Kerry Coombs was named new Ohio State defensive coordinator on Monday. It was not a surprise to anybody who pays attention to such things, but what may be a surprise to Coombs is what is awaiting him in the Buckeye secondary.
Ohio State must replace starting cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Jeff Okudah, as well as starting safety Jordan Fuller. Fortunately, cornerback Shaun Wade decided against opting for the NFL, so it’s not like Coombs will be starting from scratch.
Of course, the players who will be stepping in for the departed Buckeyes received plenty of snaps this past season, so that is going to help as well. Cornerbacks Cameron Brown and Sevyn Banks saw more fourth quarters than many fans. Tyreke Johnson is a former 5-star prospect who is about to receive more spring reps than he’s ever had before.
Amir Riep is heading into his senior season and played more snaps on the inside than Banks did on the outside. Safeties Josh Proctor and Marcus Hooker each had at least four games this past season when they played 10 or more snaps.
And from what Wade has seen from all of that varied playing time, he thinks the Buckeyes will be just fine.
“They can be great players here,” Wade said. “At the end of the day, they had great players in front of them, but they’re young. They still have time to progress and get better. Sevyn and Cam are going to be some beasts on the outside. Tyreke is going to be a beast on the outside. And you got Amir in the slot and he’s going to be a beast on the inside. And you can never forget about Josh and Marcus. People really sleep on Marcus, so he’s going to be a great, great player too.”
Taking Care of the Ball and the Receivers
For a first-year starter, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had a tremendous season.
Heck, for an eight-year starter, he was pretty impressive.
Fields completed two-thirds of his passes, throwing for 3,273 yards with 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
With just three interceptions and a few lost fumbles, few players nationally took care of the ball as well as Fields did. Several times throughout the 2019 season, head coach Ryan Day lauded Fields for simply throwing the ball out of bounds rather than forcing a throw where it didn’t need to go.
Fields also puts the ball where his receivers can do something with it.
“I think that ever since he came in he’s always been good at ID’ing the defense and seeing what they’re in,” tight end Jeremy Ruckert said. “He’s really good in the meeting room, really getting everything right. I think he’s definitely grown as a player and he does a really good job of taking care of the football and not forcing it into bad coverages based off of his reads.
“I think that’s something that he’s really grown in and stayed strong with. So I think we know when he throws us the ball, it’s not going to be in bad coverage or anything. He doesn’t force anything. So I think that helps the receivers and that helps him just continue to take care of the football.”
In a game against Maryland in 2017, Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward was ejected due to targeting. A flag was thrown, then the play was reviewed and it was upheld.
A few days later, however, the Big Ten apologized to the Buckeyes for being wrong about the call. They want the on-field referees to be aggressive in throwing flags because they then expect the replay official upstairs to get the call right.
After reviewing the review, the Big Ten admitted that Ward never should have been ejected.
At the time, then-Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer wasn’t happy about the apology.
“Concerned, irate. All of the above,” Meyer said. “It’s not the person on the field. Those are snap judgments. I still to this day don’t understand how that happens. That’s for the higher ups to figure out. ‘Concerned’ is probably not strong enough.”
Last month, following a flag-less sack of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence by cornerback Shaun Wade in the Fiesta Bowl, the replay official buzzed down to the field of play in order to take a closer look. Wade was soon after ejected for targeting on a play where the officials on the field who are tasked with throwing flags on anything close to targeting saw nothing wrong with the play.
Clemson then went on a 21-0 run and eventually won the game.
Last week, Ryan Day was asked for his current thoughts on the targeting rule and it turns out he’s not the only coach with concerns.
“I was at the AFCA head coaches meeting yesterday,” he said. “There was some talk about that and trying to make some adjustments. I’ll let [AFCA director] Todd Berry and those guys talk about some of the things. But I do think that some of those things should be looked at.
“It’s certainly a difficult thing at times to officiate, as we all know. It’s in there for the right reasons. But there is some gray area there that’s sometimes hard. I totally get that.
“But I definitely think the walk of shame, where the guy, he gets done, he walks off the field. I don’t think that that’s right. And so, again, I’ll let kind of Todd go out there and talk about some of the things we voted on yesterday. But I do think there’s some different things we can look at.”