NFL made Ohio State defensive coordinator a better coach
COLUMBUS — The most popular thing Ryan Day has done since becoming Ohio State’s head football coach obviously is winning 13 games in his first season.
The second most popular thing would be convincing quarterback Justin Fields to transfer to Ohio State.
No. 3 on that list might be bringing back Kerry Coombs as OSU’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for the 2020 season.
It is hard to think of an Ohio State assistant coach more beloved by the fan base than Coombs, who was an assistant at OSU from 2012 to 2017 before leaving to be an assistant coach for the Tennessee Titans the last two seasons.
He was very successful in his six seasons his first time at Ohio State when he coached NFL first-round draft choices like Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Denzel Ward, and recruited players like Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade, Jordan Fuller and Damon Arnette.
His personality might be as big a part of his connection with Buckeyes fans as his production, though.
Coombs has the energy of six toddlers and probably sleeps less than they do. If you ever see him with a cup of coffee in his hand that is a totally unnecessary use of caffeine.
He projects passion and has a constant level of excitement and animation that could put every energy drink company in America out of business if it could be distilled and bottled.
At his national signing day press conference last Wednesday, Day joked that the other coaches are now consuming mass quantities of coffee to keep up with Coombs.
“I said to somebody that he had more tweets and hashtags (on Twitter) in the first day than I had in the last month,” Day said. “I think the guys really feel his energy. He’s very positive. The players feed off of that. He’s strong and he’s out front and he’s got a lot of energy.
“And, I think he’s got a tremendous skill set. We’re really excited to have him back.”
Coombs says the best is yet to come for him. Kerry Coombs the sequel will be better than the first time around because he learned a lot about coaching in his two seasons on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Titans.
“I will tell you that I’m infinitely better than I was two years ago,” Coombs said last week. “First of all, the volume of defense in the NFL is incredible. I have a library of defensive football that is as big as all outdoors now. It was a learning experience from two of the great defensive minds in the history of football — Dean Pees (the Titans’ recently retired defensive coordinator) and Mike Vrabel.
“The second thing is I got to learn another leadership style from another great leader. I have coached for and with some great leaders in my career. Mike’s style is distinctly different than Urban’s style and distinctly different from Brian Kelly’s style,” referring to his time in the NFL, at Ohio State and at the University of Cincinnati.
He added a third thing that made him a better coach. Unlike coaching in college or as a high school head coach, he had to explain to players in the NFL why they should do something instead of just telling them to do it and expecting them to follow his directions.
“When you have to contemplate every drill and why, it makes you a much better coach,” Coombs said.
Coombs replaces Jeff Hafley, whose one season as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach was a slam dunk success that helped him get the head coach’s job at Boston College. Cornerback Shaun Wade is the only returning starter in the defensive backfield but Coombs say he is very confident the new starters will play well.
“First of all, because they’re great players,” he said. I’ve watched them. I recruited a bunch of theme. I know who they are. I know what they’re made of. Don’t worry about them. We’re going to be just fine.”