Coombs Expects Buckeyes to “Win in Cincinnati”
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just as his predecessor did at Ohio State, Urban Meyer has vowed to put a fence around the state of Ohio when it comes to high school recruiting.
Only Meyer is hoping his fence extends a little further south.
While the Buckeyes have historically handpicked the top prospects out of places like Cleveland, Akron, Columbus and Dayton, they have struggled to maintain a presence in the Queen City over the years.
That includes Jim Tressel’s decade in Columbus, which explains why there is only one scholarship player from Cincinnati on the current Ohio State roster.
Meyer is hoping to change that, and since hopes and wishes don’t generally land a lot of commitments, he went out and did something about it by hiring one of the few people who can make it happen.
“I can promise you it won't be a weakness,” said Kerry Coombs, a Cincinnati native and coaching legend in the Queen City who was recently hired as the cornerbacks coach at Ohio State.
“If there is a kid in Cincinnati that is the caliber of player that can play for Ohio State to help us win a national championship, he's going to be recruited relentlessly. And he will be a Buckeye.”
Coombs, 50, is uniquely qualified to make a comment as bold as that one. Not only did he spend the last five seasons as a defensive assistant under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones at the University of Cincinnati, but Coombs practically ran the city as the head football coach at Colerain High School.
After graduating from Colerain, a football powerhouse in the Northwest Local School District, Coombs helped the University of Dayton football team win the NCAA Division III national championship in 1980.
After working at Greenhills, Lakota and Loveland, Coombs returned to his high school alma mater in 1991 and turned the Cardinals into one of the premier teams in the entire state.
In 16 seasons at Colerain, his teams went to 10 state playoffs, including five state semifinal berths. They won the state championship in 2004 with a 50-10 over Canton McKinley in the Division I title game, and Coombs was eventually hired as an assistant at UC by Brian Kelly.
He spent the last five years coaching the Bearcats’ secondary, and was recently promoted to associated head coach before taking the job at Ohio State this off-season.
“I never had a vision of doing this but when that opportunity is presented to you, it’s really hard to pass up,” Coombs said while meeting with the media for the first time as an official member of Meyer’s coaching staff.
“I’m a lucky man. I owe so much to Colerain High School and the University of Cincinnati and people in town that have done so much. I called all my players and said thank you because I have this opportunity for what they’ve done.”
It is hard to pinpoint exactly why Ohio State has struggled so often when it comes to pulling top talent out of the Cincinnati area, but it has been a tough battleground for OSU assistants throughout the years.
Even when the Buckeyes were rolling.
The Queen City is just two hours down the road from one of the biggest, most prestigious college football programs in the country, and yet the culture is much different than that of the state’s capital city.
While the Buckeyes have been able to land some top talent from southern Ohio, including guys like DeVier Posey, Andrew Norwell, and, most recently, Adolphus Washington, there is a much longer list of guys who have opted to go elsewhere.
The city isn’t quite ready to be annexed to Kentucky the way, say Toledo is with Michigan (or at least the way it can seem at times), but there is certainly a heavy influence from the “Bluegrass State,” which sits just over the Ohio River on the south end of the city.
As Ohio’s third-largest city, Cincinnati also has its own University (in fact, it really has two of them if we’re including Xavier). While the Bearcats are not typically able to threaten the Buckeyes when it comes to landing big-name recruits, Notre Dame certainly is.
Cincinnati was one of the country’s first major inland cities, and today it is a racial mix of White (52%) and African-American (46.5%) cultures. It is also heavily influenced by the Catholic faith, with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati accounting for numerous high schools in metro Cincinnati.
It takes a unique understanding of the Queen City, and a close relationship with the coaches in the area, to succeed where others at Ohio State have failed, or in some cases, even failed to try.
That’s where Coombs is confidence he can make a difference.
“We are going to win in Cincinnati. We're going to win the state of Ohio,” he said.
“Then we're going to reach out nationwide and the best players in the country are going to come here to play.”
It’s not hard to see why Coombs was the right fit for Meyer and his new defensive staff at Ohio State.
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