With Three Commitments in Three Days, Kerry Coombs Shows Why Ohio State Paid Big Money to Bring Him Back

By Dan Hope on March 17, 2020 at 11:30 am
Kerry Coombs

Kerry Coombs has now landed as many commitments as the number of practices he's coached in his return to Ohio State.

Coombs has coached just three practices since he arrived back in Columbus in January, and it could be months before he coaches a practice again. He has yet to coach a game in his new role as defensive coordinator and as the position coach for the Buckeyes’ entire secondary.

In the past three days, though, Coombs demonstrated one of the big reasons why Ohio State paid him $1.4 million to leave the NFL and return to Columbus and the Buckeyes’ coaching staff.

On Sunday, Coombs landed his first commitment – not including Cameron Martinez, who was already committed to the Buckeyes when he reaffirmed he would sign in January – when Jakailin Johnson, the No. 4 cornerback in the recruiting class of 2021, announced his pledge to Ohio State.

Less than 24 hours later, Coombs landed his second commitment from Devonta Smith, the No. 31 cornerback in the class of 2021.

And less than 24 hours after that, Coombs landed yet another commitment from Andre Turrentine, a versatile defensive back who is ranked as the No. 6 safety in the class of 2021 but could also end up at cornerback.

Even with an unexpected dead period in place that means the Buckeyes won’t be able to bring any recruits in for visits or go visit recruits themselves for at least the next month, Coombs was able to use the power of technology to convince not one, not two, but three of his top targets in the current recruiting cycle to come play for him at Ohio State next year.

Or, as Coombs put it in one of his famous hashtags after Smith’s commitment on Monday, “When life gives you no spring practice, make lemonade.”

Coombs would surely like to be on the practice field with the Buckeyes today, when they were originally scheduled to return to spring practice following spring break. Instead, spring practices have been suspended for at least the next three weeks – and will most likely be canceled altogether – due to the coronavirus outbreak. That makes Coombs’ job substantially more difficult as he prepares for his first season back with the Buckeyes.

He’s going to have to make up for lost time developing Ohio State’s defensive backs and coordinating the Buckeyes’ entire defense whenever they do get back on the practice field. Ultimately, the performance of Ohio State’s 2020 defense, and especially its secondary that will have three new starters this fall, will be what he’s graded on most when determining whether he’s worth his $1.4 million salary that makes him the second-highest-paid assistant coach in Ohio State history.

Recruiting is a big reason why the Buckeyes chose to pay Coombs the big bucks to lure him back to Ohio State, though, and his work over the past three days shows that he hasn’t lost his touch.

He certainly isn’t the only one who deserves credit for the Buckeyes’ string of commitments this week. Ryan Day certainly does as the head coach, and Mark Pantoni certainly does as the director of player personnel. Matt Barnes certainly does as the assistant secondary coach. Running backs coach Tony Alford certainly does after the Buckeyes also landed a commitment from top-100 running back Evan Pryor. Wide receivers coach Brian Hartline played a key role in building an early relationship with Johnson before Coombs’ return to Columbus.

For each of the three defensive back commitments, though, it was Coombs who had to close the deal, and his ability to land three in three days becomes even more impressive when considering the limited amount of opportunities he’s had to build relationships with each of them.

With Johnson, Coombs was able to sell the St. Louis product and his De Smet High School coach, Robert Steeples, on his ability to develop Johnson into both a future NFL player and a better man.

“I’ll tell you, (Coombs) sold me on him. I know his credentials and what he brings,” Steeples told Eleven Warriors’ Zack Carpenter. “These kids are like my sons, and he seems like the type of man who I would trust with them … He’s awesome. He’s super knowledgeable at that position. I think the NFL journey probably makes him even better of a coach than he was when he left.”

With Smith and Turrentine, Coombs was able to draw from his other stops in his coaching career. Coombs’ roots in Cincinnati, where Smith is from, are well-established from his decades of coaching high school football there. He put down roots in Nashville, where Turrentine is from, over the past two years with the Tennessee Titans. And now, just two months after returning to Ohio State, he’s helped the Buckeyes land players for his position group from both areas.

“Him being from Cincinnati, growing up in the same area and with him knowing my background and everything I’ve been through, I feel like that’s really a plus because he really knows how to coach me,” Smith told Eleven Warriors. “I feel like that’ll be great.”

Replenishing the defensive backfield is one of Ohio State’s biggest needs for the recruiting class of 2021 – a need that was exacerbated by Clark Phillips’ last-minute flip to Utah follow Jeff Hafley’s departure from the staff – and in a short amount of time, he’s already positioned the Buckeyes to do just that. 

His work on the recruiting trail is only just beginning, as he will still look to add one or two more defensive backs to this year’s class, and his work as an actual coach has only barely begun. But in a time where the Ohio State football team and its fans perhaps needed a jolt of excitement more than ever, Coombs delivered, strengthening the future of a program and a recruiting class that currently stands tall as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

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