The last time Deon Glover and Tony Grimes visited Ohio State, in April of 2019, there was a major mishap on their drive from Virginia Beach.
Glover, the father of Grimes, the nation's No. 1-ranked cornerback in the 2021 class, ran into a deer while driving, and the damage to the Honda Pilot was severe enough that Glover had to leave the car in Columbus for three months at the collision repair center (no one in the car was hurt).
Thankfully, for Ohio State coaches and supporters, the car might have crashed and burned, but the Buckeyes' chances of landing the country's 10th-ranked player in the class have not.
At one point, especially back in October when Eleven Warriors spoke with Grimes, it looked like Ohio State was among the top three or top five schools, at the worst, in the running to land the talented 6-foot, 180-pound junior out of Virginia Beach's Princess Anne High School.
“(Ohio State being DBU) is huge because they know what it takes to put a corner in the league, and I think when people and coaches are looking in the draft, coaches think about Ohio State,” Grimes said at the time. “Ohio State is known for putting DBs in the league so that’s what I’ve gotta think about. That’s why I’m playing football is to make it to the league.
“Ohio State stands high. I really enjoyed myself while I was there, and the coaches are amazing so Ohio State stands high.”
Over the past few weeks, however, it seemed as though the Buckeyes had almost completely fallen off the radar as an option. Ohio State had not been mentioned among the schools that Grimes would be taking an official visit to. Instead, Clemson, Texas A&M and Penn State were each a program he had said would be getting an official from him, and the Buckeyes were never mentioned.
Grimes and Glover have good relationships with Ohio State linebacker Teradja Mitchell, Glover's nephew, and linebackers coach Al Washington, who has been recruiting Grimes since Washington's days as a Michigan assistant. But when Jeff Hafley left for Boston College, it provided uncertainty as to who Grimes – and any other defensive back recruit – would have as his coach, and there was no Ohio State position coach for either Grimes or Glover to talk with.
So Glover reached out to Ryan Day, with whom both he and his son had already firmly established a strong relationship, and asked what the deal was.
"Coach Day assured us he had somebody good that was coming," Glover told Eleven Warriors on Monday. "They were working out some personnel issues and not to worry. Tony was the No. 1 guy on their board and everything on that end is still good. That they’re still pushing for Tony hard."
That "somebody good" turned out to be Kerry Coombs, announced on Jan. 20 to be on his way back into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for his second go-round as an Ohio State assistant coach.
And with that, the Buckeyes, whom Glover said were "legitimately a frontrunner" in Grimes' recruitment until Hafley left, firmly put themselves back into the conversation as one of the top players in this recruitment, and that's where his recruitment stands now.
"I talked to Coach Coombs," said Glover, who also serves as one of Grimes' coaches at Princess Anne. "In fact, we had a fantastic conversation (Sunday), and he’ll be in Virginia Beach (on Tuesday). He’ll be out here (Tuesday) to meet and talk with me and my head coach (James Yeager) and just kind of get it going so we can start (building) the relationship. Tony can start calling him on the phone and building with him.
"Coombs is a dynamic guy. I know a lot about him. Jon Hoke spoke highly of him — the defensive coordinator at Maryland — that he’s one of the best in the business. That puts (Ohio State) back in position as one of our top schools."
Glover says he and Grimes will be back up to Columbus in the spring, for at least four days, for another unofficial visit.
Glover spoke with Eleven Warriors at length this week. Highlights from his interview, including how Coombs' relationship with Grimes will impact his decision, the foundation on which Day has built his recruiting prowess and which other schools are high on the list, are below.
Note: These answers are edited lightly for length and clarity.
Eleven Warriors: I haven't see Ohio State mentioned in Tony's recruitment lately, and I’m just curious where (the program) stands in all of this as of right now.
Deon Glover: We look at relationships first, man. Everybody else can say it’s because of fans, facilities and the name of the school. But I feel like, Tony, he wants to be in the NFL. He wants to be a first-rounder. He wants to be the first person off the board. In order to do that, you have to start with personnel first.
Ryan Day is incredible, and he surrounds himself with incredible people. I can’t say the same about every head coach that I’ve met. I just can’t. I can say the same thing about Dabo Swinney, about Jimbo Fisher, about Kirby Smart. I can say the same thing about Mack Brown, but I can’t say the same about everybody else. Those guys have that “it” factor, man, and they surround themselves with tremendous people that care for and about players for more than just football.It’s just a matter of those two guys having conversations, getting to know one another because I know it’s more than just football.
Especially with Ryan Day, man, oh God. It’s more than just football. It’s mentorship. It’s, I’m gonna develop you more, totally, as a man. Tony’s gonna be spending most of his time with Coach Coombs. We need to see how that’s gonna fly. But Ohio State is in it. It’s not a question of if they are or not. Y’all in it. Trust me, there are very few programs that are moving at an elite pace, and Ohio State is one of them.
EW: How crucial does that relationship with Coombs play into this? How critical is Kerry Coombs’ reputation after bringing two years’ of NFL experience to the table for a guy (Grimes) who wants to be in the NFL so bad?
DG: That’s crucial. He understands. He’s seen the game’s ins and outs. He’s already a developer. He has a proven track record. But it comes down to a relationship. You can’t have an on-the-border type of player-coach relationship. It just won’t work. You’ll be in the transfer portal a year from now. That relationship is important. If a player trusts a coach, and a coach trusts a player, he’ll run through a brick wall for you. I’ll do everything you ask me to do. Tony is not the type of guy that Coach Coombs would ever have to worry about not going to class, not working at 200 percent. He’s that type of player. He’s totally dialed in, so we need a totally dialed-in coach.
EW: The uncertainty (of not having a position coach) makes things a little dicey.
DG: Yeah. Uncertainty. Think about it. Coombs, he may not be Tony’s type of player. The DB coach coming in may just not like Tony, you know what I’m saying? He may not fit the system they’re running. He’s also the d-coordinator so we don’t know what he’s gonna do defensively so that guy is vital. He’s vital.
EW: What was that phone conversation on Sunday like with Coach Coombs? What did he and Tony talk about and what did you and Coombs talk about?
DG: I loved it. Him and Tony, they spoke briefly, but me and him had a conversation and we spoke about what he expects from a player. He recruits the best guys. Not just athletically, but mentally. Just ready to go and ready to accept the challenge. (Coombs) talked about that, and I love that. He’s gonna push you to the max. He’s not gonna expect anything less than perfection. I love that type of coach.
EW: And Tony’s his type of guy?
DG: Tony’s his type of guy. And, see, I just shared a little bit about him as a father and as a coach. Tony is just that type of player. He works religiously. He’s not afraid of the challenge. He’s a stud academically. ... He’s so regimented in his day, in his school, his workouts and training. He’s regimented. So those are the types of players that Coombs likes. He doesn’t wanna be telling some kid you’ve gotta go to class, or why didn’t you turn in this paper, or why were you late to the meeting? To me, from what you’re telling me and knowing my son, oh y’all gonna be a good fit together. Y’all gonna be a good fit. I like that.
EW: I know DBU was a big draw for him to Ohio State originally. That’s how it is for a lot of cornerbacks. Did you tell Tony, look Coach Coombs is kind of the architect of DBU?
DG: We talked about it. We’ve been mentioning Marshon Lattimore and some of the players that he spit out. Like, hey, look at his track record, son. Look at what he’s done.
EW: Are you still planning on taking an official visit to Ohio State?
DG: (Coombs) never talked about the official visit, and that’s one of the things we’re gonna get down and dirty about and discuss (on Tuesday). (Ohio State) never really fell off the pack. We set up three official visits (Clemson, Penn State, Texas A&M). We were really holding a spot for Ohio State to see exactly what would happen and who would come in and how our relationship would develop. I know Coombs has that experience and knows what it takes to develop Tony and get him to where he needs to be.
EW: With schools like Clemson, Penn State and Texas A&M, does Tony have a top three, top five, top six? Does he have a hierarchy quite yet?
DG: We pretty much know who the top six are gonna be, and (Ohio State) is gonna be in it. We already know. We know who it is. (Ohio State’s) gonna be in it. We already have a feel. Staff change can disrupt a lot. Staff stability is important. I don’t know how some people, what they look at, or how they judge, certain schools. Some kids look at the fan base, and then you’re in the transfer portal because you and the position coach didn’t get along. You weren’t fully aware of what he expected of you because you didn’t get to know him. You just committed based on something and you didn’t do your research and now you’re mad because you expected this and you were only able to get this. So getting to know the staff is super important.
EW: How was the visit to Georgia? Was it pretty eye-opening?
DG: It was legit. We were impressed with the staff first. Everyone has nice facilities and stuff. But it’s the staff, man. I swear it’s the staff, and when you talk to the players and the players tell you what’s going on and how happy they are (it's impactful). And when you talk to the head coach and you feel — look, Ryan Day is at the top of the charts. That dude is special. He’s like Dabo Swinney and (James) Franklin. He’s got a personality like those guys that many other head coaches just don’t have. I see them trying to be that way, and it’s fake. It’s just not real. But when you sit and talk with those guys, this stuff is real. He’s a special dude, and he surrounds himself with the same type of people.
EW: That’s the foundation he’s built himself and his recruiting on, is being real and building real relationships.
DG: That’s right, and that’s what we love because I know, my son is gonna be eight and a half hours away. It’s not like I can just jump in the car and be there in a couple hours. But I know, until I get there, he’s good. It’s some people up there that care about him. They care about him. I know he’s getting the best trainer. I know he’s getting the best development. It’s about who he’s with.