COLUMBUS, Ohio — At Ohio State, the joy of landing a top class doesn’t always take away the sting of missing out on a coveted player.
After all, there are no second chances in recruiting. Well, almost.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs and coach Urban Meyer went after Texas native Kendall Sheffield hard in the Class of 2015. Sheffield was a consensus 5-star prospect and one of the best cornerbacks in the class. The Buckeyes struggled a bit with the 2015 recruiting cycle, ultimately signing their lowest-rated class during Meyer’s time at Ohio State.
Sheffield would have been a huge boost to the secondary that year. The group of defensive backs Ohio State signed included a pair of 3-stars and no 5-star prospects.
“They came and gave an all-out effort to try to get him,” said James Williams, who coached Sheffield at Missouri City (Texas) Marshall. “Ohio State was definitely there, and it came down to the end with his decision.”
Ultimately, though, he committed to Alabama in January 2015 at the Under Armour All-America Game. Losing out on him was a tough break for Coombs.
“I felt like we were really close to getting him the first time,” Coombs said. “I was very disappointed that we didn’t. I worked really hard on it and really liked him, really liked his family. He’d been here for a visit, all the things that normally lead to us getting a kid. When he decided to go somewhere else, it was hard for me.”
All that changed less than a year ago, when Sheffield announced he was transferring from Alabama. He redshirted during his first year in Tuscaloosa and wasn’t in line to start as a redshirt freshman. With a pair of sophomore defensive backs ahead of him on the depth chart, it looked as though his wait to see significant playing time might extend past three years in the program.
He transferred to Blinn (Texas) Community College, where he could play in 2016 and then be eligible to play at the FBS level again in 2017. Once Coombs realized he’d have another crack at Sheffield, he didn’t waste any time.
“As soon as I found out that he was becoming available again – I can’t remember exactly how, if it was internet or whatever – I reached out immediately,” Coombs said. “That was somebody I knew had the right skill set for what we do here. I began the process of recruiting him at Blinn right away really hard.”
During the time between his recruitment, Coombs had fulfilled everything he said about Ohio State during the recruiting process. The Buckeyes were dominating on the field, and the secondary was a huge part of that. Just as important, Coombs was helping to develop NFL talent.
Eli Apple went 10th in the 2016 NFL Draft. While Sheffield was at Blinn last fall, Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley already were showing why they would become first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“I think actually it was an advantage to us the second time around because I think the things that he and I had talked about the first time had come to fruition,” Coombs said. “I think that’s powerful recruiting when you tell someone something’s going to happen and it does. I’m not talking about with him. I’m talking about with us. It was an accurate portrayal of what happens in the corner room, and I think he was excited to have the opportunity to revisit it.”
Coombs won out the second time. Sheffield chose to play at Ohio State over Texas A&M. It was a huge addition to an already-stacked recruiting class for the Buckeyes.
What is Ohio State getting in Sheffield? Williams called him the best athlete he’s ever coached, as well as one of the hardest workers. Coombs pointed out that Sheffield took 24 credit hours his final semester at Blinn to be able to enroll at Ohio State in March and participate in spring practice.
“His work ethic is outstanding,” Coombs said. “The thing they said at Blinn, which I found to be exactly true, is he’s the first guy out there and willing to work. That’s what I see. I’m really excited to have him in the room and really excited to have him as a part of our program.”