Skull Session: Ohio State's Surprising Secondary, Danny Clark the Dream Chaser, and J.T. Barrett Not Thinking About the Heisman

By D.J. Byrnes on September 28, 2016 at 4:59 am
Mike Weber listens to the September 28th 2016 Skull Session.

FOLKS, it's true. My flawless hairline and I went on television and did the damn thing yesterday on the Eleven Warriors Report.

Haters and losers, take note:

I will never apologize for my flowing mane. I will never apologize for wearing khakis. And I sure as hell will never apologize for my lack of a sportcoat. Wearing one would get me shot in the City of Kings—and rightfully so.

Y'all are lucky I didn't shoot the segment wearing boxer briefs and a bullet proof vest while double-fisting two illegal cans of FourLoko, which is my customary working attire.

 SURPRISING SECONDARY. Ohio State's secondary lost three players to the NFL this past offseason. Back in the day, that spelled "regression" for the following season.

Under Urban Meyer, however:

The rest of the country is waking up.


There was never any doubt that Ohio State would have talent in the secondary. But the Buckeyes lost three starters to the NFL and were breaking in several new players. Surely there would be some growing pains, especially against three September opponents (Bowling Green, Tulsa and Oklahoma) who have been pretty adept at throwing the ball. Well, the defensive back play has so far been arguably the best in the country, as Ohio State has nine interceptions and four pick-sixes already. Safety Malik Hooker has emerged as a superstar, while cornerback Marshon Lattimore is tied with Hooker for the FBS lead in interceptions (three). Even when the team’s lone returning starter, cornerback Gareon Conley, got hurt early at Oklahoma, the secondary continued to blanket the Sooners. Credit first-year co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs for molding raw talent into something truly special.

Back in the day (2012) Urban Meyer tapped Zach Boren, a fullback, when he needed a linebacker. In 2016, he replaced Dante Booker with Jerome Baker.

That goes in the secondary, too. There aren't many teams that could lose a baller like Gareon Conley, insert a sophomore like Denzel Ward, and not lose a step.

And you don't beat Ohio State with check downs and dump-offs. You need to take shots down the field. What quarterback wants to throw against Conley, Lattimore or Ward with field generals like Malik Hooker patrolling in the shadows?

Speaking of Hooker, if "Malik the Freak" is his official moniker, my doughy body is here for it:


 /SALUTE TO DANNY CLARK. Three-star Akron Hoban QB Danny Clark, he of the Block 'O' tattoo and the original 2017 Ohio State commit, decommitted Tuesday morning.

Though Clark's talent will still earn him a Division 1 scholarship, it's painful to watch a young man pursue his dreams and fall short. 


At a recruiting camp this summer, I asked Clark if the tattoo was his letter of intent, if that ink meant he was locked in. He said he was an Ohio State fan his whole life, so no matter what happened, that Block O made sense on him.

It's his arm. It was his dream. Any of us with dreams that strong would do whatever we could to grab them and not let go. If the fates made it so that Danny Clark wasn't going to be an Ohio State Buckeye in college, he could at least be one for most of high school.

Clark will take that tattoo with him wherever he lands. He's a talented player who may wind up as a very good college quarterback. The tattoo will remind him of a time in his life that he chased a dream, and that shouldn't be a bad thing.

No, it's never a bad thing to chase a dream (unless you're a 36-year-old factory worker with three children that swears this next rap mixtape will make the Billboard Top 40).

But Clark handled his decommitment like a grown ass man, which says a lot considering he was the youngest person involved in his commitment as a high school freshman.

I respect the hell out of that, and I will cheer for him wherever he lands. If everybody worked as hard as he did, the world would be a better place.

 BARRETT NOT THINKING ABOUT THE HEISMAN. I predicted LSU running back Leonard Fournette to win the Heisman because my bosses ordered my participation in a preseason article

It was a pick I regretted before LSU's season got torched like a medieval corpse stricken with the plague.

On another timeline where I have testicular fortitude, I predicted J.T. Barrett to win the Heisman. Barrett, however, isn't thinking about it.


After throwing for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one interception and rushing for 159 yards and three scores in Ohio State’s first three games, Barrett is once again in the Heisman race. The Bovada sports book lists him and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey in a tie for second at 7-1 odds behind the favorite, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is listed at 2-5 odds. Deshaun Watson and Jabrill Peppers are ranked fourth and fifth.

Barrett says the Heisman isn’t something he thinks about. “My main thing is winning,” he said on Monday. “That’s what I’m about. If winning gets me the Heisman Trophy, I’m OK with that. But I’m not going to do anything outside myself to get the Heisman Trophy.

“I like the way I play, the way I approach the game. I have a team mentality. I am who I am. Love it or hate it, that’s how it’s going to be.”

Just once I want a player to say, "Hell yeah, I want that golden trophy with the ancient player stiff-arming an unseen foe!" JUST ONCE.

Though Barrett might not be thinking about it, I'm not ready to hand the trophy over to Lamar Jackson as he still has to get through Clemson, Houston, and Kentucky.

Should Jackson falter, Barrett will be the next in line. Regardless, Barrett will be in New York at the end of the year if he stays healthy. His stats will be too ridiculous to ignore.

 RUTGERS REPORT. Chris Ash, who you might not know used to work at Ohio State, makes no bones about it: He doesn't have the talent to match up with the nation's elite. 

His team will play hard either way. Unfortunately, Rutgers will be without its most talented players Saturday in Columbus.


1. [Redshirt senior DT] Darius Hamilton's long-awaited return to full-go at practice didn't last long, as Hamilton was back in the all-too-familiar green jersey signaling limited contact.

Hamilton was held out of practice in favor of the exercise bike, though he did swap out a walking boot for a taped ankle. The redshirt senior defensive tackle declared himself ready to play against Ohio State after his rehabbed knees were victim of a chop block against Iowa that caused him to miss significant time in the second half.


2. As expected, Jawuan Harris and John Tsimis filled in for Janarion Grant on punt returns and as the slot wide receiver. If the spotlight on Harris is about to grow the most as the new No. 1 option, the workload for Tsimis is about to grow the most.


"Jawuan is a version of Janarion, but he's not Janarion," Ash said. "He's our next-best version of Janarion."

Back in the summer—a simpler time when a handful of nickels kept the jukebox running all night—I foresaw Rutgers as a trap game. Noon start, head coach familiar with Ohio State's system and players, etc.

I do not feel that way anymore.

 MEANWHILE, AT THE OTHER OSU... Oklahoma State is 2-2. Mike Gundy, a 49-year-old man, is 96-49 as a head coach.

He's also apparently not on speaking terms with the school's biggest booster.


1. T. Boone Pickens said he likes the current 10-team Big 12 configuration the way it is and would prefer adding Houston and SMU if the league grows, but that’s “probably unlikely.” The Oklahoma State benefactor said on our “On Second Thought” podcast that Oklahoma president David Boren has been wishy-washy about expansion and that “maybe it’s time for David to retire.” Some outlets reported Tuesday that the mercurial Boren is saying he’s decided against expansion, but Boren clarified his stance, saying “Oklahoma has not yet taken a position on expansion.” Pickens, who has given $500 million to his alma mater, said, “I’ve known David forever. He likes to talk. He gets a little bit confused sometimes.” Pickens said he and Cowboys coach Mike Gundy aren’t talking. “I don’t have any conversations with Gundy,” he said. Is there a rift? “I don’t know, but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things. I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”

Just wait until Jim Delany heists Texas and Oklahoma and leaves T. Boone Pickens pining to join the American Athletic Conference.

 THOSE WMDs. Beef is about to get cheaper... Arnold Palmer, the humble king of Latrobe... Mites that leave itchy bites expected in abundance in Kansas City... 16 more women accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor of sexual abuse... Troubled past of the Young Artist Awards.

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