The Hurry Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.
ONE OF THE BEST
Early this afternoon, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported Ohio State assistant defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs — who serves as the Buckeyes’ cornerbacks coach and special team coordinator — will be leaving the program to join Mike Vrabel’s staff with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Source: OSU DB coach Kerry Coombs is leaving for the Tennessee Titans. He worked with Mike Vrabel at OSU.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 24, 2018
As my colleague Dan Hope pointed out, it’s a massive loss for Ohio State. He track record in six seasons in Columbus for developing elite cornerbacks is seemingly unparalleled.
Bradley Roby (2014), Eli Apple (2016), Marshon Lattimore (2017) and Gareon Conley (2017) all became first-round NFL draft picks under Coombs’ tutelage, and Denzel Ward – who would make Ohio State the first school ever to have four first-round cornerbacks in three years – appears well on his way to following in their footsteps this year. Doran Grant (2015) also became a fourth-round draft pick after being coached by Coombs.
Off the field, Coombs has been arguably Ohio State’s most important assistant. His excitable demeanor resonates with top recruits, and he’s made last relationships in his designated recruiting areas of Atlanta, Cincinnati and Detroit — where he’s helped steal a number of top recruits away from Michigan and Michigan State — because of that.
The Buckeyes have also made a significant push North Florida in recent years thanks to Coombs, as he was the leader recruiter for five-star cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Tyreke Johnson (Jacksonville Trinity Christian) and four-star Sevyn Banks (Orlando Jones). His ability to forge strong relationships and develop elite prospects was vital in Jeffrey Okudah's recruitment one year ago, as well.
Newly hired defensive assistant Alex Grinch — though his specific role on the staff has yet to be defined — is a likely candidate to replace Coombs in his role as cornerbacks coach. He was, after all, the defensive coordinator and secondaries coach at Washington State.
However, as Hope also mentioned, head coach Urban Meyer could go a different route altogether.
Coombs’ departure could make the Buckeyes look to fill his vacancy with another coach who has strong regional ties on the recruiting trail, especially considering the previous departure from the coaching staff of Luke Fickell last year.
All that said, Ohio State will be hard-pressed to find a coach that can fill Coombs' shoes. His genuine love of the game and his players, as well as his overall enthusiasm, will be missed in Columbus for years to come.
KEEPING THE FOOT ON THE GAS
Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and defensive line coach and area recruiter Larry Johnson were in Maryland on Wednesday to see four-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker, North Point head coach Thomas Petre told Eleven Warriors.
The visit comes just days after the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Walker took an official visit to Columbus with his parents. And though he's been on campus several times, it appears the Buckeyes made a significant push this time thanks to the opportunity for early playing time, the ability to get developed into an NFL prospect and — most imporantly — life after football.
“I think this trip gave him and his parents more time for one-on-one interaction with the coaches, the chemistry and [talk about] what's after football. Those are important to him,” Petre said. “As he goes through and plays, what's after that? They were kind of able show him those things and provide him with more concrete examples of internships that have been alligned or how guys are preparing now for the next level to certain steps they take to help these guys prepare for what they're doing in life after football or if football continues.”
Walker was hosted by Maryland native and starting right tackle Isaiah Prince. He also spent a considerable amount of time with departing redshirt seniors Billy Price and Jamarco Jones, both of whom will certainly be selected in the NFL Draft this spring. They were able to give Walker a crash course on what the football program and university offers.
“It kind of gives a kid a tangible example as a resource,” Petre said. “It shows if you go somewhere and do the things you're supposed to do, then there are opportunities. If these opportunities have presented themselves to you, these are the type of things they can do to help secure that for you. I think it opens up his eyes and kind of lets him know, if you go somewhere and take advantage of your God-given talents and work your butt off, there's going to be a support system there for you.”
Walker won't make a decision on his future until National Signing Day on Feb. 7, and there's still a lot that can change between now and then with Meyer, Penn State's James Franklin and Virginia Tech's Justin Fuente all set to conduct in-home visits in the coming weeks. But I still feel the aformentioned factors all favor Ohio State, and the Buckeyes will be able to address their biggest remaining need this cycle as a result.
“I think he's a little relieved that the visits are done, and I think now he'll sit down with his parents and have some legitimate conversations on what's important,” Petre said. “My advice to him is, talk with your parents, eliminate the noise and do what's best for him as a player and as a family.
Walker wasn't the only prospect who took an official visit to Ohio State this past weekend, as he was joined by Oradell, New Jersey, Bergen Catholic four-star defensive end/outside linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste. And while I remain confident Walker will eventually choose the Buckeyes, the same cannot be said for Jean-Baptiste, who I crystal balled to Nebraska this morning.
This visit marked the first time in Columbus for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Jean-Baptiste — to whom the staff offered a scholarship earlier this month — and he and his mother spent a considerable amount of time with Meyer, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and the aforementioned Johnson. There was a belief heading into the weekend he may commit if given the go-ahead from the staff, seeing as they would still like to add another pass-rusher into the class. But the weekend came and went without a whimper.
While sources close to Jean-Baptiste continue to suggest it's a two-horse race between the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers, it would appear not everyone at Ohio State is sold on what he brings to the table. He's bulked up quite a bit in the last year or so, and his continued development would be crucial if the staff has him earmarked him for defensive end.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost is scheduled to conduct his in-home visit with Jean-Baptiste on Thursday, while Meyer, Schiano and Johnson have not yet set anything up. It's truly been quite the change in direction from where the staff was just a few weeks ago, when most thought a late offer from Ohio State would be a game-changer in his recruitment.
That said, I think Frost pushes for a pledge on Thursday or shortly thereafter. And his relationship with Jean-Baptiste, which goes back to his days at UCF, ultimately wins out.
In last night's edition of The Hurry Up, I mentioned how Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith and newly appointed offensive coordinator Ryan Day were in California this week to meet with San Marcos Mission Hills four-star wideout Chris Olave. And shortly after the article published, he told Eleven Warriors he'll make his college decision known on Sunday afternoon.
California four-star wide receiver Chris Olave tells me hell announce his college decision on Sunday. Ohio State, UCLA and Utah among those in the running: https://t.co/tWCgtej5th— Andrew Lind (@AndrewMLind) January 24, 2018
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Olave is considered the 54th-best wide receiver and No. 322 prospect overall in the Class of 2018, as he caught 93 passes for 1,764 yards and 26 touchdowns to help the Grizzlies to the state finals this season. He'll decide among Ohio State, UCLA, USC and Utah, and I believe he'll choose the Buckeyes.
I believed last week the Buckeyes were looking up at UCLA — and maybe even Utah — in the race to land Olave’s pledge. After all, both are closer to home and offer a way onto the field earlier in his career. But after talking with sources close to the prospect this morning, I have switched my 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes already hold commitments from 23 players, which would suggest they only have room to address needs at offensive tackle and defensive end. But with “Best Available Player” — a term most often used in the late rounds of the NFL Draft — entering the college football lexicon thanks to the Early Signing Period, it appears Olave is considered a take for the staff, even with six returning starters and three signees in Kamryn Babb, L’Christian “Blue” Smith and Cameron Brown. He's simply too talented to pass up.
The Bruins will go in-home with Olave later this week, but their staff would absolutely have to hit it out of the park to steal momentum away.