Kerry Coombs Even More Energized by NFL Experience

Bruce Hooley

Kerry Coombs looks the same and sounds the same and so it's tempting to believe he is exactly the same now as when he left Ohio State for a two-year stint in Nashville as secondary coach of the Tennessee Titans.

That's not true if you believe Coombs, and given that there's likely never been a coach better at making his listeners believe in his message because of the passion and conviction with which he gives it, his transformation seems plausible upon his return as Ohio State's defensive coordinator.

In my opinion, I'm infinitely better than I was two years ago," Coombs said. "I can tell you why. I didn't expect that, to be honest with you."

The reasons are threefold, and all will be needed to transition OSU from a 2019 season to 2020 when OSU's secondary will feature three new starters.

Seniors Jordan Fuller and Damon Arnette are out of eligibility and junior Jeff Okudah was so good in a consensus All-American season that he's also off the NFL and a likely selection in the Top 10.

Redshirt sophomore slot corner Shaun Wade likely would have joined Okudah in Round One had he not decided to return for his junior season, giving Coombs a good foundation from which to build on what he learned in the NFL.

"I wasn't going to the Tennessee Titans or the NFL to become a better football coach," Coombs said. "I was going there because Mike Vrabel asked me and I love Mike Vravel. That's why I went. But I will tell you the experience was phenomenal  and there's really three reasons why.

Coombs cited:

  • The volume of defenses played in the NFL offers more answers to counteract opponents' success than he previously knew;
  • An additional leadership style Vrabel exposed him to, as opposed to what Coombs saw previously at OSU under Urban Meyer or at the University of Cincinnati under Brian Kelly.
  • The need to explain things to NFL defensive backs, vs. ordering college players what to do and knowing they will do it.

"When you have to contemplate every drill and why, it makes you a much better coach," Coombs said. "You have to explain it. I can't wait to get my hands on these guys and begin to explain to them, 'Hey, here's why we're doing these things.' "

Coombs replaces Jeff Hafley, who spent one season on Ryan Day's staff before becoming the head coach at Boston College.

Hafley hit it out of the park improving OSU's secondary, but there's no reason to believe Coombs won't do the same, given that he recruited the players Hafley coached and given that Coombs put Gareon Conely, Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Denzel Ward into the NFL via the first round.