Skull Session: Scouting Denzel Ward, Jim Tressel Talks Recruiting, and Chris Holtmann Hires a Staffer

By D.J. Byrnes on July 29, 2017 at 4:59 am
K.J. Hill runs by a Bowling Green Eagle for the July 29 2017 Skull Session

I dedicate this Skull Session to the historic city of Bellefontaine (first concrete street in America built in 1891), the delicious Six Hundred Downtown, and the venerated Brewfontaine.

If you cheer for Ohio State but aren't from the Buckeye State, you need to cut a damn check to the city or establishment of your choice.


Word of the Day: Ribald.

 NEXT MAN UP. This time next year Denzel Ward will participate in his first NFL preseason camp. We know this to be true because he's the next man off Kerry Coombs' assembly line.

But what makes him such a special prospect? A combination of speed, instincts, and ball skills.


Man Coverage
The Buckeye cornerback has elite speed, allowing him to close the gaps when separation by the wide receiver occurs. Denzel plays disciplined and consistently keeps his eyes locked on his man instead of watching the backfield.


Zone Coverage
He relies on strong anticipation and instincts to break on the ball and utilizes his speed to maximize his range. Ward displays good awareness and mental processing within his zone to come off his assignment in order to make a play on the ball. He is susceptible to inward breaking routes in zone coverage, largely due to his angle of retreat, but again, he can often recover due to his elite speed and reaction skills to contest the pass.


Ball Skills
Perhaps the most impressive stat is the fact that Ward committed zero pass-interference penalties in these situations, which further illustrates his ability to play the ball efficiently. When playing with his back to the ball, Ward also displays patience and timing to play the ball as it enters the pocket of the receiver.

(That link is worth checking out in full, as it comes with more analysis and film clips.)

It's also crazy we're to the point where the local team can lose two first-round cornerbacks and we shrug and say "next man up." That's fan fiction usually reserved for message boards, yet here we are living it.

May Michigan Men never know the pleasure.

 THE GAME GOT MORE FIERCE. Once upon a time, recruiting used to be an offseason activity for coaches. But as television and coaching salaries exploded, the hunt for the next great prospect got more fierce.

Notorious criminal Jim "El Chaleco" Tressel took a break from cavorting on a sun-soaked beach with naked models and used his satellite phone to reminisce about a simpler time. 


It’s turned into a scoreboard of its own,” Tressel told Land-Grant Holy Land. “When I began coaching, the focus was on coaching your kids and then after the season was over, you’d go and find out who had a good senior year. You’d see if you could borrow the film and hold it for two days, and you’d go show your staff. That was 40-some years ago.”

Now, 40 years might not sound like a long time, but it was in those same years that recruiting — and all that went into it — experienced a major evolution.


“You didn’t have to borrow film, there started to be recruiting services, they started making rankings and all that,” Tressel said. “Now it’s a season of its own. People are evaluated by the rank of their recruiting class and players are making visits to campus way earlier in their lives than they used to. It’s very different, but it’s not unlike the rest of the world.”

Urban Meyer took Ohio State to another level. But would it have gotten off to that 12-0 start without Braxton Miller or Ryan Shazier? Highly doubtful. It also would be intriguing to see where Ohio State would have turned in 2014 if Tressel hadn't recruited Cardale Jones, either.

 ASSISTANT TO THE REGIONAL MANAGER. Ohio State shelled out the big bucks to pry Chris Holtmann from Butler. It has continued its spending spree to lure an assistant coach from East Carolina to Columbus.


Mike Netti is expected to be announced as Ohio State’s assistant to the head coach as soon as Monday, The Dispatch has learned.

The news, which was first reported by Pirate Radio 1250/930 from Greenville, N.C., was hinted at by new Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann in late June as he looked toward completing his coaching staff. Netti has been an assistant coach at East Carolina University for the past four seasons, where his primary responsibility was overseeing the team’s guards and perimeter play.

Known as a high-energy guy and a gym rat, Netti was on staff at Gardner-Webb while Holtmann was the head coach from 2010-13 before taking the same job at Butler. The two were also both there when Holtmann was an assistant from 2003-08. Netti has 13 years of Division I coaching experience and was also a junior college head coach at Lackawanna (Pa.) College.

Take it from me, the blogger who watched the last two seasons via a "Marc Loving" TweetDeck column: You can never have too many high-energy gym rats on your staff. Now all that's left is to win some damn games.

 SOONERS SWITCH IT UP. Ohio State lit up Oklahoma's basic defense last year in Norman, and the Sooners are moving to a 4-3 system ahead of their rematch with the Buckeyes.


This new scheme will allow the Sooner DL to be much more disruptive, particularly the 3-technique who can now wreak havoc on the boundary, and the strong side end who will have a better angle in the pass-rush. It should also keep [linebackers Obo] Okoronkwo and [Caleb] Kelly in position to make good on their unique talents. Finally, the inside linebackers will now have a consistent picture from snap to snap. However, the DL will need to prove worthy of this new scheme and the OLBs exceptional or else opposing offenses will pick the Sooners apart for playing traditional 4-3 personnel.

The Sooners are switching back to a scheme that will be appealing to the types of 3-technique defensive tackles they have been missing in recruiting. In the meantime, they need what they have recruited along the DL to shine in that role or else they’ll be showing off another broken defense. Neville Gallimore is a major key here and a breakout performance by him in 2017 could be just the thing to revitalize both the Oklahoma defense and their DT recruiting.

Bold strategy to move to a new defensive scheme with a Week 2 primetime date in Columbus. My guess is it ends all the same for the Sooners.

 THAT'S LIEUTENANT COMMANDER HAYES TO YOU, SEAMAN. We close today with some military history.


Woody Hayes (on right facing camera) taking command of the USS Rinehart from Captain Engle during World World War II ca. 1943. Hayes enlisted in the United States Navy in July 1941 and obtained the rank of Lieutenant Commander during World War II. He commanded PC 1251 in the Palau Islands invasion and the destroyer-escort USS Rinehart in both the Atlantic and Pacific operations. 

No wonder Hitler shot himself. He saw the writing on the wall.

 THOSE WMDs. Original Max & Ermas in German Village to close Aug. 7... Kim Jong Nam: The plot to murder North Korea's exiled son... Why Pakistan and India hate each other... "Thing in the woods" revealed as CIA spy camera, 55 years later... Why don't you know Prince Nico Mbarga?

View 46 Comments