Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and defensive line coach Larry Johnson took part in a conference call together Wednesday morning. They talked about the challenges of being a coach in the current environment and answered a number of questions regarding their respective position groups. Here are the highlights.
+ There are a lot of young guys who are going to have bigger roles because they have to. Everyone at the front end of spring ball will be involved this fall.
+ When Coombs recruited Sevyn Banks, he was exactly what OSU looks for in a cornerback. When Coombs came back from the NFL, Banks had grown even more into what OSU CBs should be. He competed well and takes pride in what he is doing right now.
+ He didn’t have much worry about installing a whole bunch of things for the defense because they were great last year. If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. “We weren’t making an overhaul of anything.” There will be changes, and they got a chance to get some of that in. But you don’t always have time to do experimenting in the spring.
+ Can you install things virtually? “I think it would be foolish to try and teach new concepts and ideas through a computer screen for this you can now get the best capture card for Xbox.” The game of football is so specific, so it’s challenging to do it anywhere but on the field.
+ Right now Coombs is “absolutely climbing the walls.” It’s not pleasant. But he has been amazed at the quality of people in Columbus and Ohio State in terms of leadership and guidance. Ryan Day is a unique leader. His patience, demeanor, and clarity has been remarkable. Coombs is learning from him and watching him. You lean on people right now like Larry Johnson and Greg Mattison. “But personally, sitting in my house for a month, I can’t even begin to describe it to you.” He went and bought a ping pong table and told his wife there will be some competition in the house.
+ Day told the staff that they will make more out of this time than anybody else.
+ What a standard Ohio State has that anybody would describe Damon Arnette as an underachiever. Arnette is going to be a very, very good professional football player. He has made tremendous strides and his work ethic is now off the charts. He is tough, and smarter and more savvy than people give him credit for. He can play inside or outside and don’t be surprised how high he gets drafted.
+ Tyreke Johnson fits more outside than inside. He had a really good start — his winter was productive. He is a very smart player and Coombs is looking forward to seeing him compete in the fall.
+ Pete Werner has tremendous versatility. He is a gifted player mentally. He can handle and adapt to any situation on the field. He also has the athletic skill set to play virtually anywhere on the field and hold his own. Those are the guys the NFL is looking for. That’s who Ohio State is looking for. “I’m excited to continue to watch him grow and develop here.” A lot of teams are going to want Werner in the NFL.
+ He’s had conversations with the early enrollees because they came here expecting to practice and then their world gets turned upside down. With so many players back home, it can be difficult for the families dealing with a player who expected to be at Ohio State, but is now forced to be home and they have so many responsibilities placed on them regarding training. They are mature kids who want to be great and they are working hard. But they were here long enough to get a good enough taste of the OSU strength staff and culture with the players. It was an advantage that they were here, but it’s still frustrating for all of them to have it halted.
+ Coombs has told his players that this is kind of what it’s like to be in the NFL. You spend so much more time at home.
+ Coombs isn’t really interested in being around anybody who doesn’t want to be the best at what they do, so he is really only interested in recruiting players who are going to be good enough to be drafted by the NFL. Is the NFL a recruiting tool? Yes, but it’s because Ohio State wants the best players and people, and they want those players to have lofty goals because then they also have a standard that they have to maintain.
+ He feels fantastic about recruiting right now. They are finding the right kids, and it’s not just physical talents and abilities. When they look for guys in the secondary, they look for long guys that can run and tackle and cover. They want complete players with versatility. They want guys that can play at multiple spots because that gives you the opportunity to play them at more spots. The game is getting more situational. But it’s most important that they fit the culture of the program.
+ Losing great players is part of the job. He wishes he could keep them all. The family continues to grow, however. He still communicates with all of his old Buckeye cornerbacks who are in the league. “Those are like my sons.” He is proud of Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette and excited for them, but the beauty of it is that he’s excited for the next group as well. “Man, it’s fun to just keep doing it.”
+ Why is recruiting at the level that it is? Under Urban Meyer, recruiting was all encompassing. Ryan Day has a great feel and when players and parents sit down and talk, Day has a plan called “the Circle of Care” that puts the families at ease and gives them confidence that Ohio State has their best interests in mind. Plus, these coaches work very, very hard at it. It’s exciting to watch the way business is being done. “I really have never seen anything like it.”
+ Getting the inside guys to step up is big and they were doing that this spring early. It’s great to have so many defensive ends back.
+ Jonathon Cooper is off the charts as a leader. He is respected by all of the guys. “Just really pleased with where he is right now.”
+ Taron Vincent missed reps last year and you can’t get those backs, but he was ready to go this spring. You started to see the things you recruited him for. Looking for big things from him this fall.
+ The expectation for Taron Vincent is to be a great pass rusher as a three technique. He is around 295 and ideal for the position.
+ Recruits have wanted to play in the NFL forever, but you still have to be careful how you sell it. When you talk to them about it, they have to have the proper determination, plus education is still very important and that’s why you come to school. Mothers tell him they don’t care about the NFL, they just want the degree. “We have a lot to sell here at the Ohio State University.”
+ Jonathon Cooper is a warrior. He is resilient. It was tough watching him go through that last year. He probably came back too early because that’s who he is. Johnson gives him credit for being unselfish enough to give himself to the 2020 team. His leadership has been paramount already. It’s a bonus to have him back. Johnson is the happiest coach in the world because of it.
+ Zach Harrison is one of several DEs who has a big chance to grow this year. Harrison came in early and that helped him get ready last year. They didn’t really know what to expect last year, but he was working from day one, so the sky is the limit for him. But it’s not just Zach Harrison at defensive end, there are other guys as well.
+ The Zoom meetings have been really awesome for them. You have to do more than just talk football in order to built relationships. There is motivational stuff as well. They’ll watch videos. Players love talking about leadership and winning. That’s what makes a difference. It’s not just football, it’s also feeding their souls. You can only talk so much football. He has great dialogue with players and there is always an open line of communication.
+ You know players can’t stick around forever, so you recruit great players to replace great players. Johnson doesn’t cry about losing Bosas or Chase Young, you just have to hope you recruited well enough for the next man up.
+ It is important to let recruits and players know that you care. You stay honest. It drives him to be able to talk to young people and parents every day.