Kerry Coombs Returning to Ohio State on Ryan Day's Staff

Bruce Hooley

Ohio State coach Ryan Day promised to hire the best secondary coach in America when Jeff Hafley departed to become the head coach at Boston College.

If developing recruits into first-round NFL draft picks is the standard by which college position coaching excellence is determined, then Day kept his promise.

OSU announced the hiring Monday of its former defensive backfield coach, Kerry Coombs, less than 24 hours after the Tennessee Titans lost the AFC championship game to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Coombs will acquire the title of defensive coordinator, not the co-coordinator title Hafley shared with Greg Mattison, who remains on Day's staff.

Mattison made $1.1 million last season and is among 10 assistant coaches who will share in $2.7 million in salary bonuses for the team's 13-1 season.

OSU declined to provide a contract term or base salary for Coombs.

Being a coordinator at OSU will allow Coombs to round out his resume to better position himself to become a college head coach, particularly if his sights are set on the job at Cincinnati.

Coombs was a UC assistant from 2007-11 after a 16-year career as head coach at powerhouse Colerain High School in suburban Cincinnati.

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, a former OSU defensive coordinator, has had opportunities to leave UC each of the last two seasons and will likely remain an attractive head coaching candidate for Power 5 openings.

Fickell's defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, a former OSU linebacker, and Coombs would be the top two candidates if the UC job opened in the future.

"Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” Day said in a release from the school. “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 (in 2017) 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.”

Coombs' eventual arrival has been the worst-kept secret in Columbus since Hafley agreed to take over at BC prior to Ohio State leaving for Arizona and the Fiesta Bowl matchup against Clemson.

Coombs left Urban Meyer's staff to join Titans' head coach Mike Vrabel, who coached with him at OSU in 2014, following the 2017 season.

That means Coombs coached NFL first-rounders Bradley Roby, Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Denzel Ward during four seasons at Ohio State.

Day deflected questions last week about Coombs' hiring because the NFL does not allow hiring announcements for coaches while their teams are engaged in the playoffs.

OSU is losing three starters to the NFL in seniors Jordan Fuller and Damon Arnette and junior early-entry Jeff Okudah.

Okudah was a consensus All-American and a Thorpe Award finalist this past season.

Coombs and OSU will build around the return of slot corner Shaun Wade, who projected as a first- or second-round pick in the 2020 draft but chose to return to college for his junior season.

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Rick M.
Rick M.

For a maven, there are factual errors in your story. Coombs coached at OSU for six seasons, not four. Your story had him coaching with Vrabel for one season in 2014. He actually coached with Vrabel for two seasons, but they were 2012 and 2013.