Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs hasn’t lost his confidence or his willingness to work hard for the program despite losing playcalling duties earlier this season.
Head coach Ryan Day assigned defensive playcalling duties to secondary coach Matt Barnes after Ohio State’s loss to Oregon on Sept. 11. Coombs, who is in his second season as defensive coordinator, remains involved in the playcalling process, but Barnes now has final say.
“It’s my job to walk in the building with a bounce in my step, to high-five and hug every single kid I come across, to prepare the team as best I can, as part of the team of coaches, to help us win on Saturday,” Coombs said Tuesday. “That’s what my job is, and I look forward to it every morning. I don’t get out of bed and go, ‘Aw man, I got to work.’ I told you guys a million times I get up on the edge of the bed and say, ‘Man, it’s going be a great day.’ Well, it still is. That doesn’t change.
“If you let your circumstances change that, then you were kind of fake to begin with.”
The 60-year-old coach, known for his enthusiasm and energy in practices and games, said the first few days after the change were very difficult. Since then, he’s adjusting to spending games in the press box rather than on the sideline, and working on different elements of game-planning to be ready for Saturdays.
He misses hugging people on the sideline.
“I got [offensive coordinator] Kevin Wilson now, and it’s not the same,” Coombs joked.
Although his disappointment from losing playcalling duties is genuine, Coombs, a longtime successful high school head coach who first joined Ohio State’s staff in 2012, said he understands that Day must make decisions for the entire program.
“Do I have respect for Ryan Day? Absolutely. Do I have respect for the university? Absolutely. Do I have respect for how difficult that process was? I do,” Coombs said. “Do I wish everything wasn’t so public? Yeah, I do. It’s hard for your family, it’s hard for these kids. … I can only control me and my response to things that happen in the world. It’s the hardest thing that’s happened to me professionally, and if it’s the hardest thing that ever happens to me professionally, that’s a pretty doggone good career.”
Coombs has been pleased to see the defense improve in recent weeks. The Buckeyes have given up an average of 303.3 yards in the past three games after allowing 471.3 yards in the first three. They have surrendered only 37 total points in dominant wins over Akron, Rutgers and Maryland.
Day gave Coombs the game ball after last week’s 66-17 win over Maryland.
“I felt undeserving; I was shocked,” Coombs said. “Ryan was standing up there talking about it, and I thought, ‘Well, who is he talking about?’ And then it was me, and I was embarrassed. My wife asked me what I said to the kids afterward; I never remember, but I think it would be some of the same things that were in my heart.
“I love those kids, and I’m going to fight for them.”