The Hurry-Up: Buckeyes Continue to Wait Out Hot Run by Kerry Coombs, Tennessee Titans

By Zack Carpenter on January 14, 2020 at 6:30 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.

As the Tennessee Titans continue their improbable run through the playoffs to this weekend’s AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the wait for Kerry Coombs’ expected return to Columbus remains on hold.

Coombs is Ohio State's top target to be Jeff Hafley’s replacement as the secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator, as first reported by Lettermen Row’s Austin Ward on Dec. 15. Later that day, Eleven Warriors spoke to a source who said Ryan Day was confident he would land Coombs after Day had already made multiple calls to the former Ohio State secondary coach about a return to Columbus. 

Kerry Coombs

Since then, multiple other media outlets have also reported that Coombs’ return is imminent (the latest being a report by Rob Oller of The Columbus Dispatch), but the Buckeyes continue playing the waiting game.

First, the Titans were supposed to lose to the Patriots. They didn’t. 

Then they were supposed to lose to the league’s presumed MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. They didn’t. 

Now, Coombs and company will be tasked with their next challenge of stopping Patrick Mahomes and a dynamic Chiefs offense that made one Eleven Warriors writer (me) an extremely happy man by storming back from a 24-0 deficit to beat the Houston Texans on Sunday. 

Coombs’ secondary has been looking great over the past two games, allowing just 209 yards passing to Tom Brady and picking him off once. And even though they allowed 365 yards passing to Jackson, it took Jackson 59 pass attempts to get there while the Titans intercepted him twice. Their secondary has allowed the same amount of touchdown passes as Derrick Henry has thrown this postseason. 

That’s a pretty tremendous two-game run for a Coombs-coached unit that went from ranked fourth in 2018 to 20th in 2019, per Pro Football Focus’ coverage defense rankings that were released on Monday.

But let’s say the Titans pull off the improbable once again Sunday and beat the Chiefs – and, at this point, can we really even consider it improbable considering the run they’re on? 

That puts Tennessee in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, and it puts a tighter time crunch on the Buckeyes to lock up the final defensive back in their 2020 recruiting class, Cameron Martinez, before the Feb. 5 National Signing Day.

Stating the obvious here: the Titans reaching the Super Bowl would be a good thing for Coombs and the Buckeyes in one sense. It’s decidedly a positive to have a coach on your staff who has a Super Bowl coaching pedigree. Imagine the extra recruiting bump the Buckeyes would get if Coombs is able to slyly itch his chin while brandishing a diamond-studded Super Bowl ring when he visits high schools in Cincinnati, Michigan or wherever Ohio State wants Coombs to target (Georgia? Texas? Missouri?). 

Coombs winning a Super Bowl would be fantastic for the Buckeyes in the long run. 

As for the immediate, though, the Buckeyes would have to announce the hire of Coombs almost immediately after the Super Bowl win on Monday or Tuesday (Feb. 3 or 4) in order to fully ensure Martinez that they’ve got their guy as his coach.

Ohio State is giving assurances to Martinez, and other recruits who we have spoken with, that there should be no worries about who the Buckeyes’ next secondary coach will be. Two defensive back recruits we talked to over the last week were tight-lipped about the name “Kerry Coombs.” They said the Buckeye coaches have not mentioned him by name, but, let’s face it, even if they have, those recruits are smart enough not to go spilling his name on the record. If the Buckeyes are telling recruits it will be Coombs (and they most likely are), then they are also following that up by making sure the recruits keep that information embargoed until it’s official. 

Those recruits have said they are familiar with Coombs but have never spoken with him – that might seem obvious, but I needed to make that clear. 

Now, is there a chance it crumbles and doesn’t become official? That’s something we can only mention as a possibility, not with any sort of certainty. 

Dean Pees is the Titans’ current defensive coordinator, and there have been rumors of him retiring following this season. He retired from the Ravens on Jan. 1, 2018 and was almost immediately coaxed out of retirement by Mike Vrabel in that same month. A Super Bowl title – perhaps even just an appearance – could end up being the cherry on top for his career, and maybe he hangs up the spurs.

If he does so, perhaps the Titans offer Coombs a promotion to defensive coordinator and a hefty pay raise, and perhaps that would be enough to entice him to stay in Nashville. That doesn’t sound likely to happen, but it’s at least a possibility. 

Either way, if you’re an Ohio State fan, maybe you should be rooting for the Chiefs on Sunday, even though I know you won’t. But if you don’t want yours truly to have 14 heart attacks again like he did this past Sunday, rooting for Kansas City would be your best bet.

Getting back to Martinez, he is likely the final piece of the puzzle in the 2020 recruiting class, as a commitment from Jahmyr Gibbs seems unlikely at this moment. Martinez is a special type of talent, the kind who could end up being an explosive player on the defense if coached up and developed well. Coombs could be the man to do that.

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