COLUMBUS — Kerry Coombs and Shaun Wade both chose to return to Ohio State just a couple weeks apart.
The former left the NFL to rejoin the Buckeyes staff. The latter passed on a chance to play in the league he dreams of playing in a bit early. Now that they are both back in Columbus, they’re happy where they are. They’re settled in. And they’re ready to get to work together.
“I think it means the world, first of all, that he came back,” Coombs said. “My conversation with Shaun about this was: You don’t become a first-round pick because you came back. You don’t get to be a top-10 pick because you came back.
“A year older doesn’t make any difference, right? You’ve got to go to work, and you’ve got to get started. There are things that you’re going to have to do to make this happen.”
If anyone knows what it will take to become a shut-down cornerback in the NFL, it’s the energetic, coffee-drinking Coombs. He helped lead the Tennessee Titans to upsets of both Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson on their way to the AFC Championship Game in January. Coombs’ secondary was a big part of those upset victories, and he’s proven he can lead some of the best cornerbacks in the game.
And those qualifiers don’t even mention the numerous cornerbacks he helped become first-round picks during his first stint at Ohio State.
“The beauty of this deal is that you know what it looks like on every side,” Coombs said. “I know exactly what he’s going to have to do and what the expectations will be when he gets there. And we’ve got to get to work. When we’re allowed to work, we’ve got to work. And he’s got a lot of work on his own to make that happen.
“Can he do that? Absolutely. Does he have the potential to be the same as all those other guys? Absolutely. What he does between now and August, whatever it is, when we can come to training camp, is going to dictate a large part of it.”
Coombs recruited Wade and was one of the driving forces that led the touted prospect out of Duval County in Florida up to Columbus. Now reunited, it’s easy to see why Coombs is excited to continue developing Wade, like the original plan was. Wade has already shown great ability as a slot corner and pseudo-Bullet safety.
Wade finished his redshirt sophomore season with 25 tackles, an acrobatic interception against Rutgers, a forced fumble and a tremendous impact on the revitalized Silver Bullets defense. But Coombs sees a lot that Wade can improve on.
“First of all, he’s got to play on the outside,” Coombs said. “He’s got to demonstrate that. He’s got great length. He can run. He’s got to demonstrate that he can go against the No. 1 receivers in the country, week in and week out the best guys on the other guy’s team and eliminate them from the offense. If you can do that, you’ve got a great chance. You’re not going to win every play, but you’d better win most of them.
“We know what that looks like. He’s got to accept that challenge.”
That won’t be easy. The Buckeyes are replacing three of their starters in the secondary. It would’ve been all four if Wade chose to go where Coombs just left. But now, the pair is reunited, and Coombs is convinced Wade is ready for every challenge he will face this offseason heading into the regular season in the fall.
“He’s got to do a lot of film study,” Coombs said. “He’s got to get better at the line of scrimmage in his technique. He’s been playing inside. It’s a different technique. He’s got things that he’s going to have to work on, and he will.
“I really believe that he will.”