Coombs Excited About His Freshman Corners
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs has said in the past that his goal in recruiting is to sign two of the best cornerbacks in the nation every single year. Well, this past February, according to ESPN's rankings, the Buckeyes signed three of the top nine corners in the nation.
Photo by Dan Harker
Eli Apple (#3), Gareon Conley (#7) and Cam Burrows (#9) all became Buckeyes, and each of them will be expected to play this season. With Coombs both the cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator, he is going to be putting all three of his freshmen through as many paces as they can handle.
Of course, Apple and Burrows decided to get those paces started early, and they enrolled in time for spring football. They received an immense amount of coaching, as well as an intense amount of coaching, which is pretty much the only way that Coombs knows how to do it.
"They didn't quit, which is a good thing," he said of his two freshmen.
"Part of the problem is you come in as a high school senior, and I'm going to callous you up as much as I possibly can, and I told them that. I just don't think they knew what that really meant.
"How they handle that and how they come back, and now they know what the expectations are, it won't be the same in the fall, but they'll still be some of that. But by next year at this time those kids are going to be smooth, ready-to-go guys."
While many will want to lump Apple and Burrows together, as both arrived at the same time, Coombs is quick to point out that they are very different players.
"I think they're two separate kids," he said.
"Cam is very, very serious. A student, diligent, quiet, maybe just a tad less explosive, but at 208 pounds, he's a guy that can run and can hit you. Eli I think is going to be a little more of a streamlined athlete, but also long. He showed flashes of absolute brilliance, and at the same time is going to mature.
"It's going to take a little bit more time it seems to me, although the conversations I've had with him indicate to me he's passionate about getting that done. You can throw him out there and play man-to-man and he'll be pretty good."
Photo by Jim Davidson
Burrows and Apple received so much work in the spring, that by the time August arrives, they will barely be freshmen anymore. That won't be the situation for Conley, who has just recently enrolled in school.
"He's really long, really fast - really fast, and I'm excited about that," Coombs said of the freshman from Massillon.
"He's going to be raw, he's going to need to be coached, but that's what we're here for, and we're really excited about that. I think he's got great ball skills. He could have played on either side of the ball. Fortunate for me I got him at corner. I hope I can keep him at corner."
Even though Coombs ideally looks for two cornerbacks to sign each year, with the amount of nickel and dime defenses the Buckeyes will play, as well as the desire for speed on all of the special units, a third cornerback in the class was an easy decision.
"It just brings competition, another guy that can play the dime, the nickel, go play man-to-man coverage," he said.
"That's what we're looking for, long guys who can run really fast and play man-to-man coverage. If they can do that, the rest of the stuff we can teach them to do."
It's that teaching where things can get interesting. There are few coaches as intense on a daily basis as Coombs, and that's whether things are going good or bad.
Just like when he was in Tyvis Powell's ear nearly every minute of every practice last spring as a true freshman, Coombs was there with Apple and Burrows this time around. Though, they clearly got off easier than Powell.
"I think you have to be careful about that," Coombs said of getting after true freshmen.
"But I think there's nothing worse than being out there in front of 107,000 people on a Saturday afternoon and not feeling confident that you can get the job done. So my job is to make sure they have that by August 31st."
Despite his demeanor at times, his players know that the madness is simply a method for achieving a necessary state of knowledge and understanding.
"It's not that I don't like you as a person. I really like you as a person. I don't like this and this and this, so lets fix it. Or not, and go play something else. I think they understand that, and I think my job is to put them under enough pressure in practice that there's nothing they're going to see on Saturday that's as bad."
And with pressure like that, just imagine if he didn't like you.
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