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Friday, July 12, 2013
OSU's recruiting strategy garners results

By Brad Bournival

Kerry Coombs coached Cincinnati Colerain to a state championship in 2004 and sent the Cardinals to four other state semifinal appearances during a 16-year career in which he compiled a 161-34 record. Coombs also coached under Brian Kelly and was part of three Cincinnati Bearcats teams that went 33-7 overall and played in two BCS bowl games.

Before starring at Ohio State and becoming a three-time Super Bowl champion, Mike Vrabel was a standout at Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit High School, which is just minutes from Akron.

Luke Fickell was a three-time state wrestling champion for Columbus DeSales, while Stan Drayton starred at Cleveland John Marshall in his playing days.

What does it all mean?

A heck of a lot when it comes to recruiting, as Urban Meyer’s success in the Buckeye State comes from that quartet of coaches.

It isn’t by accident that Meyer has put Coombs in the Cincinnati area, Fickell in Columbus, Vrabel in Akron and Drayton in Cleveland when it comes to recruiting.

Mike Vrabel
Mike Vrabel's experiences at Ohio State and in the Akron area have really made an impact on Akron-area recruits.
In fact, it’s a big reason players such as ESPN 300 outside linebacker Kyle Berger (Cleveland/St. Ignatius) and three-star backer Sam Hubbard (Cincinnati/Moeller) are part of the 2014 recruiting class.

They’re two of many names who committed or signed with the Buckeyes and said being able to relate to the coaching staff played a major role.

“It helped a lot,” Hubbard said. “He coached for a team we played. He has good relationships with the coaches, so he can be honest with them because he knows them.

“The coaches that don’t know the area don’t get that gut feeling of who they want. These guys know what kind of kid they want and what type of kid each school produces.”

It helps in the introductory stages first and foremost, but where it really helps is in the long term.

While Berger won’t likely answer to Drayton during his time with the Buckeyes, the fact he can share similar stories with the running backs coach as well as Vrabel helped as schools such as Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and UCLA nipped at his heels.

A resident of Medina, Ohio, Berger lives five minutes away from Vrabel’s parents and the private school he goes to is just a 13-minute drive away from Drayton’s old stomping grounds. Incidentally, both Vrabel and Drayton were part of his recruitment.

“I know any Walsh kid that knows college football, loves Coach Vrabel,” Berger said. “I think it really does help. Coach Drayton knows the area coaches and has the connection with us.

“One of my relatives actually coached Drayton at John Marshall, so I definitely think their local ties help them a lot. A couple of friends and I have played pickup baseball games at John Marshall, so it’s awesome to be able to talk to Coach Drayton about that.

“It’s cool that Vrabel knows things in Medina, places to eat and things like that. It’s definitely cool to talk about the local places.”

It also hits home that the coaches know the area kids and are well-versed on the history of their respective areas. Hubbard was a lacrosse commit to Notre Dame before he saw his future explode on the gridiron.

The fact Coombs could come in and talk shop as well as point out former greats out of Cincinnati who wore the scarlet and gray was a bonus.

That simple strategy really helped, as Hubbard found he could relate to Coombs even more.

“He told me about the talent before me that Cincinnati had,” Hubbard said. “It really helped me connect with him. Columbus is only an hour and a half away, but that’s a big part of it.”

It doesn’t look like it’s going to let up either, as Vrabel locked up Dante Booker Jr. and teammate Parris Campbell Jr. out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, while Drayton grabbed Marcelys Jones out of Cleveland Glenville and Fickell helped nab Kyle Trout out of Lancaster, Ohio.

“They really did it right by having everyone go to the places they know the best,” Hubbard said.