Skull Session: James Laurinaitis and Steele Chambers Talk Tradition, Projecting Success of Ohio State's NFL Rookies, SEC Continues Eight-Game Conference Slate, and More

By Chris Lauderback on June 5, 2023 at 5:00 am
Ohio Stadium in all its glory.

Hello friends and welcome to your Monday Skull Session.

With Chase taking some well-deserved time off this week, a few of us are pinch-hitting - hopefully on a Kirk Gibson level - as the Skull Session never sleeps (unless Johnny reprises his infamous Null Session). 

I've got you covered today with Dan on deck tomorrow, Jacob slotted for Wednesday, Johnny on Thursday and Jason handling Friday. 

 START YOUR DAY WITH MUST-SEE TV. Ohio State started an excellent new video series worthy of your undivided attention. If you missed it over the weekend, in this episode Buckeye legend and now graduate assistant coach James Laurinaitis sat down with linebacker Steele Chambers to talk about the tradition at Ohio State along with other topics. The conversation captures the thoughts of two truly impressive humans. 

The pair kicked off by naming their Mount Rushmore of Ohio State linebackers. Chambers rolled with Laurinaitis, Tom Cousineau, Ryan Shazier and... Tommy Eichenberg, his roommate. James selected Cousineau, Randy Gradishar, Chris Spielman and A.J. Hawk. 

Who you rolling with? I think Laurinaitis nailed it. 

I was struck by Steele's comments detailing how impactful Laurinaitis has been in such a short time on staff. Clearly, the fact James played at an elite level generates a credibility and trust difficult for any other defensive coach to match. Chambers was also very thoughtful in describing what Ohio State's traditions mean to him. That kid is all class. It's easy to think of these guys as robots - I know I'm guilty on occasion - but wow that is one polished young man.  

 PUPPY LOVE. Fur-ther evidence Chambers is a great dude, he teamed up with the Franklin County Dog Shelter over the weekend in support an adoption event titled "Fur the Love of Football." 

The event had 150 dogs up for adoption with fees waived, leaving just an $18 charge for Franklin County's dog license. 

Steele's motivation to join forces was born out of his love for dogs despite not having one as a child. 

"I love dogs. I mean, my parents, they wouldn't let me have a dog whenever I was in elementary, middle and high school, so as soon as I got out of college I tried to get a dog," Chambers told 10TV during the event. "Now, I've got a husky named Maverick and I kind of fell in love with him. Just had a love for dogs ever since I was little."

Between Chambers, Eichenberg and Maverick, I'd advise against breaking into their crib. 

 DON'T HATE, EMULATE? The Southeastern Conference announced late last week the 2024 football schedule will include eight conference games, just as it has for quite some time, even as Texas and Oklahoma join to form a 16 team league.

As for what's different about the SEC's 2024 schedule, divisions which have been in place since 1992 will be eliminated. This of course means the top two teams in the one set of standings will face-off in the SEC championship game. The 2024 schedules for each SEC team will also include one non-conference game against a team from either the ACC, B1G, Pac-12, Big 12 or Notre Dame. 

The 2024 strategy is only guaranteed to be in place for that season with a move to nine conference games or any other changes still on the table for 2025 and beyond. Right now, the B1G and Pac-12 play nine conference games. Honestly, as much as some B1G and Ohio State fans love to complain about the SEC's scheduling, our enemies to the south might be playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. 

Chickenshit Saturday isn't the only reason the SEC dominates but I'm sure it doesn't hurt.  

 CRASHING CAMPUS. From the looks of things on the OSU football and basketball twitter feeds, the freshman footballers who didn't early enroll have arrived on campus as well as hoopers Devin Royal and Scotty Middleton. There's no time like the present to get the Buckeye journey started. 

Laurinaitis looks like he could suit up and be first team All-American right now. Of the freshmen who didn't enroll early, I feel it's pretty unanimous Brandon Inniss is the name most folks are excited to put eyes on. Of the other eight - Kayden McDonald, Lincoln Kienholz, Jason Moore, Calvin Simpson-Hunt, Joshua Mickens, Arvell Reese, Jayden Bonsu and Cedrick Hawkins - which do you think has the most productive career in Columbus? 

What's your over/under on Royal's points per game average as a true freshman? You calling double-digits? Middleton might have an even higher ceiling long-term though the perimeter looks like it could be a crowded place this winter. 

 TRY NOT TO PUKE. Looks like Michigan's football team received its rings for winning the 2022 Big Ten championship. At least they're hideous. 

Hate to drop that on you on a Monday morning but embracing the rivalry includes taking your medicine. Let's hope the 2023 Big Ten championship rings have a scarlet and gray hue. 

 HEEEERE'S JOHNNIE. Former Buckeye wide receiver Johnnie Dixon went off for the USFL's New Orleans Breakers yesterday hauling in nine passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns. The first, a 9-yarder, gave the Breakers a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. 

Dixon's second touchdown grab, this time a 36-yarder, came just a few minutes later giving the Breakers a 21-0 edge just before halftime. 

You can vote here for Dixon as the USFL's offensive player of the week after having what he called the best game of his life but do so quickly.

Despite playing only six of eight games, Dixon ranks No. 8 in the USFL with 396 receiving yards and his 66.0 receiving yards per game leads the league. Not bad for a guy that likely also leads USFL receivers in knee surgeries. 

 GET YOUR POPCORN READY. "Swamp Kings," a documentary on Urban Meyer's Florida Gators football teams of 2006-09 will hit your Netflix roster on August 23

The Gators won two national titles during the documentary's run while racking up 31 arrests. With those teams featuring names like Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Percy Harvin, the Pouncey bros, Cam Newton, Joe Haden and Brandon Spikes, this will be appointment viewing for any college football fan. 

 ROOKIE IMPACT PROJECTIONS. NFL Draft Bible, via the All Access Football, wrapped up it's divisional look at how rookies will fare this upcoming season. As you'll recall, the Buckeyes had six guys selected in the 2023 Draft highlighted by three round picks. How do the Draft Bible guys think C.J. Stroud, Paris Johnson Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zach Harrison, Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler will impact their teams in year one? 

Player Rating Impact Scale: 10 – 9.5 = All Pro Impact | 9.4 – 8.9 = Pro Bowl Impact | 8.8 – 8.0 = Starter Impact | 7.9 – 7.0 = Rotational Impact | 6.9 – 6.0 = Backup Impact | 5.9 – Below = Practice Squad Impact

Rd1.No.2. CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State: The Texans truly are a good quarterback away from being a competitive team and Stroud ultimately holds the keys to success. Projection: 16 games played, 15 starts, 299 completions, 475 attempts, 2,988 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 14 interceptions (140 rushing yards). Impact Factor: 8.6

Rd1. No.6. Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State: An immediate impact starter, the new Arizona brass stockpiled picks by trading out of the three spot and adding an anchor in Johnson to plug-in along the offensive line; he’s expected to play left guard. Projection: 17 starts. Impact Factor: 8.6

Rd1. No.20 Jaxson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State: Plucking the best playmaker in the draft to slot in between DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett should make for a tremendous triple threat. Projection: 14 games played, seven starts, 53 catches, 877 receiving yards, seven touchdowns. Impact Factor: 8.5

Rd3. No.75 Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State: With the signing of Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree on the opposite end, Harrison will likely serve as a situational pass-rusher. The Falcons could have explored other options here, considering they had so many needs. Projection: 13 games played, 16 tackles, one sack, three and a half tackles for loss. Impact Factor: 6.8

Rd4. No.111 Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State: Despite weight and behavior concerns leading up the draft, this may turn out to be one of the more pleasant surprises in the draft. Projection: Groomed to be a future starter, spears in 12 games as backup. Impact Factor: 6.5

Rd6. No.190 Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State: One of the biggest unexplained mysteries of the draft might be the slide of Wypler. Possibly due to the center position being devalued but make no mistake, Wypler could wind up having the biggest impact of all amongst Cleveland rookies. Projection: Plays 17 games; makes 13 starts. Impact Factor: 7.8

I'm betting on Stroud to better those projections, JSN feels right, and wow these guys are high on Wypler. 

 NON-PHISH SONG OF THE DAY. "Call Me D-Nice" by, you guessed it, D-Nice. 

 PHISH SONG OF THE DAY. "About to Run" live at Alpine Valley, July 14, 2019. This one was actually penned by Trey for Ghosts of the Forest but close enough. Played 17 times thus far in Phishtory, below is the fifth version. I caught the second version at Blossom on June 19, 2019 and it's a certified banger too, if you like this sort of music of course. 

 PEBBLES AND MARBLES. Ohio State's alternate black jerseys headline TWSN's top-10 college football jerseys... The most common last name in every country... 83 minutes of 90s commercials... NIL deal between Michigan State athletes and Mat Ishbia's United Wholesale Mortgage company is coming to an end... Motorized trash can reaches 55 mph in England... Former Ohio State golfer Tom Weiskopf to be honored at the 2024 Memorial Tournament. 

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