You win, on the football field, as a team. That’s how Ohio State has remained one of the country’s preeminent football programs.
Urban Meyer’s “Nine Strong” mentality carries over from the team meeting room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to the locker room, to the practice field and, eventually, Ohio Stadium and cathedrals of the gridiron all over the nation.
Before all that happens? Someone has to identify and recruit the players who will not only say “yes” to Ohio State, but will head to Columbus and fit in with the Buckeyes on the field, in the classroom and in the community. To find those prospects requires time, patience, commitment and a keen understanding of what makes people tick; it’s not something anyone can do.
In Columbus, the leader of the Ohio State football team’s recruiting efforts is Urban Meyer. His presence is why, as the Buckeyes turn over assistant coaches who go off to head coaching gigs or the NFL, Ohio State rarely has been affected by de-commitments late in the recruiting cycle. However, it’s the assistant coaches who identify the right fits and bring those players to the doorstep in front of Meyer’s office.
Ohio State has a number of highly respected men leading their position groups. There are former head coaches in Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson; 25-year NFL veterans such as Billy Davis; and there are old-school guys such as Larry Johnson mixed in with new-age trendsetters such as Zach Smith.
It’s a mixed bag, but with zero recruiting classes ranked lower than No. 7 nationally (that pesky class of 2015!) since Meyer’s arrival in November 2011, it’s clear that the mixed bag is effective.
247Sports.com uses a “recruiter” points system, that — while not perfect — is a good indicator of who is having the most success on the trail. So far in the 2018 cycle, running backs coach Tony Alford (No. 1 in the Big Ten) is leading the way, but that system isn’t without flaws. Alford gets credit for Jaelen Gill’s commitment, though he’s hardly been the “recruiter” on that front. He also gets credit for recent commit Sevyn Banks, but that probably should be split between Alford and Kerry Coombs.
Wide receivers coach Smith has been named Rivals.com and Scout.com “recruiter of the year” multiple times, so his work can’t be overlooked.
That begs this question: Who are the current assistant coaches who have made the biggest impact on the Buckeyes?
I’ve once again enlisted the help of two Ohio State recruiting analysts — Marc Givler of BuckeyeGrove.com and Alex Gleitman of Bucknuts.com — to get different opinions.
Today, I am the dissenting opinion, though I’d hesitate to say I completely disagree with the choice made by my peers. I believe Ohio State’s best recruiters are Johnson, Coombs and Smith, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Smith and Alford are 3A and 3B right now. They are both exceptional recruiters when they have a guy they truly want in their sights.
A dark horse candidate to watch in the near future? Davis. A longtime NFL assistant, Davis never had to recruit before, but he’s leading the way on a number of major prospects at linebacker. He’s not getting “the love” from national folks, but there’s no doubt he’s quickly become very respected by people at Ohio State.
Who is Ohio State’s best (assistant coach) recruiter?
Givler and Gleitman agreed that the Buckeyes’ premier recruiter is cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
Givler: (Coombs) has turned Cincinnati into Cleveland.
What I mean by that is that Ohio State is now batting a similar average in the Cincinnati area as it is in northeast Ohio. Cincinnati for years was a problem area for the Buckeyes, and while they haven’t batted 1.000 there, they have won the vast majority of their battles in the Queen City with Coombs leading the charge.
For years Michigan has poached some excellent talent from the state of Ohio. Coombs has turned the tables a bit. While it’s never going to be a state that OSU can go into and get four or five kids each year, Coombs has made the Buckeyes a player for Michigan’s top talent and has landed some big battles in the Detroit area with guys like Damon Webb, Mike Weber, and Michael Jordan. These are kids that, before Coombs, would absolutely have ended up in Ann Arbor.
Gleitman: Coombs is my pick for top recruiter.
The inroads he’s made in Michigan and Cincinnati have been invaluable in the staff pulling top prospects in from those areas. Additionally, he has been key in getting a foot in the door with players in Georgia and Houston, not to mention the work he’s done with some big-time cornerback prospects. Meyer’s entire staff has been very good on the trail, but Coombs’ effort, enthusiasm, and results make him stand out a bit over the rest.
Birm: As mentioned, my choice is Larry Johnson Sr. I would have been just as comfortable suggesting Coombs, but I think the work Johnson has done dating back to 2014 has been incredible. His ability to develop Joey Bosa sealed the deal in landing Nick Bosa. Johnson has “struggled,” according to observers, to land the big-time defensive tackle everyone covets, but he was the reason Ohio State was so close with Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Antwuan Jackson, Marvin Wilson and others.
He sealed the deal on Haskell Garrett early. He landed Jonathon Cooper, Chase Young and Taron Vincent — all 5-star prospects — and Brenton Cox from Georgia.
Johnson’s reputation on the East Coast has completely changed the dynamic for Ohio State in that area and he does it all without fanfare, hype or theatrics. He is exceptional at building relationships with prospects and their families that go well beyond football.