Skull Session: Kerry Coombs is Glad to Be Back, DC Defenders Are Looking For an XFL Title, and Dwayne Haskins Flashed Greatness Last Season

By Kevin Harrish on February 7, 2020 at 4:59 am
Luther Muhammad stares into the camera in today's skull session.

Tennessee's athletic director is out here accidentally acknowledging that his team eats ass.

Happy Friday!

Word of the Day: Aurora.

 GLAD TO BE BACK. I've said this before, but I didn't think there was a person on the planet I'd be genuinely excited to have coaching the Ohio State defense instead of Jeff Hafley, but then they went and brought Kerry Coombs back.

Because the truth is, even if the Buckeye defense was very good, I missed Kerry Coombs. And by all accounts, it seems he missed Ohio State, too.

Hafley was great in 2019. But while Coombs missed Ohio State, Ohio State also missed him.

“I wasn’t saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got to go somewhere else in order to come back.’ I didn’t say I’ve got to go somewhere else to advance my career,” Coombs said. “I really don’t think of my career in those terms. Does that make sense?”


And he’s glad to be back.

“I love Ohio State. I don’t want to understate this. I missed it. I missed the development of the player ... I get goosebumps talking about this,” Coombs said. "I missed the development of the player ... I love recruiting. I love going into high schools and talking with high school coaches. I love meeting players when they’re 16, 17, 18 years old and seeing that transition from a boy to a man. I love being behind the stage on a draft night and seeing a kid realize his dreams. I love coming out of that tunnel on a Saturday afternoon.

“And so I’m an Ohio guy. I love it. I missed it. And I’m really, really excited to be back, and I want you to understand it wasn’t leaving there. I tell people this all time. I didn’t leave Tennessee. I came to Ohio State. I came back.”

And may he stay forever this time.

 TITLE FAVORITES. You may have thought football ended with the Super Bowl last week, and you would be extremely wrong. It's XFL season, baby! And Cardale Jones and Co. are starting the season at the top of CBS Sports' extremely scientific power rankings.

1. DC Defenders

OK, so all that talk about not knowing who's going to be good and who's not? Forget it. Wipe it from your memory banks. Consider it hogwash. At least regarding DC. If the Defenders aren't vying for the championship in April, I promise you I'll only eat two boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints instead of three during that month. Firstly, their uniform is the cleanest of the crop. Call it boring if you want, but those are the crisp red and whites I want my team rocking for the title game. More importantly, they've got incredibly underrated talent that should thrive at the XFL level: Cardale Jones at quarterback, Eli Rogers at receiver and three legitimate NFL-caliber defensive backs in Matt Elam, Shamarko Thomas and Rahim Moore.

Folks, I am intrigued. As someone already going through football withdrawals, I'm hoping this is the fix I need to at least get me to Ohio State's spring football.

I get that The Alliance of American Football tried essentially the same thing last year and didn't even make it the whole season, but the AAF didn't have Cardale Jones, did it? And if you think there's anything that's going to stop me from drinking precisely three (3) alchohols and blasting Mike Jones' Mr. Jones on Saturday afternoon before watching the Iron King do his best Big Ten Title game impression on some hapless defense, I've got some news.

Plus, it ain't just Dolodale – DC also features Buckeyes Doran Grant and Tracy Sprinkle. And I'm all sorts of intrigued.

 STILL GOOD AT FOOTBALL. Everyone seemed to hop off the Dwayne Haskins hype train just because he struggled a bit his rookie. I'm not going to pretend it was always pretty, but people forget he can still do this:

For as many times as he looked like a deer in the headlights – and don't get me wrong, those times certainly existed – there were times when he looked every bit that surgical passer we loved to know at Ohio State.

Give him an entire offseason to work as the starter and find a way to improve his offensive line and I guarantee we see more of Good Dwayne. It's not like he was bad the final two games of the season once he got a few reps under him. He'll be alright.

 HELPING THE ENEMY. Ahead of national signing day in 2010, Ohio State had room for one more player in the recruiting class, and they chose Verlon Reed (a name I would certainly forgive you if you don't remember).

Instead, the Buckeyes sent their other choice to Mark Dantonio. And he uh... had a good career.

Reed's competition was a three-star running back with limited hype and only a small handful of scholarship opportunities, a prospect who until the final stretch of his recruitment seemed destined to play in the Mid-American Conference. Ohio State liked him — just not enough to extend an offer. Instead, then-coach Jim Tressel called up then-Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio, a former Ohio State assistant, and shared what his staff knew about the recruit.

The running back, Le'Veon Bell, would sign with the Spartans and run for 3,346 yards with 34 touchdowns across three seasons, and then blossom into one of the best players at his position in the NFL. Reed, meanwhile, would last two seasons with the Buckeyes before transferring.

"I don’t feel any regret for it," said Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, previously a longtime Ohio State assistant at the time of Bell's recruitment. "Sometimes it’s not always the best fit where you are, or numbers-wise, or whatever. It probably helped the kid get in a lot better place and get some exposure. And you know they’re going with good people.


In a number of cases, however, with Bell as one notable example, the link between prospect and program is sparked by relationships between coaches, who tap into friendships and connections to trade names, insight and information on recruits. Coaches unable to make things work with a specific player — whether due to numbers, academics or otherwise — will share that knowledge with peers, with the goal of eventually finding the recruit a landing spot before signing day.

While reading this, I almost audibly said "that's an extremely Jim Tressel thing to do" just before I got to the part that says Urban Meyer did not participate in this process with the Spartans.

And I get it, from both coaches. Tressel wanted to make sure the kid he couldn't take found a good home with a coach he trusted, but Meyer had absolutely no interest in helping a conference opponent.

This is exactly why I love Luke Fickell at Cincinnati – you can funnels you can't take to Fickell with a clean conscious, knowing they're never going to bite you in the ass down the road (unless the Bearcats miraculously make the playoff, in which case, tip the cap).

 BEHOLD, BRIAN HARTLINE. Brian Hartline was the best damn recruiter in the land, and I can show you why in about eight seconds:

Folks, Hartline even has this computer boy ready to suit up. Where are my pads? Put me in a circle drill.

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