Now that the season has ended for the basketball Buckeyes, following their heartbreaking loss to No. 4 Gonzaga on Saturday, it’s time to refocus attention on the football team and their spring practices—while still following the women’s basketball team and men’s and women’s hockey teams, of course.
For the first time since Urban Meyer took over the reigns in Columbus in 2012, Ohio State will go through spring practices without one of the most excitable coaches in recent memory. In January, defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs left OSU to join the staff of former colleague Mike Vrabel, who took over as the head coach of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
From helping craft the “Best In America” secondary to giving the most ferocious fist pumps in Ohio State history, Coombs will be hard to replace, and his former players and co-workers have made that very clear in recent months.
“He recruited me. He’s a Cincinnati guy. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around,” former Buckeye Sam Hubbard said at the NFL Combine. “He brings a passion and love for the game that is infectious to everyone around him. He energizes just by his presence. I’m really excited he’s got an opportunity at the next level.”
While Hubbard spoke of Coombs’ enthusiasm, future first-round pick Denzel Ward remembered Coombs for the impact that he had off of the field. “Coach Coombs is a great coach, but I would say... [he] is kind of like a father figure,” Ward said. “Coach Coombs impacted my life in so many ways outside of football, I just have so much love and respect for that man.”
On National Signing Day, both Meyer and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano spoke about the kind of coach and man that Coombs was while in Columbus, and how difficult it will be to replace him as a friend, let alone as a coach.
“I respect and really enjoyed working with Kerry Coombs,” Schiano said. “He’s a man’s man. A really good football coach, but he’s become a very close friend. So that part of it is always sad. That happens in our profession. You stay in touch, but it’s not the same as working with each other. He’s an excellent coach, so he’s going to be hard to replace. He’s an excellent recruiter, he’s going to be even harder to replace.”
The disappointment that Schiano shared about no longer having Coombs’ camaraderie around on a daily basis seemed to hit Meyer even more.
“Kerry Coombs, that was, that took my breath away a little bit,” Meyer said on NSD, his first media availability following the announcement of Coombs’ departure. “Kerry is dear friend. Him and Holly are -- for the rest of our lives will be very close. He was instrumental in our success we have had here. Great Ohioan, a great person. And I was shocked when he did that, but he’s a friend and we obviously wish him all the very best.”
As Coombs transitions to the NFL for the first time in his career, the knowledge and experience that he has developed while training first-round pick after first-round pick will be invaluable, but, as Jerome Baker explained at his Combine media session, Coombs just has something special about him that will undoubtedly translate to the NFL.
Speaking of the coach’s intensity level, he said, “It’s unmatched. Every day you might think he’s on coffee, but it’s just natural juice. Everyday he just brings it.”
When asked if he thought Coombs would be able to handle the transition to the next level, he said, “Definitely. You see a guy with so much juice, you can’t help but to feed off of it, so it’ll definitely help the Titans.”
While Buckeye fans are no doubt disappointed that Coombs won’t be running up and down the sidelines of Ohio Stadium with his face red and veins popping this fall, the impact that he made in Columbus will be felt in the Buckeye program—and in the NFL—for years to come.