Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2020 season and beyond.
No. 20: Zach Arnett, Mississippi State
No. 19: Larry Fedora, Baylor
No. 18: Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech
No. 17: Sean Gleeson, Rutgers
No. 16: Adam Fuller, Florida State
No. 15: Matt Lubick, Nebraska
No. 14: Mike Bobo, South Carolina
No. 13: Rhett Lashlee, Miami
No. 12: Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce, Arizona State
No. 11: David Ballou and Matt Rhea, Alabama
No. 10: Scott Cochran, Georgia
No. 9: DJ Durkin, Ole Miss
No. 8: Joe Moorhead, Oregon
No. 7: Todd Orlando, USC
No. 6: Chris Ash, Texas
No. 5: Chad Morris, Auburn
No. 4: Bo Pelini, LSU
Who: Bo Pelini, LSU
Title: Defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach
Previous stop: Tennessee Titans defensive backs coach (2018-19)
Why he’s important: When you’re a coordinator at Ohio State, you live life on a margin that is both a mile wide and an inch thick.
Kerry Coombs wasn’t hired to coach Ohio State to wins over Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland, or even Michigan State and Michigan. When the talent gap is as big as it will be in 2020, the players could win those games on their own.
Coombs was hired to do two things:
1) To keep the talent gap between Ohio State and 90 percent of its schedule as wide as it is today.
2) To beat Penn State, Clemson and the SEC.
We’re pretty sure Coombs can handle Job No. 1. With 4 5-stars and 11 4-stars on board, Ohio State is in the process of running away with the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for 2021.
It’s Job No. 2 where we won’t know until we know.
Coombs, 58 going on 28, didn’t join the college game until he reached his mid 40s — he was a Cincinnati high school coach prior to that — and rose the ranks as a defensive backs coach. An original member of Urban Meyer’s Ohio State staff, Coombs held an assistant defensive coordinator title in 2017, but that was Greg Schiano’s defense.
To be sure, it’s not as if Coombs walked in and hit CTRL + X on the play book. Greg Mattison return as co-defensive coordinator. As does associate head coach Larry Johnson, linebackers coach Al Washington, and the sport’s most talented roster north of Clemson, S.C.
Jeff Hafley, Chase Young and Jeff Okudah are gone, but Ohio State is going to remain an elite defense.
“At the end of the day somebody has to walk out of that room with the final say,” Day said in February, “and that will be Kerry.”
Coombs doesn’t regret leaving Ohio State for the Titans, because he returns to Columbus a smarter coach than he was before.
“The library of defense that I have right now is extraordinary,” he said on Signing Day in February. “The things that we will be able to do adjust, adapt versus specific opponents is going to be really helpful from a scheme perspective. I learned another dynamic leadership style. You sit in the back of the room and you watch Urban Meyer run a meeting, you watch Brian Kelly run a meeting, you watch Mike Vrabel run a meeting… you learn an awful lot. Mike had a very distinct leadership style. It was phenomenal.
“More than anything, though, I learned to be a better coach, to relate better, in a different way, to players who make a lot of money. How to get those guys to maximize what they do for themselves and for the team. Instead of saying, ‘Go do this,’ now I’ve got to say, ‘Here’s why we’re going to do this.’ I’m bringing that back to the room.”
At some point, though, Ohio State will find itself staring down Trevor Lawrence on a gotta-have-it 3rd-and-5. Ultimately, Jeff Hafley did not find the right call, or at least enough of them to put Ohio State back on top of the mountain.
Will Coombs find the right call somewhere in his library? We won’t know until we know.