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It won’t be easy for Ohio State to replace Kerry Coombs

Not only has Coombs overseen the #BIA secondary, but he is also OSU’s resident flag planter.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

“This is a tough loss for Ohio State. While the Buckeyes understand that losing coaches to the NFL and other college opportunities comes with the territory, Coombs will be difficult to replace.”

- Ryan Donnelly, Land of 10

Assistant coaches are like back-up quarterbacks, they are everyone’s pride and joy, even if it is not entirely earned. However, in the case of Kerry Coombs, the beloved status that he has amongst Ohio State fans is not only completely justified, but even the most fervent fans might not realize just how valuable he has been to the success of the the team in the past six seasons.

With today’s announcement that Coombs will be joining former OSU colleague Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans, there is now a fiery, silver-haired hole in the Buckeye coaching staff. Not only is he one of the most intense and excitable (and therefore endearing) figures on the Buckeye sideline, but he played a role in getting OSU back to its current level of dominance.

A native-Ohioan, Coombs has been with Urban Meyer’s staff since arriving in Columbus in 2012, and since then has built one of the most successful defensive units in college football in the Buckeye secondary. From Bradley Roby to Gareon Conley to Eli Apple to Marshon Lattimore to Denzel Ward, the OSU defensive backfield has become a training ground for NFL first-rounders.

However, as Donnelly notes, Coombs’ biggest impact might have come on the recruiting trail as he was “planting flags.” With his decades of experience as a high school and college coach in Cincinnati, Coombs has been a stalwart in recruiting southern Ohio, as he has been in the state up north as well. However, his biggest impact might have been going into SEC territory to pluck some of the best defensive talents out of Georgia and Florida, including this year’s commits, five-star Tyreke Johnson (Jacksonville) and four-star Sevyn Banks (Orlando).

With Alex Grinch being brought on staff earlier this month, it makes sense for him to assume the secondary— and likely co-defensive coordinator-- responsibilities, but whether he (or anyone) can fill Coombs’ shoes in recruiting is yet to be seen.

Despite the fact that the basketball Buckeyes are sitting at No. 13 in the latest AP poll, and are still undefeated in the Big Ten, things haven’t been easy for them over the last three games, including the “ups and downs” against Nebraska that Holtmann spoke of here.

While OSU ended up beating Minnesota on Saturday in New York by 18, the Gophers raced out to a double-digit lead early, and the games against Northwestern and Nebraska that surrounded the trip to Madison Square Garden saw OSU pull away in the final minutes to keep their conference record spotless.

However, the team hasn’t looked as sharp as it did in the first six games of B1G competition, and a lot of that has to do with how they have shot. In their first six games of conference action, the Buckeyes shot 53.6 percent from the field (178-332), but in the last three games, they have shot 43.9 percent (76-173); and the disparity gets even worse when you consider their production from behind the arc.

In the first six B1G games, OSU was 50-for-112 (44.6%) from deep—including their record 17-29 against Maryland. However, in their last three games, they have combined for just 12-of-51 (23.5%) from beyond the arc.

Now, there are countless legitimate reasons for the Buckeyes’ shooting to dip as the season progresses; the competition gets stiffer as the conference slate moves on, the young roster hits the proverbial freshman wall, and as Ohio State’s stock and stature rise, they get more attention and a better effort from opponents.

However, if OSU is going to capitalize on their unforeseen stellar start to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, they will likely need to get back to their early, lights-out shooting to make the most of it.

“Through the year 2031, we’ve got at least a few big non-conference games already on the schedule for each season. So, let’s go year-by-year and spot the most intriguing games already on the schedules... The Buckeyes play Texas and Notre Dame in a three-week span (in 2022). How’s that for a schedule?”

- Richard Johnson, SBNation

It has been standard operating procedure for Ohio State football to schedule at least one major non-conference opponent each season for quite a while now. So, it is no surprise to see the Buckeyes on this list. However, what is fun for fans is that they appear in Johnson’s rundown nine times between this fall and 2025, with matchups against TCU (2018), Oregon (2020, 2021), Texas (2022, 2023), Notre Dame (2022, 2023), and Washington (2024, 2025).

However, I will throw out that a season opener against Florida Atlantic in 2019 could be really exciting if Lane Kiffin decides to stick around Boca Raton for a few more years.

Obviously most of the attention from these games will be on the home-and-home with Notre Dame, but what could be the most dramatic series is with Texas, assuming a few caveats.

1) Urban Meyer is still the Buckeye coach then. 2) Tom Herman is still the Longhorn coach then. 3) Herman has gotten UT back to national prominence in the next five years.

Assuming that all of those things are true, this could be one of the highest profile teacher vs. student college football battles in recent memory.


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