Skull Session: Scouting Army, Ohio State Can't Fix Defense Yet, and Play Calling Doing J.T. Barrett No Favors

By D.J. Byrnes on September 14, 2017 at 4:49 am
Urban Meyer hugs J.K. Dobbins for the September 14 2017 Skull Session
Urban Meyer & J.K. Dobbins

As much as Saturday night was a debacle in the Shoe, at least a crunken Ohio State fan didn't fire a flare gun at a referee:

Thankfully it's Thursday, which means I buried the Oklahoma loss in my backyard like the corpse of that hitchhiker I clipped on I-75 back in '83. 

I'm focused on Oklahoma going undefeated, Ohio State blowing out the Big Ten, and that rematch with Baker Mayfield in the Sugar Bowl.

So it is written, so it is done.


Word of the Day: Lickspittle.

 ARMY PLAYS DEFENSE, TOO. I hate when Ohio State plays service academies because it means the triple option, an offense that belongs in a museum due to the potential injury risk it poses to defensive lines.

But Army will also come into Ohio Stadium with a capable defense.


What has been the secret behind the Black Knights' program revival?

Sal Interdonato: No secret really. Just a total team buy-in. It all started last September when Army handily beat a good Temple team on the road in the season. Players believe they can have success and win every time that they take the field. The maturation of quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw into a leader and a defense, which ranked fourth in total yards last season and has held Army's two opponents scoreless in the second half, certainly help.

What are the strengths and weaknesses on [defense]?

SI: Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman likes to mix things up. Army's nickel package may be its best with junior James Gibson as a hybrid linebacker/safety. The Black Knights' front seven led by senior defensive end John Voit and senior linebacker Alex Aukerman is the team's strength along with four-year starting safety Rhyan England. The defense was vulnerable early to the big play last week against Buffalo, giving up a 75-yard quarterback scramble for a touchdown and a 48-yard touchdown pass. But, the Black Knights turned it around after halftime allowing just two rushing yards and zero points.

Man, what I would give to see Ohio State players stay for four or five years. (A defensive backfield of Malik Hooker, Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, and Marshon Lattimore? Whom do I need to stab?)

But if the Buckeyes can't move the ball consistently on Army, 11W's servers may not survive the night.

Let's hope for a competent performance.

 THAT DAMNED TRIPLE OPTION. Hopefully the linebackers and the secondary cooked J.T. Barrett dinner all week, because he has taken heat off their poor play.

What's unfortunate about this week is Army's, uh, unique offense won't allow them to practice against the pass all but a handful of times.


Playing service academies creates all kinds of problems for defenses. That’s why you often see teams struggle the following week. Defending the triple-option wishbone offense is a beast, even when there’s a sizeable talent gap. It requires your full attention.

The hangover shouldn’t happen for Ohio State. The Buckeyes play UNLV next week. Smart scheduling. But in the meantime the defense can’t fully dive into the struggles of the passing game from the first two weeks of the season. Not when preparing for an Army team that’s completed two passes in two games.

“We’ve watched some major plays (from Oklahoma),” linebacker Chris Worley said. “But dealing with a team like Army that runs this type of offense, we can spend a whole week watching (old film) because we’d never get to see what we need for this week. Even though that’s some great film for us to watch, we have to watch that Army film because if we don’t it’s gonna be bad.”

At least this time Ohio State plays UNLV after a service academy and not somebody like Virginia Tech.

Still, I stand by my spicy #take there's no strategical upside to playing the academies until they move their offenses into the 21st century.

 CALLING THE PLAYS. After Ohio State cancelled player interviews last night (that included J.T. Barrett), Kevin Wilson played the part of professional coach and fell on his sword:

The tape checks out on Wilson's opinion, assuming he was the primary play caller Saturday night like Meyer said.

From (via 11Wer Oztintacius):

Given how well Ohio State can run the football, the passing game should similarly be built around throws where the Buckeyes are showing run action – plays such as wide receiver screens, hitches against soft corner coverage, and flat and seam routes targeting linebackers. The Buckeyes will show glimpses, but such concepts go just as quickly away.


This is even more imperative given Barrett’s limitations. Operating in the shotgun spread provides you a blocking disadvantage because you do not have a lead blocker. So you must constrain the unblocked defenders. There are two ways to do so – use the quarterback as a ball carrier, or use run-pass options. If Barrett cannot or will not run the football like he used to, then such run-based throws off of reading the defense become all the more critical.

And after 40-plus starts, it is folly to expect more from Barrett as a drop back passer. Meyer may want a prolific downfield passing offense. But he cannot let his platonic ideal prevent a game plan that fits with what his players can do. For this offense – and so long as Barrett is the quarterback – it is the run game behind your two best skill players, then providing Barrett short, quick run-pass option and play action throws that force him to quickly get the ball out of his hand, rather than relying upon Barrett as a runner and downfield passer to constrain the defense.

I'm on the Dwayne Train, primarily because he has the arm to make defenses pay and the schedule offers the perfect time to break him in before Penn State rolls into Columbus on Oct. 28.

If the offensive braintrust tweaks the offense to put Barrett in more favorable spots, I'll live with it. If, however, they continue to do the same thing and expect different results I will lose my mind.

 MARINOVICH STILL HURLING. Former USC sensation Todd Marinovich, at 48-years-old, is once again sober and playing football for the SoCal Coyotes, a team in something called the World Developmental League.


Marinovich might also be in search of family. His father, Marv, with whom Todd reconciled after a harsh upbringing in Newport Beach, Calif., has Alzheimer’s. Marinovich is divorcing his wife, and time with their two children is limited to weekends outside the summer.

He said he is clean and sober — for now.

On Sept. 2, in his first game since age 15 that Marinovich claims was not in the midst of drug or alcohol use, he threw for seven touchdowns in a 73-0 win over the California Sharks. A sore shoulder kept him out of the Coyotes’ game last Saturday.

“This comeback has very little to do with football,” said David Miller, coach and conscience of the Coyotes, a self-professed faith-based organization built around family and football.

I'm cheering for Marinovich. Demons don't deserve to haunt a man for his entire life.

 HELP BATTLE DUCHENNE. We all love to know Jacob Jarvis, the famous Buckeye fan.

This Sunday at 1 p.m., you can help strike a blow against the disease afflicting him.

From Nick Jackson of


If you visit Discover Christian Church’s website you will see their motto on the front page “Love God, love people, and impact the world.” With a modest estimate of around 800 members in their congregation, DCC takes this slogan to heart. Nothing can be more evident of this love for their community, than their annual Cruisin’ for a Cause car and truck show held every September.


This is where Discover Christian Church steps in; all proceeds of this year’s Cruisin’ for a Cause will go to one of the leading organizations in the fight to end Duchenne, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy  DCC will use strict accounting procedures and maintain complete transparency throughout. If you are unable to attend, donations can be made directly to Discover Christian Church and then the funds raised will go directly to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. Please specify Cruisin’ for a Cause in the memo when making your donations.  Now that we’ve laid out the background information on the event, let’s get into the logistics of it and what people attending can expect to see.


Some folks may have misgivings about it being a “church sponsored event,” so let me allay any fears or misgivings you may have. People of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome, those with a religious affiliation and those without one. There is no dress code so wear whatever you feel the most comfortable in. We will all be united together for one common cause, and that’s to raise money for the battle to end Duchenne.

Best of luck to the event's organizers. Buckeye Nation always supports their own (as long as they're not holding the offense back from making touchdowns).

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