The Hurry-Up: “Fast, Long, Physical” CB Avante Dickerson a Potential Fit if Kerry Coombs Returns to Press-Man Style, Safety A.J. Kirk No Longer an Option for Buckeyes

By Zack Carpenter on February 10, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Avante Dickerson
Avante Dickerson (Mike Schaefer, 247Sports)

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.

Dickerson a fit for press-man style

When Kerry Coombs finally, officially returned to Ohio State two weeks ago, he immediately hit the recruiting trail to meet with Cameron Martinez, Jakailin Johnson, Tony Grimes, Jordan Hancock and Andre Turrentine or their coaches.

Coombs is making some major impressions on the trail already, picking up right where he left off. That’s no surprise. Coombs’ recruiting prowess is as well-known as his affinity for coffee and emitting endless energy.

What’s not as set in stone, though, is how much the Buckeye cornerbacks will return to playing press man-to-man coverage as they did during Coombs’ first go-round as secondary coach. With Jeff Hafley in charge of the back end, Ohio State ran a mixture of man and zone concepts with a one-high safety look.

Right now, Coombs says that zone mixture will continue. Having coached with the Tennessee Titans for two years, his defensive playbook has expanded and he said they played “every coverage there is” – three-deep, two-deep, quarters, Cover 0 man-to-man, you name it. Press-man coverage will be a significant part of what the Buckeyes want to do defensively, though.

“Now, are we going to play press man-to-man? You bet your bottom dollar, we're going to play press man-to-man because we're going to be really good at it,” Coombs said on Wednesday. “We're gonna have the guys that can do it, and we're going to be really good at it. We're going to play three-deep single high a whole lot because that's what they've done here and been very successful. So there'll be some things, some additions – no reason for me to tell the world what they're going to be – but there will be some coverage additions to what we do. But our base is going to be single-high defense. That's what we're going to play.”

If the Buckeyes do end up playing more press-man coverages in the future, that would probably mean a shift in who they target at cornerback in recruiting. Johnson, Grimes and Hancock – an under-the-radar star who will soon be a high-riser up the rankings – are three of Ohio State’s top targets, and that was made even more apparent by Coombs visiting them first when he got the job.

Outside of those three, one of the other key targets at cornerback in the 2021 class is Avante Dickerson out of Westside High School in Nebraska.

A 6-foot, 165-pound cornerback, Dickerson is ranked as the No. 8 cornerback in the country and amassed 21 tackles, 11 pass breakups and four interceptions during the 2019 season. He’s the No. 78-ranked overall player in America, and he’s ranked No. 1 in Nebraska.

Dickerson told Eleven Warriors on Sunday that Ohio State sees him as a good fit in its program.

“They see me as strictly a corner,” Dickerson said. “I would say I’m a fast, long corner that can play all over the field and willing to cover anyone. Physical also. I think press coverage is probably my best coverage, I like press more than anything else.”

Dickerson was originally recruited by Jeff Hafley and had a good relationship with defensive quality control coach Matt Thurin. but now that both Hafley and Thurin are at Boston College, special teams coordinator/assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes has taken over as his lead recruiter. 

“Coach Barnes, I have a good relationship with,” Dickerson said. “He is a good person. He taught me just things about their program defenses and everything like that. He just talked to me (about) how they run everything – all there defensive calls and why they do certain things.”

The next step for Dickerson will be to speak with Coombs and eventually meet him. They have not talked yet, which might be an indicator that Dickerson is lower on the board than Johnson, Grimes and Hancock – and perhaps Turrentine – since, again, those were the first corners Coombs visited when he only had 11 or 12 days left of the contact period by the time he was officially hired. 

The first time Dickerson meets Coombs in person could come in the next couple of months.

“Next time I visit Ohio State will probably be a visit possibly in the spring,” said Dickerson, who received an offer after an Ohio State camp in June and whose only visit to campus since then came in late December when the vast majority of coaches and players were in Arizona for the College Football Playoff. “Not sure when and where yet, but I’m planning on taking some official visits in the spring and summer.”

Dickerson trimmed his list to a top three of Ohio State, LSU and Nebraska in December, about a week-and-a-half prior to his unofficial visit to Columbus. (Though he did say soon after that he's open to other schools.) The Buckeyes, who have never signed a player from Nebraska in the modern recruiting era, will remain at the top of his list going forward.

“Ohio State is DBU, and they (have) a lot of defensive backs in the NFL and that’s my goal to go to the NFL,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson says he’s taking his time with his college commitment. He wants to make his decision, “before my senior season if I know (where I want to go), but if not, then I’m not gonna rush it.”

Kirk no longer an option

Since we’re talking about defensive backs today, I wanted to touch briefly on another player who was at one time a top Ohio State target in the 2021 class.

A.J. Kirk, the younger brother of former three-time first-team All-American and Ohio State Hall of Fame safety Mike Doss, left a one-day June camp with an Ohio State offer and entered his junior season as one of the Buckeyes’ top targets at safety or bullet. At the time, the 6-foot, 200-pound Dublin Coffman standout seemed like a clear Ohio State lean with his local and family connections.

Multiple sources, however, have confirmed that, unless something unforeseen happens, Ohio State is no longer interested in Kirk – who did not play a down for Dublin Coffman this past season – as a potential target.

In all likelihood, Ohio State will be looking to add five defensive backs in the 2021 cycle, which will most likely be three cornerbacks and two safeties. Four-star Gateway (Pa.) High School standout Derrick Davis Jr. – the nation’s No. 2-ranked safety and No. 35-ranked overall player – has visited Ohio State multiple times, including a game day, with his most recent visit coming last weekend. 

Davis is arguably the most talented safety available to pair with already-committed Cincinnati La Salle safety Jaylen Johnson.

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