Kerry Coombs Returning to Ohio State As Defensive Coordinator and Secondary Coach

By Dan Hope on January 20, 2020 at 1:59 pm
Kerry Coombs
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Kerry Coombs is back.

After two seasons with the NFL's Tennessee Titans, Coombs is returning to Ohio State as the Buckeyes' new secondary coach and defensive coordinator, the program announced on Monday.

Coombs, who was previously Ohio State's cornerbacks coach from 2012-17, replaces Jeff Hafley, who left the Buckeyes after one season to become the head coach at Boston College.

“Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” Ryan Day said in Ohio State's announcement. “He is an excellent coach and he has had two outstanding seasons in the NFL on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve spent a season on staff with Kerry and I really like his coaching and knowledge of the game, but I also like that he knows Ohio State and he knows how to recruit to Ohio State. He’s recruited some of the players currently on the team and he coached a handful of Buckeye defensive backs who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.”

Greg Mattison, who split coordinating duties with Hafley last season, will continue in his role as a defensive coordinator alongside Coombs.

In his initial six-year stint with the Buckeyes, Coombs was known for his seemingly never-ending energy and for developing NFL defensive backs year in and year out, including first-round draft picks Bradley Roby, Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Denzel Ward.

Coombs left the Buckeyes after the 2017 season to join the staff of Mike Vrabel – who he worked alongside in his first two years at Ohio State – with the Titans. Though Coombs' return had been in the works since Hafley's decision to leave in December, Ohio State had to wait until this week, when the Titans' playoff run ended with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, to finalize Coombs' hiring.

“I never want to be the coach that keeps people from doing what they want to do,” Mike Vrabel said of Coombs’ departure during a press conference on Monday. "I’m happy for Kerry, and he’s on his way to Columbus."

Now, Coombs has is officially back in the college game and in Columbus, where his pedigree of both developing and recruiting defensive backs makes him an ideal replacement for Hafley.

Coombs becomes the second former Ohio State cornerbacks coach to return to the Buckeyes for a second stint in the last three years. Taver Johnson, who was previously the Buckeyes' cornerbacks coach from 2007-11, returned for one season as Coombs' replacement in 2018 but was not retained when Ryan Day became head coach.

In Coombs' return to Columbus, he will be tasked with rebuilding a defensive backfield that lost three starters – cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette and safety Jordan Fuller – from this past season. Shaun Wade's decision to return for the 2019 season gives Coombs one key piece to lead his secondary, but Coombs' ability to develop the rest of Ohio State's defensive backs (some of whom he recruited to Columbus before the end of his first stint with the Buckeyes) will be crucial to Ohio State's efforts to field another successful defense in 2020.

On the recruiting trail, Coombs has established recruiting ties within the state – especially in the Cincinnati area – and should be able to make an immediate impact on the Buckeyes' efforts to bring in top defensive backs from across the country and top players at all positions from Southwest Ohio. An Ohio native, Coombs coached at the high school level in Ohio for more than 20 years before moving up to the college ranks at Cincinnati and Ohio State. He was generally regarded as one of the top recruiters on Urban Meyer's coaching staffs.

Coombs will work in tandem with Mattison to coordinate Ohio State's entire defense while working with assistant secondary coach and special teams coordinator Matt Barnes to coach the Buckeyes' defensive backs.

With the hiring of Coombs along with Corey Dennis replacing Mike Yurcich as quarterbacks coach, Day's 10-man staff of assistant coaches is now full once again. Coombs and Dennis join a returning group of assistant coaches that includes Mattison, Barnes, running backs coach Tony Alford, wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Al Washington.

Ohio State's 2020 Coaching Staff
Coach Title
RYAN DAY HEAD COACH
KEVIN WILSON OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/TIGHT ENDS COACH
COREY DENNIS QUARTERBACKS COACH
TONY ALFORD ASSISTANT HEAD COACH FOR OFFENSE/RUNNING BACKS COACH
BRIAN HARTLINE WIDE RECEIVERS COACH
GREG STUDRAWA OFFENSIVE LINE COACH
KERRY COOMBS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR
GREG MATTISON CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR
LARRY JOHNSON ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE LINE COACH
AL WASHINGTON LINEBACKERS COACH
MATT BARNES ASSISTANT SECONDARY COACH/SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR

According to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch, Coombs is set to receive a salary of at least $1.2 million, which is more than any Ohio State assistant coach was paid in 2019. Mattison was Ohio State's highest-paid assistant coach with a $1.1 million salary last season.

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