The Hurry-Up: Buckeyes Have Eyes on Kerry Coombs As Top Target to Replace Jeff Hafley

By Zack Carpenter on December 15, 2019 at 7:21 pm
Kerry Coombs
Kerry Coombs

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.

Potential Hafley replacement?

In case you’ve been living under a rock this weekend, Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley is becoming the head coach at Boston College, and the Buckeyes are now on the search for a replacement.

Their top target for his replacement is Kerry Coombs, as first reported on Sunday by Lettermen Row's Austin Ward.

A source told Eleven Warriors that Day has already made multiple calls to Coombs in order to gauge his interest in a return and says Day feels very confident he will be able to land Coombs.

The source said Day wants to hire another coach with an NFL background to follow Hafley, whom Day worked with when the two were on the San Francisco 49ers' coaching staff.

Day and Coombs previously worked together in 2017 – Day’s first season with the Buckeyes and Coombs’ last before he left for the Tennessee Titans to become their secondary coach alongside head coach Mike Vrabel.

Coombs spent six seasons at Ohio State, from 2012-17, working primarily with the cornerbacks. The lifelong Ohioan helped develop NFL first-round draft picks like Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward and was known for his energy and background as a Cincinnati high school coach. He heavily recruited the Greater Cincinnati area for the Buckeyes during his time at Ohio State.

Whether it ends up being Coombs or someone else, who Hafley's replacement will end up being is going to be one of the most talked about topics for Ohio State until an official deal is made. One name that had been brought up was former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who was fired as Rutgers' head coach in September.

However, 247Sports’ Chip Brown and The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman each reported Sunday that Ash is expected to become Texas’ new defensive coordinator. 

Potential results of Hafley departure

Now that we know Hafley is leaving, we can talk about if there is any potential fallout, which we did on Saturday. 

Just to rehash that a bit here, Lejond Cavazos and Ryan Watts III were rattled by Hafley’s decision at first, but after sleeping on it, talking with their families and with Ryan Day, each one is staying true to their Buckeye commitments, will be signing Wednesday and enrolling in January.

Lathan Ransom and Cameron Martinez are also expected to stay committed to the Buckeyes. Though Ransom’s decision is not on quite as solid ground as Martinez’s, there is confidence Ohio State will still sign the Arizona safety, who recently talked about his excitement for the Buckeyes to be coming to his home state soon for the College Football Playoff. 

Clark Phillips III is the defensive back among Ohio State’s commitments whose decision to sign this week appears shakiest right now, and, of course, that recruitment is the most important among this group. Phillips is the fourth-ranked cornerback in the country and the Buckeyes’ third highest-ranked commit for the class of 2020.

So even though there’s still optimism that he will sign this week, it’s not good news for Ohio State fans that he chose to take an official visit closer to home – traveling to Utah to take a closer look at Kyle Whittingham’s program, which was in on Phillips very early and was one of the first programs to offer him back in February of 2018.

Phillips and Hafley had a strong connection, and even though Phillips is one who has spoken so highly of Ohio State as a whole and seems genuinely in love with the program, it’s hard to ignore how strong that connection with Hafley is. Hafley, after all, was the No. 1 reason for Phillips to give his pledge to the Buckeyes. 

I don’t expect a straight-up flip in any of these recruitments this week, but if there would be one, the most likely candidate seems like it would be Phillips. He has plans to graduate early and enroll in January, so if he still has those plans but decides Ohio State is no longer the place for him, perhaps a flip could come. Again, I don’t expect that, but it’s a possibility to keep in mind. 

Ohio State would look to find a last-minute replacement for Phillips if he does flip, most likely going after an uncommitted defensive back. That could be very difficult from a numbers standpoint, as there are only five uncommitted 2020 defensive backs with Ohio State offers and the only one of those who could come close to replacing Phillips’ talent is Kelee Ringo, the nation’s No. 1-ranked senior corner, who is no longer an option for the Buckeyes to pursue, as I’ve been told he is no longer on their recruiting board.

For Ransom, it’s sounding like he is going to stay committed and join the Buckeyes, but he does not have plans to enroll early. Therefore, he could decide to give the situation some air by not signing until the Feb. 5 National Signing Day and give himself some more time to find out who Day will replace Hafley with.

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