Skull Session: Freshmen Get a Wakeup Call, Basketball Effort Question, and a Special Teams Breakout Pick

By D.J. Byrnes on February 17, 2018 at 4:59 am
Demario McCall dives for the September 17 2018 Skull Session

The march through the hellacious stretch of mid-February trundles forward. May we wake up on March 1.


Word of the Day: Gossamer.

 WELCOME TO THE L4YER CAKE. Ah, freshman year, when you go from King Tut in high school to a guppy sucking scum off the bottom of the pond on a college campus.

Such is the nature of the transition for footballers, who can no longer do the things to which they are accustomed on the gridiron. It didn't take long for the reality to dawn on them at a program like Ohio State.


"In high school, you could not do everything with perfect form and everything, and everything wasn't as fast," running back Master Teague said. "So it didn't take long to get used to. But that's kind of probably something that I know is just different."

Center Matthew Jones also found out from the start that there's just a different tempo to college football.

"As soon as I came in first day of practice, I'm like, 'Wow,'" Jones said. "You have to give it your all no matter what you do, putting the effort it. It's just like responsibilities to everything."

Don't worry, guys. That feeling goes away as long as the business is handled.

 EFFORT QUESTIONED. Despite suffering its only Big Ten loss to Penn State earlier in the season, the Basketbucks failed to get off the bus in Happy Valley. Slow starts have plagued the team all year. In this contest, however, the Buckeyes looked lethargic throughout.


Trailing by 30 points, Ohio State took a little juice out of the crowd of 10,981 with an 11-0 run that would top out at 18-4 and make it a 16-point deficit with 10:37 left. It wasn’t too different from a 14-point deficit at Purdue last week with 10:17 to play, but there was no comeback in the offing this time.

But most concerning was the poor start and questionable effort from this team at this point in the season. I asked Holtmann if his team brought the necessary effort against a team that admittedly presents clear matchup problems for the Buckeyes.

“I think at times, but for the bulk of the game it didn’t look like it,” he said. “I’ll have to look at the tape. It’s obviously hard to tell off the naked eye, but certainly wasn’t pleased with how we responded to their physicality.”

The matchup certainly does create problems for Ohio State. I'm not as certain about Ohio State's lack of effort. To me, that's one of the biggest accusations that can be thrown at a team, though it has one that's fit in recent years.

I chalked it up to a bad outing in a hostile environment against an unfavorable matchup. I'd be a lot more worried if we hadn't just witnessed them beat Purdue in Mackey Arena.

If the tape does show a problem, I expect Chris Holtmann will fix the problem before Sunday's contest in Ann Arbor.

 SPECIAL TEAMS STAR. Ohio State humbles five-star freshmen by making them perform on special teams. Breakout performances usually bode well for future production at Ohio State. 

Last year, Jefrey Okudah proved his worth primarily on special teams. Fellow five-star signee Tyreke Johnson looks to fill those shoes.


Tyreke Johnson will be fun to watch on kickoffs.

You know how you liked watching Jeff Okudah run down on kickoffs and throw his body into people last year? This year, that may be Tyreke Johnson. At 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds, Johnson is built for the task and has the speed to match. He is already enrolled and only getting faster and stronger right now, and if he shows himself capable of playing this season, he could be an ideal match for such a heat-seeking role.

Watch these highlights and imagine him running wild on kickoffs:

Yeah, he will be just fine if he puts his mind to it.

 LEACH LOSING BLOOD. Ohio State pinched Mike Leach's defensive coordinator. Apparently that's an ongoing theme in Pullman.


So Leach is still here. But he’s lost these six assistants over about six weeks:

  • Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch to Ohio State
  • Running backs coach Jim Mastro to Oregon
  • Offensive line coach Clay McGuire to Texas Tech
  • Outside receivers coach Derek Sage to UCLA
  • Outside linebackers coach Roy Manning to UCLA
  • Strength coach Jason Loscalzo to the Chicago Bears

That’s five out of nine on-field assistants from Washington State’s solid 2017 team gone, plus the head strength coach, who’s generally just as important. The losses have come out in a trickle since earlier in the winter, with Sage’s departure the latest to be reported. The first coach to officially go was Manning on Jan. 3.

Leach must not be as jovial as a boss as he is during press conferences. Wild how that works.

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