Coach Speak: Denzel Ward

BuckeyeSports.com's Coach Speak series featuring Ohio State commitments from the class of 2015 continues with Jeff Fox, the coach of Macedonia (Ohio) Nordonia three-star cornerback Denzel Ward.

Jeff Fox, the head coach at Macedonia (Ohio) Nordonia, spoke with BuckeyeSports.com about Ohio State commit and 2015 three-star cornerback Denzel Ward.

What stands out when you see him on a football field?
It’s obvious to see his raw athletic ability stand out. He’s just got explosive speed but also a very specific skill set to be a cover corner. He’s perfect to be recruited at that spot. I think one of the bigger assets is what a great kid he is. He’s a humble, hard-working kid that is just a great kid to be around at all times.

How have you seen him improve over the course of his high school career?
The biggest eye-opening thing is physically. Some people talk about him springing onto the recruiting scene late, but I think it’s because as a sophomore when some kids make their name on the recruiting trail he was playing for us as a 135-pound kid. He was quicker than everybody on the field, but he was just tiny. As his body grew, he kind of figured out how to play more physically as a junior. This year he’s finally been a dominant player because he’s physically capable and obviously so explosive.

Was there a moment – even if it was just seeing him grow – when you realized he might end up as a Division I recruit?
I can remember specifically our week six game against Green his junior year. We’ve always been able to throw him out and have him make a play. We threw him out and he could play man-to-man coverage even as a sophomore. I still remember that game vividly. We were playing cover two and he had great press coverage. He came up and laid out a fullback trying to catch the ball in the flat. Really, in that game you just saw him have four or five hits and physical plays where you just said wow. That’s when it started to hit, and ever since then he’s been able to build on it. He’ll play physically and compete like crazy. That toughness and that tenacity really started halfway through his junior year when he started to figure it out.

Seeing Ohio State play more press coverage this year, how do you think he fits into their defensive scheme?
In our scheme, he’s played some press and played some zone coverage. He’s played off man, he’s played true, hardcore corner cover two. He’s demonstrated the ability to play a lot of those skills. If they are indeed planning to use him some press coverage, I think he has the ability to do that. Now to do that at the next level is a whole different story. No matter what they ask him to do, he’s still going to have to work his butt off and work to improve at the next level because the leap in competition is going to be great. We preach that to Denzel and we’re still coaching our butts off to make sure he improves each and every day. I’m sure he’ll be excited at whatever challenge Coach Coombs and Coach Meyer and the whole staff ask of him.

Could you sense based on interaction with the Ohio State coaches that an offer might be coming?
Early on, I think Cincinnati was the favorite. His parents are both Cincinnati graduates, and they were the first school to offer. I think when Ohio State came in and it seemed realistic they would offer him, he held off. It was kind of imminent there in May that he might verbally commit to Cincinnati. I think he figured out there was a good chance that if he performed well at that camp that he’d get an Ohio State offer, and he didn’t want to be insincere and commit to Cincinnati and then flip. He held out and kind of bet on himself to perform well at that camp in June. When he got that offer, I think it was his first choice and it was a no-brainer for him. He’s proud to be a Buckeye.

How would you describe his personality on and off the field?
He’s a quiet, humble kid when you first meet him. Now that he’s gotten the offer and become more of a household name and had more media requests, he’s been almost very uncomfortable with it. He doesn’t like talking about himself. He’s a kid that wears a bracelet from his church, and he’s just a really good kid. He doesn’t meet the stereotype of a corner that is going to talk trash 24/7 or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong – when it comes time, he’s going to compete and go out and play, but he’s a great kid. The lunch ladies in school will talk about how nice of a kid he is when he comes through the lunch line. They go out of the way to tell me how polite he is and things like that. He’s a great kid, and everybody’s extremely happy to see how successful he’s been and excited to see how successful he’ll continue to be.

Now that he’s an Ohio State commit, have you seen teams try to have a go at him this year just to see what he’s made of?
In our secondary, it’s obvious that he’s over there and we let him play in the boundary in man-to-man coverage. You’d think that people would go to the other side of the field, and it seems like about once a game people go, ‘You know what? Let’s go after this kid.’ It’s almost like they want to see what he’s made of. He’s stepped up to the challenge. He has seven interceptions or something this year. If it was me, I’d be surprised to go at that kid seven times this year. People keep doing it, and he’s risen to the challenge. He got beat on a post this past week for the first time, and the next possession he had a spectacular pass breakup and a couple of other plays. It’s rare he gets beat. Teams keep going over there, and he’s made teams pay. He’s got three defensive touchdowns or something stupid like that because he’ll make a play and return it for six, which has been a huge impact for our team.

Is there anything that Ohio State fans should know about him that they already don’t?
Just trust that he’s a great kid. I remember when Coach Coombs came through – they get two visits to our high school. Coach Warinner recruits our area but they had Coach Coombs come both times to meet him. They knew they were zeroing in on him, so they wanted the defensive backs coach that was going to coach him to recruit our school and ask around. He asked all the questions about him as a person and really did his homework. I think they really trust they’re getting a great kid who is going to work hard. He’s got all the potential in the world with the God-given ability he has, and he’s a kid that’s going to work his butt off to meet that potential. I think they trust they’re getting a kid who’s going to be a great addition to the program in addition to on the football field.

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