Skull Session: Basketbucks Stay Perfect in Big Ten, Replacing Tracy Sprinkle, and Pat Elflein Leads the Way

By D.J. Byrnes on January 18, 2018 at 4:59 am
Brutus Buckeye flexes for the January 18th 2017 Skull Session

It... is... almost... FRIDAY...


Word of the Day: Temblor.

 FINAL FOUR EN ROUTE. The Ohio State men's basketball team went to "Chicago" last night and topped Northwestern, 71-65, to move to 7-0 in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes, on a hot streak in Vegas, sealed the game through free throw shooting.

From James Grega of Eleven Warriors

After leading by double digits for the majority of the contest, the Buckeyes allowed the Wildcats to cut the lead to just three with 43 seconds to play before Ohio State was able to ice the game at the free throw line as C.J. Jackson converted on three of four free throws in the closing seconds. 

The Buckeye bench contributed 22 points, including 13 from sophomore center Micah Potter, his best offensive performance since Nov. 16 against Texas Southern. Jae'Sean Tate and Jackson also scored in double digits, each scoring 12 for Ohio State. 

After scoring at least 20 points in each of his last four games, Ohio State star forward Keita Bates-Diop was held to just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, but still contributed eight rebounds and three assists. 

The Buckeyes next play Minnesota on Saturday in New York City for some reason. The only question is if Andrew Dakich will be mayor Columbus by then.

 FROM ONE OHIO MAN TO ANOTHER. Tracy Sprinkle wasn't the most talented defensive lineman last year. And yet, after a tumultuous start to his career, Sprinkle became a spiritual leader of the deepest unit on the team.

He will be missed, and replacing him won't be easy. Thankfully, there's another former three-star Ohio prospect with a chip on his shoulder waiting in the trenches. I am of course talking about the immaculate Bobby Landers.

From Tony Gerdeman of

As a nose tackle, Sprinkle wasn’t going to be called upon to make a bunch of plays. He finished the season with 16 tackles and 3.0 tackles for loss. He did do his job when it came to occupying blockers, however, helping lead an OSU rush defense that allowed just 2.94 yards per carry, which was the fourth-lowest mark in college football.

Sprinkle was also a very vocal team leader among a defensive line full of leaders. Replacing his production isn’t a matter of equaling his 16 tackles, it’s a matter of keeping the defensive front as consistent against the run as it was this past season. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, there are a number of options to turn to.

The Candidates

Being an Ohio State defensive lineman, Tracy Sprinkle shared reps with Robert Landers, and it would not be a surprise at all for Landers to be starting here in 2018. Landers is undersized, which he uses to his advantage in gaining penetration. There will be questions about whether or not he can hold up over the course of a season, but since everybody is sharing, he should be fine. The interesting part about Landers is that he has played on the nose for two seasons now and has 12.5 tackles for loss. Those are numbers comparable to past nose tackles Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington.

The first Ohio State player I fretted about losing was, if you can believe it, Andy Groom.

"How will Jim Tressel replace those booming punts?" I wondered aloud while looking at the glow-in-the-dark plastic stars taped to the ceiling of "my" house.

Still, it always makes me sleep easier at night knowing the replacement hails from Ohio. Those guys just get it.

 DRAFT A BUCKEYE, HAVE SUCCESS. I watched Pat Elflein's entire Ohio State career and thought to myself, "Wow, that guy will be good in the NFL." Which means the Browns passed on him to sign an aging veteran from Green Bay (J.C. Tretter) for more money.

In a shocking turn of events, Elflein proved to be the staple that switched the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line from bad to "capable of making Case Keenum look like a legit professional quarterback."


“If you spend any time around Pat, he’s like this [imagine the ‘blank face’ emoji] or he's like this [the same as before],” quarterback Case Keenum joked. “That’s Pat, and I love him to death.”


Minnesota’s No. 1 priority last offseason was to rebuild the offensive line. General manager Rick Spielman knew the team needed to upgrade its tackle positions ASAP, which brought in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, and tap into the draft to build the interior. That’s where the Vikings found Elflein, a 6-foot-3, 303-pound Ohio State product drafted 70th overall in the third round.

Elflein’s contributions have been endless, and if he played any other position, he’d probably be in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He will surely be on just about every all-rookie team, such as the Pro Football Writers Association’s, which he was named to Tuesday, but for the Vikings, he is the most important first-year player, anchoring an O-line that tied for seventh-fewest sacks allowed (27). Last year’s group gave up 38, which ranked 23rd.

I wish the best of luck to Elflein this weekend against the Eagles, but I can't wait to ignore the NFL entirely this weekend. As a Browns fan, it's sacrilegious to watch the playoffs. 

 RUTGERS: PRO OFFENSE WITH A MIX OF SPREAD. Chris Ash replaced Jerry Kill at offensive coordinator with John McNulty, formerly a tight ends coach for the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Apparently Rutgers will run a pro-style offense next season, with only the most elite elements of the spread offenses sprinkled into it. 


"In the end, I think it'll be like how it was before, how (Tom) Savage chose this place over Georgia or how DC Jefferson chose this place over LSU - I know he ended up being a tight end (rather than a quarterback) is that this is a legitimate pro offense," McNulty said Tuesday on a conference call after Rutgers made his hire official.

"It will prepare you to play at the next level. A lot of the college elements are all built in definitely, but I'm just saying, I've sat at the (NFL scouting) combine and interviewed quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends who will tell you, 'Coach, I have no idea. I'm just being honest with you. We just lined up and ran the plays.'

This is the type of stuff that sounds great in the offseason. Fans eat it up. (Case in point: Michigan fans the last three years.)

The results will be in the conference standings.

 COME WATCH A LEGEND. Ohio State's wrestling team hosts Iowa on Sunday. It will be the last home match for the legendary podcaster Kyle Snyder. 

The university wants to break an attendance record:

If you're in Columbus, you better head out Sunday. I'd hate to see an angry Kyle Snyder show up on your doorstep.

You'd probably hate it more, though.

 THOSE WMDs. Thriving after prematurity, Fiona the Hippo turns one... Connecting prisoners with loved ones is this Philly woman's business... The Ripper and the Swedish murders... The race to save a child from a genetic death sentence... The Migos saved my life.

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