What he is, is a winner.
And, what he is, is tired.
After helping coach the UC Bearcats to a 12-0 record, Kerry Coombs was in the middle of a coaching scramble that saw Brian Kelly take the Irish Express to South Bend, and interim Jeff Quinn shuffle off to Buffalo. Then as serious bowl preparations should've been taking place, assistant coaches were calling moving vans, turning in their courtesy cars and house hunting in cities north of us.
Except Kerry Coombs.
New coach Butch Jones made the same smart move that Brian Kelly did in late 2006 by hiring on the most energetic and media friendly coach in the Tri-State. In both cases, it gave UC an automatic "in" with all of the high school programs in the talent-rich southwestern Ohio area.
So, after another disappointing bowl loss (in my opinion, minds were elsewhere and not on the game) Coombs was the "last man standing" while the others were turning in their C-Paws. From there, it was combat in the trenches for about a month as Kerry and Butch Jones went about keeping previously committed players and countering what I would term as "poaching" by seeking a few different recruits that might turn up better than the original commits.
"In my professional career, it's the hardest thing I've ever been a part of," said Coombs of the post-Kelly, post-Sugar Bowl recruiting. "The emotion of what happened after the Pitt game, the excitement of the victory (then) on the heels of that, the change in your whole life with everything being turned upside down in terms of who you're working with and who you're working for--then, the renewed excitement of Butch being hired--it's the hardest two months that I've ever had professionally."
(Note: I could've continued that quote for a whole page as Mr. Coombs can filibuster with the best of them.)
In his stream-of-consciousness ramble, Coombs insinuated that the coaching drama probably had some part in UC's unfortunate effort in the Sugar Bowl. That would probably shock no one. Since then, he appears to be rejuvenated in his new role with Butch Jones as Associate Head Coach. Obviously, Jones and Coombs have been on a lot of doorsteps since the first week of January.
"I've been really impressed with how hard Butch recruits," said Coombs. "This has been great for me to get close to him, really working hand-in-hand with the recruiting class. This staff has really good people that are dedicated to the ideals of football that I really believe in. It has turned out fantastic!"
You would think, Jones and the coaches would be off to Margaritaville now.
"I'm ready to hit the hay," said Coombs with a laugh. "It doesn't matter where I fall, but when I fall, I'm going to fall hard."
While Coombs may get a few extra "Z's" this month, it won't be many. The guy's wired like he drank a gallon of "5 Hour Energy", plus there's underclassmen to woo now. And, an incoming class to "talk up".
As the recruiting wore on, some early commits, decommitted. As that transpired, new recruits were found that may make you forget the originals in a hurry. In January recruiting, it appears that there's "no holds barred".
"It's become a phenomenon," explained Coombs. "The higher you go with the upper echelon schools, no commitment is safe. You have to recruit every kid just as hard every day whether he's committed or not, because people are going to come in on your kids. Whether that's right or wrong, it's a reality in the way the world is now. It's a shame frankly that it happens, at the same time, we ended up with some guys that we wouldn't have got. This "last hour" stuff is really exciting because we ended up with some really good players."
While UC snared recruits from Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Louisiana, nine came from the Greater Cincinnati area. As long as Coombs is around, that number can only get higher.
"You know, I think every
one of them is going to have an opportunity to have an impact on the
team," said Coombs. "I think if you look at the kids that came
in last year, Malik Bomar and Chris Williams (Winton Woods) had an
impact right away. Arryn Chenault (Fairfield), Jorian Hudson (Roger
Bacon), Solomon Tentman (Roger Bacon), John Lloyd (CHCA),Corey Mason
(Elder), Tony Miliano (Elder), Clint Shepherd (Eaton), Corey Keebler
(Lakota East), Kevin Schloemer (Lakota West) are all going to have an opportunity to compete. Also, I think the three guys from Indianapolis can--Cameron Beard, Dyjuan Lewis and Anthony McClung. We recruit for development, but at the same time, these kids are stars on their team."
As exciting as it is to hear about the "fresh crop", Coombs also points out that the "cupboard is far from bare". Many familiar faces return, making the upcoming month of work in April that much more interesting.
"We've got a good team coming back," boasted Coombs. "Butch is right, you don't promise anyone a starting assignment because we've got a very good team. We've got a bunch of kids here that have been working their butt off and we're eager to watch them play too."
Just like the year before, UC's secondary has lost some leadership and opportunities will be there. Last April, Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith and Brandon Underwood became NFL draft picks. Now, UC has lost more seniors with Aaron Webster and Brad Jones moving on. That explains the signing of five new defensive backs.
"You ain't kidding," said Coombs (also the defensive backs coach). "This is a great class of defensive backs. We're going to be out there without a single senior this year. We've got tremendous youth, great talent that last couple of classes and we're real excited about those guys. We're going to be good."
And, Kerry Coombs is going to be good...AGAIN. Butch Jones has struck gold by keeping him on staff. His energy and the relationships he develops are such that I'm told there was a faction of last season's team that were disappointed he didn't get the interim responsibility of leading them into the Sugar Bowl.
He coaches hard and his motor is non-stop. On the night of Brian Kelly's untimely announcement, Mardy Gilyard expressed support for Coombs and his motivational tactics.
"Coach Coombs gets us all fired up, he says things I've never heard another man say before!"
Apparently, it's worked on every level he's been at. He played on a 1980 Division III national championship team at Dayton. He coached Colerain High School to a 161-34 record with one state title, four semi-final appearances, 10 playoff appearances and seven undefeated (regular season) records. At UC, he's been on staff for three consecutive bowl games, including both BCS bowls.
If there's talent in this area, he will find it and he knows the guy that has it. He's also shown his loyalty and dedication to UC.
That was evident on signing day when one of the TV cameramen elected to attend the press conference in the Lindner Center in an Ohio State shirt. Purposeful or not, both Coombs and Butch Jones called him out.
While Coach Jones jokingly scolded the guy, Coombs had already arranged for a UC T-shirt to be delivered to the room and threw it at the "unfortunately dressed one" right as Jones was needling him.
The recruiting never ends....