Coombs style suits corners.

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Last updated: 04/16/2012 9:07 PM
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Football
Buckeye Cornerbacks Finding Coombs' Style to Their Liking
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In football, cornerbacks have to be some of the most brash and outspoken players on the field. They can't back down from any challenge, nor show any moments of hesitation. They have to be on their toes, and on their game, on every single play.

They have to be some of the smartest players on the team, and yet the most forgetful. They can't let one bad play carry over into the next. Cornerbacks have to snap back like an elastic waistband, and be ready to be stretched again at a moment's notice.

Kerry Coombs
Photo by Jim Davidson
Kerry Coombs

Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs understands this, and uses it to make his players better. He can be spotted routinely chasing his players down to offer encouragement following a good play just moments after blowing up after a bad play.

While he might dwell on poor plays behind the scenes, he doesn't want his players doing it. This hasn't been much of a problem for Coombs so far. With cornerbacks like Travis Howard and Bradley Roby, they can be beaten on two or three straight plays, and yet if they get one pass break up, they're up and gesturing like they've been insulted that a quarterback would dare throw their way.

"Let's just say they're high maintenance," Coombs said of his star pupils.

"What I mean by that is that all great corners have to have the same psychological makeup--they have to be fearless. They have to have absolutely no memory and very little conscience. Those are the guys you're looking for at that position.

"I tease them about it, but I wouldn't have them any other way. What you don't want is a corner who is mousy or timid or wants to fade into the background. You want a guy that doesn't mind standing out there on an island and having everybody watching them."

Mousy and timid certainly doesn't describe the Ohio State cornerbacks, nor their coach. They are all equally boisterous, because that's what the position requires. Sometimes, however, even Coombs has to make sure he's not going too far.

Take freshman cornerback Tyvis Powell, for instance. As a freshman, nobody receives more of Coombs' ire than Powell. In fact, he probably takes more than OSU's top three corners combined. It's to be understood, however, because this is Powell's first season and he's still learning what practicing like a college player entails.

"I grab Tyvis about every other day and say, 'Hey, how are you feeling? You hate me yet?', and he says 'No, I don't hate you yet'," Coombs said.

"But he will, and it's okay because I've told all of them from the beginning that I came to Ohio State to win a national championship and coach first round draft picks, and anything less than that would be unacceptable on their part and mine."

The way to making sure those things happen is through hard work, but hard work is often hard to maintain if it isn't enjoyable. That's where Coombs' style really comes into play. He can be militaristic in the way he gets into his players' faces during drills, but he's often also part comedian. Basically, he can be as quick with his wit as he is with his whistle.

"He cracks a lot of jokes, but he'll also get on you if you mess up," said sophomore cornerback Doran Grant. "You've just got to love him at the end of the day. I don't call it 'crazy', I just call it enthusiastic. That's what he does, that's his style. I love it."

Doran Grant gets some "one on one coaching" from Kerry Coombs.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Doran Grant and Kerry Coombs

Like a cornerback, Coombs is always talking, but his words aren't always directed at the cornerbacks. Sometimes they're directed at a certain other position group.

"I love Coach Coombs when he comes out for stretching," Howard explained. "He's kind of yipping and yapping at the receivers, getting in their heads and talking trash.

"It gets us fired up, especially if you're not really feeling it going into practice. He motivates you to go out there and compete because he talks a lot of trash and he looks to us to back it up. He's always telling the receivers that they're going to have a long day and it's going to be hard for them. He's a good guy and I love everything he does and everything that he brings to the table."

"He's a high-intensity guy," said sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby. "He's really smart. He knows the cornerback position. He knows what he's talking about.

"He's very positive and I love him as a coach. He's intense, but he's making fun of you at the same time. It's all love, we don't see anything wrong with it. It's always good to lighten up practice a little bit."

Coombs isn't doing anything that he hasn't been doing for years. As a longtime high school head coach, and then a position coach at the University of Cincinnati, he has always been a high-intensity teacher. He has also always been a guy that his players swear by.

"He just gives us confidence to go out there and do what we're capable of doing," Howard said. "I love that intensity from him. It just motivates you to go out there and keep making plays. He's passionate about the game, so I enjoy every bit of it."

This will be his thirtieth year of coaching football, an experience that he has strived to make an enjoyable one for his players. After all, it's much easier to teach a subject when the students are having a good time.

"I was talking with Bradley Roby and I said the reality for me is that I love football, but I truly love kids more than football," Coombs said.

"And I love watching a kid change and develop and grow. It's a game, so it's supposed to be fun. And you play so much more relaxed and hard if you're enjoying yourself. If we're not having fun at Ohio State playing and coaching football, something is wrong with us."

With the enthusiasm that Coombs and his players have shown, there doesn't appear to be much wrong in the secondary for the Buckeyes right now.

Even if there was, Coombs would have already told them to forget about it.

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