roster turnover in the secondary, it’s Coombs thanks to his record-setting run of cranking out first-round NFL Draft picks who left eligibility on the table with the Buckeyes. Obviously it’s a huge plus that Ohio State gets to start the reloading process with Shaun Wade still around to take over as the primary cornerback. But from there, the challenge is getting talented-but-unproven guys like Cameron Brown, Sevyn Banks, Amir Riep and Tyreke Johnson ready to live up to the program’s high standards at a critical position.
Cameron Martinez, defensive back recruits will take notice
Now that the underdog run with the Titans is complete and the deal has been officially signed, Kerry Coombs will almost immediately be getting back on the road to do what he does as well as anybody in college football: Recruit. The top priority will be getting to know Cameron Martinez and keep the dynamic Michigan athlete in the fold after he chose to delay his signing following the departure of Hafley, and it seems a safe bet that bringing in Coombs should remove any doubt in that recruitment. After that, expect to see a lot of long hashtags and nonstop effort visiting high schools around the country as Coombs dives back into the process of landing the most impressive groups of defensive backs in the sport.
Ryan Day vision won’t change for Ohio State
Kerry Coombs is returning with two years of invaluable experience that should make him a better co-defensive coordinator and figures to enhance his profile as a potential head coach down the road. That’s certainly a major plus for the Buckeyes, but they aren’t necessarily bringing him back to make many changes or overhaul the system. Day has made it clear what he wants his defense to look like and has worked hard to target assistants who can implement his vision. So for Coombs, the main task will be to enhance what’s already in place.
“That’s kind of our base,” Day said. “We definitely can get to a 2-high look, and we will. We’re going to diversify a little bit more this year, but certainly we don’t want to change our philosophy. We kind of built that this year. We thought we made some great strides there.
“Certainly not perfect, but we’re going to keep the structure of what it is now, but we’re going to diversify a little bit as we move forward.”