High schools in more than a dozen states have spring football, but Ohio is not one of them.
That means Ohio State coaches must decide whether they want to spend the spring evaluation period — which began on April 15 and runs through May 31 — watching game film of in-state prospects from the previous season or head down South, where they can assess recruits in full pads and a game-like environment in person.
The answer is rather obvious. But with the staff hoping to recruit the state of Ohio harder than ever this cycle, the need for more evaluation time is becoming more and more apparent.
"I would love to have the opportunity to go see these Ohio kids play right now like I’m going to go see them play in Texas. I’m going to go see them play in Georgia. I’m going to go see them play in Florida," Ohio State defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs said at staff's final media availability of the spring. "It’s a shame we don’t get to do that. I would have loved it when I was coaching high school football [at Cincinnati Colerain]. I think the rules are restrictive, and I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t think it does any of those kids a favor."
That's becoming increasingly clear with each passing recruiting cycle, as Ohio State signed only seven in-state prospects in 2017, the lowest number of the Urban Meyer era. It was a class that also included players from states such as California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Texas.
The trend looks likely to continue, too, as the staff has extended nearly 150 offers to prospects in the Class of 2018, but only nine of them are from Ohio.
"I think it makes it harder to evaluate [in-state prospects]. If I’m a high school player who’s played three years of spring football at my high school, I’ve got that many more plays and that many more reps. When I do get to college, I’ve got those under my belt," said Coombs, who will enter his sixth season as Ohio State's defensive backs coach this fall. "I don’t know what the studies are on that. We’ve had great success with the players that have come from Ohio, and we’re going to keep recruiting the tar out of them. I’d just love to see them play right now."
In Texas, for example, high school coaches can instruct student athletes in 18 practices during a 30-day period in the spring. Ohio, meanwhile, only allows for a 10-day period in the summer for camps, clinics or seven-on-seven scrimmages.
As a former high school head coach, Coombs is more than qualified to speak on the subject. More than half of his coaching career has been spent at the high school level, including 16 years at Colerain, so he understands firsthand how in-state prospects are at a disadvantage.
Meyer has also talked about his desire for more opportunities to evaluate local kids, so why hasn't any progress been made on that front? Coombs believes administrators think it would endanger spring sports like baseball and/or track and field.
"Well, my honest opinion is that I don’t know that the leadership of those organizations that get to make those decisions are necessarily football-minded folks, and I think that can be a detriment," Coombs said. "I also think that they think football already is popular enough in the state of Ohio.
"All I would say is that if I were a parent of a kid, I would want to know why would you hold my kid back from being excellent at what he wants to do," he continued. "Why would you deny him the opportunity to be the best in the country at what he wants to do? And the way to do that is to go out there and play."