Even though Matt Barnes has a new title, his role and Ohio State’s approach to coaching the secondary haven’t changed drastically from last year.
Barnes now holds the title of safeties coach, in addition to his title as special teams coordinator, rather than the assistant secondary coach title he held last year. But much like last year, when Jeff Hafley was the lead secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator, Ohio State’s cornerbacks and safeties are continuing to meet together, and new defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs is leading the room while collaborating with Barnes.
Barnes believes that’s the way it should be.
“I think in the secondary, it’s critical that there’s not too many voices, and I’ve believed that for quite a long time,” Barnes said. “Even if you’re trying to say the same thing, just saying something in a slightly different way, sometimes can cause confusion. But Kerry does a great job. He runs our room and gets everyone on the same page, and I try to assist Kerry as best as I can and give him some opinions and things like that.
“But I do think it’s a great thing that our kids, our players are hearing one voice in the front of the room. I think it detracts from the ability for there to be confusion. I think everyone’s on the same page, and again, Kerry does a great job of running the room and making sure we’re organized in that way.”
In Coombs’ previous tenure at Ohio State from 2012-17, he focused on coaching cornerbacks alongside a trio of defensive coordinators who doubled as safeties coaches in Everett Withers, Chris Ash and Greg Schiano. After coaching the entire secondary during his two years with the Tennessee Titans, though, he came back to Ohio State with the belief that cornerbacks and safeties should be coached collaboratively.
“That’s really the best way to do it, right?” Coombs said after he was hired in February. “Because all the pieces are communicating together.”
Ohio State’s top two safeties are both glad they’re still being coached by Barnes while also being coached by Coombs. Josh Proctor laughed when he was asked about Coombs, saying “he brings a lot of energy,” as anyone who’s ever seen any footage of Coombs from a practice or a game already knows. Hooker, who was recruited out of high school by Coombs before he left for the Titans, said having Coombs back at Ohio State has “been a blast, even though we get yelled at quite some times.”
“It’s very great having both of them in the room, because they both have great minds, and they’re always inspiring us and always giving us tips on how to be better each day,” Hooker said. “I’m truly blessed to be around these guys that I’m around now, because they’re always wanting to bring out more of the best inside of us, and not too many people see it behind the scenes, but they’re always trying to bring more out of us. Whether we feel like we’re giving our all, they always manage to get more out of us.”
Proctor described the dynamic of being coached by both Coombs and Barnes as “turnt.”
“They’re both exciting guys, but they both love the game just like we do,” Proctor said. “So they just kind of push us and get us better every day.”