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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 3, 2016
Q. When you have as many departures as you had, do you ever put more emphasis on current polish than future potential in recruiting more so than you otherwise would?
COACH COOMBS: I think we're looking for guys that can play right away all the time. I think that's a great question. But I think when you're at Ohio State, you're looking for the best players in the country. And you would think the best players in the country would have the opportunity to play early. And so I don't think there was a greater emphasis on that. But I think we found some guys that are going to be able to contribute right away. So we're excited about that.
Q. Do you ever find a kid at a high school who is just not set up to provide that kid with the basis to make him a college-ready player?
COACH COOMBS: I think -- I don't know that you always know that in advance. I would have told you you take a kid like Eli Apple five-star recruit Army all-American and he didn't play his first year because he was awful.
Then two years, three years later he's going to be a first or second round draft pick. Everybody develops at different rates. Some kids are going to go to work tomorrow on preparing for June the 12th and August whatever. And some kids aren't.
And so the kids that are going to go to work out of this class are going to have every opportunity to be on the field in the fall.
Q. Urban mentioned the secondary as first and foremost the position that's got to be addressed moving now forward. This may not be possible for you, but does that give you more energy? More urgency to --
COACH COOMBS: I think -- I think we're urgent about everything we do. We lost three really good players. And they were all underclassmen. And when that happens, you have to understand that you're going to replace them with young players.
We had a great workout this morning. I got to see an awful lot of really good players run around that field. So I'm not one bit discouraged. Is there urgency? Sure, because there are more holes to fill than there were last year at this time.
At the same time, it's very similar to the situation we found ourselves in in 2014. And we're replacing some guys. And you know what, guys stepped up and played and had great off seasons and were prepared to go and I think that's what's going to happen with this group. So I don't know that we're -- we're always urgent. And I think we're always passionate about what we do. So I think we'll be okay.
Q. You spend a lot of time in Michigan. Whenever --
COACH COOMBS: State up north, ten pushups.
Q. When it comes in do you spend time trying to see what they're doing and how that might impact and your efforts in the state down the road and has it at all?
COACH COOMBS: Sure, anytime you're recruiting against people, which is what we do, right? And especially when you go into another state to recruit against people, you're going to have to evaluate how they do their business. And the guys that have been at the green team have done things a certain way and now those guys at the team up north have changed some of their habits.
Although I would tell you the previous staff, those were good recruiters. So you have to battle in different ways. But the main thing for us is not really to concern ourselves as much with our opponents as with the kids we're recruiting and what we have to sell.
And when you have a great product like we have I don't think it matters the style or substance of how somebody else is recruiting.
Q. With both of those teams looking like they're trending upwards, do you pick your spots anymore?
COACH COOMBS: I think one of them when we took two kids out of the state, to be honest with you. So I don't know what the numbers are. I know that we're going to go in there and recruit the very best players in that state. And we're going to come out with some of them every year.
And we're confident it's not very far away. And we've done very well there. And we're going to continue to do very well there.
Q. Urban said that Denzel Ward has the inside track to be the starting corner opposite Gareon Conley. Said it on his radio show earlier today. I know Denzel has a lot of speed. What else does he bring to the table that could enable him to win that job?
COACH COOMBS: I think his speed is his greatest attribute. I think he's gotten a lot stronger already which we're encouraged by. I think he played well in special teams and critical situations. On all four running teams last year. Got on the field experience. Not enough corner experience.
I know there's other guys in that room that aren't going to allow that to be a passage that's going to go uncontested. And so there's going to be a lot of great competition there.
But we're excited about Denzel. We really are.
Q. Is there a chance a corner could move to safety this spring or fall, without naming names is there a chance one of your guys could move to safety?
COACH COOMBS: I think what you should expect from the Buckeyes is this in the back end of our defense, we are really playing a lot of corners. Those positions, the position that Vonn Bell played last year, while traditional football guys would call that a safety position, I'm going to tell you right now that's a corner position.
It happens to be an off corner and happens to be a little bit more in the middle of the field, but that takes corner skill and technique to do what Vonn Bell did. Those of you guys who know Vonn Bell, Vonn Bell could play corner in the NFL next year.
He has that skill set. So those positions and the way we play our defense right now, particularly the nickel, which I would call the slot corner, the two outside guys and that inside -- that field safety position are really corner job descriptions. So you're going to see a lot of corners on the field in the fall.
Q. Marshawn Lattimore, is it true you had higher hopes for what he would be doing and he has been held back by injuries, obviously. How is he coming along, is there any concern on your part that his body maybe just won't allow him to reach that potential that everyone thought he had?
COACH COOMBS: I would say that concern, sure, because he hasn't been able to do it. When he has been healthy and able to play he's a fantastic player.
Our job is to get him healthy, consistently. And Coach Marotti and I couldn't have more faith than anybody in the world than Coach Marotti. He's done an intensive study of Marshawn and his body and has had him tested on a number of different levels and planes and has rearranged some equipment in the weight room and some workouts to help with his particular injury issues. So far the progress is fantastic. Very excited to see what he's going to be able to do in the spring and looking very forward to Marshawn being a huge contributor for us in the fall.
Q. When a guy deals with something like that, how do you as his position coach maybe try to help him balance?
COACH COOMBS: Just like you would with your son, you're going to hug him, you're going to love him. You're going to encourage him. It's easy to get discouraged. When you're a high-end athlete and not able to work at your craft I think it's very easy to get discouraged and to keep players like that engaged and a part of the team is a very challenging thing. I try to treat him like I would want my son treated. He's included in everything.
Right now he's preparing himself to play. And I'm excited about that.
Q. Today is the day where they sign on the dotted line. Greatest moment of their life. Tomorrow, they become the guy at the bottom of the totem pole?
COACH COOMBS: Why is that?
Q. Because, first of all, they have lost their leverage. They're here. You got 'em?
COACH COOMBS: You get to put them at the bottom but that's okay.
Q. They start from scratch?
COACH COOMBS: Sure.
Q. That D recruitment if you want to call it that, how important is that process, what's the challenge of handling it for kids?
COACH COOMBS: The immediate challenge with every kid that signed today is -- and we've done this. I think Coach Meyer, the minute a player commits, changes from recruitment phase to preparation phase. And that is what every one of those kids is in now. Some of them have been in it longer than others. Obviously the seven that are on campus. But kids like Jake Hausmann who has been committed for a long time has been working towards that for an extended period of time.
Now the rules allow us to probably give them more information and things like that, workout-wise, than we would have otherwise been able to do.
And so the path for those kids will be very clear and very set. And hopefully as many of them as can will be around in spring ball, be around and be working toward June the 12th because the rules are a little bit different. We get to do a little bit more with them in the summer. But the kid who wants to focus on getting ready for Ohio State in the fall is going to have every opportunity to do that. And that's our job to get them ready.
And we spent a lot of time in conversation about that.
Q. Have you found that certain kids have a hard time with that adjustment of you go from we need you, we need you, to again you have to start from scratch?
COACH COOMBS: I don't think the elite athlete does. I think that kid already understands and they've been working at a really high level already. I think the hardest thing for them to understand is the transition of time commitment and the fact that everybody on the field is literally on the same plane with them.
And so the differences between player A and player B are razor thin and they've got to find their edge to find their way on the field.
Q. Speaking of blue, you're one of the lead guys, Michigan, like Ryan said, and you spend a lot of time there in past and doing a lot of things with their top players, I know you don't want to spend too much time wondering what other people in that state might be doing from a recruiting strategy. The unorthodox approach that Jim Harbaugh has has had to have some sort of impact on guys you're recruiting. A, do you have an opinion about the way he's gone about doing things; and B, have you had to change anything that you do or has it impacted you in any way the way they approach things?
COACH COOMBS: A, no. B, no. I can expand on that if you like. But the reality is I haven't felt any impact on the kids that I recruit. Everybody's got their own styles and their own methodologies, and coach Meyers is very, very clear and I think fantastic and so our approach to the recruitment of players in Ohio and all the surrounding states is probably going to stay the same because it works for us. It's who we are.
And I haven't noticed among the kids I recruit any change or difference or expectation on their part that we would somehow become something different than the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Q. If I read correctly today, 17 of 25 commits didn't (indiscernible) other visits after November?
COACH COOMBS: That's incredible, isn't it? Doesn't that speak to the character of the kids that we're recruiting? When there's a new category across the bottom of the screen, I didn't mean to interrupt you, but it says flips and all that kind of stuff. We've got these kids of such quality that when somebody else is pulling at them, knocking on their door and all those kind of things they say I'm good. To me that's remarkable and probably that has been understated. But I haven't been in here. So anyway.
Q. Flip side of that everything go smoothly today. I understand there was an issue with the fax a kid from Florida trying to get in the fax machine wasn't working, for all days for it to go wrong, going off that as well have you had any other kind of recruiting-based snafus, if you will, something like that happening completely out of the blue where you're tearing your hair out?
COACH COOMBS: Never since I've been here, there's been years where snow has been an issue for guys in trying to figure out how they're going to get their information back, but times have changed with e-mail and being able to take pictures of things and the rules are different. So we haven't run into a whole lot of that kind of stuff lately.
A few years ago I lost a kid on signing day, couldn't find him. Things like that. That's always a little disconcerting when you're expecting paper and paper doesn't come.
But nothing today. I didn't know our fax was broke. Our fax was broke, Mark?
Q. Who of these guys coming in, is Jordan -- who jumps out at you that you think you can throw out there immediately and compete?
COACH COOMBS: I know this is probably you're going to call bull crap on it, but the reality is all of them. I mean, Wayne Davis had seven interceptions, returned six of them for touchdowns. Gatorade player of the year in Virginia. Jordan Fuller Gatorade player in the state of Jersey and Rodjay Burns was a finalist for Mr. Football in the state of Kentucky and Kareem Felder had a fantastic career and Jahsen Wint. These are guys that can play. So we have opportunity.
That's probably the most unusual thing about Ohio State right now. We have opportunity for those young guys to come in here and make their mark. So I don't know that any one is more prepared we'll find out over the next four or five months.
Q. Are you immediately looking at Fuller as a corner?
COACH COOMBS: Yes. Big, long corner from New Jersey. Sound familiar?
Q. Last thing, you said you've been doing it for a while. What is the biggest change just in recruiting in your mind as you look back on the last 10 years that's occurred or the last eight years that's occurred just in pursuit of players, what's the toughest challenge that's developed, I guess?
COACH COOMBS: I think the influx of information, both true and false, social media, opportunity for players to know the other players that are being recruited, and all of the communication that goes not just from school to player, but player to player is revolutionary. I think the attention being spent on this has its positive sides, because it puts college football at the forefront of America's thoughts, which I think is wonderful. And it has its negative sides because I think it has a tendency to create some things in kids' minds that probably don't exist.
I don't think that any of that can be controlled. I think it's going to continue to grow and get bigger and bigger, and I think those of us that can figure out how to use and manage that to properly give the right information to kids are going to be successful and the other guys are going to struggle.
Q. Michael Jordan, once you got his commitment, how tough was it to hold onto? And number two, do you still even sort of like notice, A, this guy is from Cincinnati, originally? How deep do you look into the backgrounds and know the guys that you can really go after in another state, where the two major places are coming after him just as strong?
COACH COOMBS: Absolutely. I think all of that stuff helps you. He's got family in Louisville and Columbus. Played little league football where I know a lot of folks in Cincinnati. So all of that is helpful.
Any connection that you have with a player and his family is going to pay long-term benefits in the recruitment process. We don't recruit anybody in a week anymore. It's two years. It's three years, and all of those different avenues are generally positive. If people you've come into contact with have had positive experiences with you. And I think for a kid like Michael Jordan, that was a big factor in his decision to become a Buckeye. He already had a great affection for the state of Ohio and for Ohio State.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports