COLUMBUS, Ohio ― Just when Ohio State thought it had escaped any major damage from the NFL, the league doubled back and landed a meaningful blow.
At some point, the Buckeyes should have known that operating such a smooth-flowing pipeline of talent to the league eventually would mean the engineers would get some attention. And the loss of cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs to the Tennessee Titans might only be the beginning of a new issue for Urban Meyer’s program to deal with during the annually busy offseason for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State was a winner at the draft deadline, with more eligible players electing to stick around for another year than jumping to the next level. That undoubtedly provided a boost to the team’s national-title chances in 2018. But three underclassmen still filled out another loaded class of Buckeyes heading to the professional ranks this spring, and based on the recent track record, the odds are solid that they will contribute in the NFL in a meaningful way sooner rather than later.
That’s exactly why Coombs isn’t going to be the last Ohio State assistant to get a long look to make that same jump from college to the pros in the coming years. If a coach can help produce so many NFL-ready players, why not see what he can do with them once they get there?
Now, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon for Meyer with the Buckeyes. After his second season with the program, Mike Vrabel leapt at the chance to go work with the Houston Texans, leaving his post working with the Ohio State defensive line to do so. Given the familiarity with his alma mater, it’s no coincidence that Vrabel’s rise to head coach with the Titans would include some shopping trips in Columbus to fill out his staff, with Coombs signing on and offensive coordinator Ryan Day eventually passing on a similar opportunity.
But it’s not just Vrabel’s ties to Ohio State that make those coaches appealing to NFL organizations on the next level. And this won’t be the last time Meyer has to deal with some uncertainty with his coaching staff during this stretch of the offseason ― particularly with defensive coordinator Greg Schiano still expected to be a coveted commodity by the time the coaching carousel stops spinning.
Hiring coaches with NFL backgrounds can be a strong selling point on the recruiting trail, but it does come with something of risk since those assistants are automatically going to be candidates to return there. For Ohio State, that means Schiano, Day and linebackers coach Billy Davis from the current staff.
Churning out not only draft picks, but players who can have an almost impact after signing a contract, is going to get noticed when it’s done consistently. Coombs had some help, thanks to his previous relationship with Vrabel, but his remarkable run of first-round cornerbacks with Bradley Roby, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore and soon Denzel Ward put him on the radar. The way the Buckeyes have been delivering talent from seemingly every position, it’s possible that opportunities like that could be in the cards for every member of the current staff.
For example, think that a coach who worked with Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins might be an intriguing hire? You better believe Tony Alford has a résumé that would turn heads if that’s what he wants to do.
In the end, though, it’s the individual career goals that will matter most. And there’s not much Meyer can really do about that himself, because along with the support of the athletic department, he’s already doing everything possible to make sure he can both hire and retain the best possible coaches on the market. Quite simply, there’s no reason for anybody on Meyer’s staff to be leaving for another college job given the commitment to pay competitive salaries, the ability to work with elite talent while competing for championships ― and learning from a guy who also knows how to develop coaching talent.
But the NFL already has thrown one wrench into the equation this offseason, and it might well throw another before it’s over.
Meyer came out of the draft deadline as a clear winner. This next NFL defection period is looking like it might be a bit more tricky to manage.