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Ohio State's Kerry Coombs named 2017 Rivals Recruiter of the Year

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When recruiting a prospective student-athlete, a college football coach is almost always recruiting that young man’s parents and his high school coach as well. Ohio State defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs has filled all three of those roles at different stages of his life, and that experience is part of what helped him earn Rivals.com’s Recruiter of the Year award for 2017.

Coombs was a key member of an Ohio State staff that recruited the second-ranked class in the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings and nearly overtook perennial powerhouse Alabama for the top spot. His contribution to that effort included being the lead recruiter for four-stars Isaiah Pryor, Marcus Williamson, Amir Riep and Kendall Sheffield along with three-stars Jerron Cage and Blake Haubeil. Coombs also gave key assists in the recruitments of five-stars Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade, along with helping flip four-star linebacker Pete Werner.

“Ohio State did its best job ever recruiting nationally this year and Coombs was a huge part of that in addition to some key work locally as well,” Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell said. “Kids like his enthusiasm and they certainly take notice of what he and the Buckeyes do when it comes to putting players in the NFL."

Years before he was recruiting players to the college ranks, though, Coombs was watching his own players go through that process as a state championship-winning head coach at Cincinnati’s Colerain High School.

“The biggest single advantage that a (former) high school coach has is he has seen everybody recruit,” Coombs said. “I was exposed to so many different talents and tremendous recruiters who came through my office that I’d like to think I learned from them. I saw what kids liked, enjoyed and appreciated and what they didn’t and what parents liked, enjoyed and appreciated and didn’t.”

One of those recruiting role models Coombs holds a lot of respect for is former Purdue head coach Joe Tiller, whom Coombs said, “left a great impression on me.” Another was his current boss at Ohio State, Urban Meyer. Their paths crossed when Meyer was leading Bowling Green’s program and he drove himself to Colerain to meet with Coombs.

In an era when head coaches are usually accompanied by their assistant coaches or at least someone to drive them from the airport and back, Meyer’s personal approach and willingness to recruit in the trenches impressed Coombs even then. He sees that approach carrying over to the current staff in Columbus.

“I promise you, the best recruiter on our staff is our head coach,” Coombs remarked. “And we have eight other assistant coaches that they grind and they work. The great thing about our place is I know every other guy is working as hard as I am on the recruiting process, and we’re all working it together.”

Coombs helped Ohio State land five-star DB Jeffrey Okudah as well as a number of other top prospects.
Coombs helped Ohio State land five-star DB Jeffrey Okudah as well as a number of other top prospects.

Although Ohio State did not take home 2017’s team recruiting rankings title, this effort ranks as one of the 10 best in Rivals.com history based on total points. It was aided by having a ridiculously high 10 commitments in place before the start of those prospects’ junior seasons.

“That was a tremendous advantage for us because it allowed for two things," Coombs said. "One, you had the same amount of time, energy and effort, but you were spending it on fewer guys. And two, you now had this other team of guys who were out there working, independent of us, who were already committed to our school.

“And, they were phenomenal recruiters. You look at a kid like Shaun Wade, to be committed to us for as long as he was from Jacksonville Trinity, and Shaun stayed solid. He was just a bedrock guy. Then, you look at that Texas connection, and you have that nucleus out West. Then, you had those Ohio guys and all of those mini-units were kind of working together and it really blended into a phenomenal class.”

While Coombs likes to disperse the praise around to his fellow Ohio State coaches and the recruits in this class, the fact is he was responsible for a tremendous portion of the Buckeyes' historic haul. He maintains his contacts in southwest Ohio, but also goes into places like Detroit, Florida and Texas to aid Ohio State’s recruiting efforts.

“Coombs is a tireless worker who continues to go into some of the nation’s toughest regions to pull top-flight talent,” BuckeyeGrove.com’s Marc Givler said. “His energy seems to really resonate with the prospects that he recruits. The results have been tremendous over the past few years but this 2017 class might be his finest work.”

That work never ends, and Coombs acknowledged he will be back on the beat full-time with the class of 2018 starting immediately. Ohio State already has the No. 1 ranked class of 2018 dual-threat quarterback in Emory Jones and will be pursuing that team rankings title that barely eluded it in 2017.