Ohio State cornerbacks have been very, very good to the NFL over the last 20 years or so, but they have really ramped it up since Urban Meyer and Kerry Coombs arrived.
Over the last 21 years, the Buckeyes have produced 10 first-round draft picks at cornerback. In the spring, Denzel Ward is expected to make that 11 first rounders.
That would give Coombs five first-round draft picks at cornerback over the last five years. Not only would he be besting the NFL Draft record he set last year, but that number would also be more than any other Big Ten football program over the last 40 years.
Don’t worry, though, Denzel Ward won’t be the last.
Coming into this season, most expected Ward would be ready to leave early, which he is doing. There was also some thought that redshirt sophomores Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette could leave as well.
Speaking after the Cotton Bowl win, however, Coombs expects both Sheffield and Arnette to return so that they can continue what is now an ongoing thing at Ohio State.
“No, we’ve had many conversations about that,” he said. “That’s their personal business, but no, every anticipation that I have is that those guys are eager to come back and improve and be first rounders next year.”
At this point, why would they think otherwise?
Prior to this season, Kerry Coombs has had seven starting corners in his first five years at Ohio State. Four of them — not yet including Ward, who is a projected first rounder — have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The other three — including Ward — were still First-Team All-Big Ten performers.
Now it is up to Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield to live up to the expectations of being next in line. The 2017 season may have gotten off to a rough start, but both players improved throughout the season.
“They did. We struggled in that first two weeks. We know that. Everybody knows that,” Coombs said. “I think you have to learn to trust how we play, and then I think you have to get out there and do it. And we played against two offenses, the first week the quarterback was really hot, and the second week the quarterback won the Heisman trophy.”
Playing corner at Ohio State is never going to be comfortable, and it takes time to get accustomed to the requirements and acclimated to the task at hand. But there is something to be said for gaining confidence, especially at a position that requires it more than anywhere else on the defensive side of the ball.
Sheffield and Arnette were thrown into the fire quickly, and spent the rest of the season with Ward being forged into a trio of cornerbacks that was as good as anywhere else in the country, if not better.
“We played against some good people, but those guys are going to continue to develop because it’s what we do, and they’re going to be great Buckeyes,” Coombs said. “The first-round train isn’t stopping. We’re going to have guys year in and year out that are going to be able to do that. And I’m excited about those guys that played tonight and those kids that are coming in in a couple of weeks, and we’re going to continue to have that kind of talent.”