Skull Session: Weighing a Jaylen Harris Breakout Campaign, Joey Lane Shakes Hands, and the Villain Remains

By D.J. Byrnes on March 13, 2018 at 4:59 am
Mike Weber smiles at the March 13th 2018 Skull Session

I didn't used to agree with the theory of Tuesday being worse than Monday. The older I get though, the more I think it's the correct take.


Word of the Day: Fanfaronade.

 BREAKOUTS IN THE YEAR. Spring practice is an amazing time of year because every player on the Ohio State football team could be poised for a breakout season this fall.

One name to seriously consider, however, is that of sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Harris. 


“He certainly could. Jaylen is a very talented kid,” he said. “You don’t see a kid that size that can move like he moves very often. That’s why we liked him in recruiting, that’s his schtick.”

Only seeing him in glimpses this spring, Harris looks how you want receivers to look. He is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, and made plays in both short and intermediate spots on the field. In order to get meaningful playing time in 2018, however, he has to do more than just look the part.

“He’s got to be more consistent,” Smith said. “He’s got to perform at the level we expect consistently, and then he’s got a chance to do whatever he wants to do. Because he’s that talented.”

This is a big year for Ben Victor, because Harris will be looking to eat into his snaps should Victor be unable to solve the inconsistency problems that have also plagued his career.

Between Victor, Harris, and tight ends like Rashod Berry and Jeremy Ruckert, the Buckeyes should not lack for passing weapons in the red zone. They should make it easier to run down there, too.

 SMOKE SHAKES HANDS. Walk-ons aren't the most important part of any team, yet they always seem to wear many hats and play critical roles.

Consider the case of Buckeye walk-on guard Joey Lane, who also serves as the team's shaman during pregame intros by ritualistically shaking hands with teammates.


“Every time [Keita Bates-Diop] says, ‘Talk to me, Smoke,’ and I say whatever’s on my mind,” Lane said. “I either tell him to dominate or, ‘They can’t stop you,’ or ‘Go be the best player in the Big Ten’ or something like that.”

Sophomore forward Andre Wesson has made only five starts this season, but has the most complex handshake; he and Lane play a quick game of rock-paper-scissors.

Junior guard C.J. Jackson said his personal handshake with Lane, a few simple hand slaps, took only about 30 seconds to learn. When freshman Musa Jallow was moved into the starting lineup early this season, he quickly sought out Lane.

Between the mysticism of Joey Smoke and Tony Carr headed to the NIT, I'm starting to feel bullish on the Buckeyes' chances at the Big Dance.

 STEPH CURRY WITH THE POT. The Golden State Warriors have used the three-point shot to alter the landscape of the NBA, a tactic quickly adapted by the WNBA.

That proliferation makes Buckeye sharpshooter Kelsey Mitchell a valuable commodity in this year's draft.


Her skills behind the arc will make her even more of an asset to her new team, as a three-point revolution like the one that's turned the NBA upside-down is also underway in the WNBA. According to a recent New York Times story, three-point attempts have risen 23 percent in the past four seasons, and eight teams attempted at least 16 threes per game this season, up from five teams last season.

Her fanbase already goes beyond Ohio. UConn legend Geno Auriemma told the New York Times, "There's no shot she can't make." Her friend D'Angelo Russell, who she met as a fellow McDonald's All-American, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer she's "unguardable."

"He's big-time. Us college people aren't there yet," Mitchell demurs when Russell is mentioned. Her perspective on her gaudy stats and A-list co-signs is, as it is on all other fronts, pragmatic. "I just don't want to put as much as time as I try to put into it and be mediocre at it. I don't think anybody wants that," she says simply.

Only an idiot would associate Mitchell's name with mediocrity at this point. Hell, I wish she could lace 'em up for the men's team. She could definitely contribute to their postseason run.

 FORMER BUCKS ALSO DANCING. Thad Matta say his vaunted 2015 recruiting class fall apart like a stale piece of cake. Three key cogs—and 2017 member Braxton Beverly, who never played a minute in Columbus—have found roles of varying importance on other tournament teams.


A.J. Harris
Harris is the starting point guard for the New Mexico State Aggies, who were selected as a No. 12 seed in the Midwest region. They will open against No. 5 seed Friday night at approximately 9:57 p.m. ET.


Daniel Giddens
A backup big man on Alabama, Giddens and the Crimson Tide were named a No. 9 seed in the East region and will open against No. 8 seed Virginia Tech on Thursday at approximately 9:20 p.m. ET.


Mickey Mitchell
While splitting time between starting and coming off the bench, Mitchell averaged 5.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 23.3 minutes per game. The 6-foot-7 forward shot 50 percent from the floor and 32 percent from long distance in 23 games (11 starts).


Braxton Beverly
As a true freshman, Beverly averaged 9.8 points, 4.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.0 steals in 32.4 minutes per game. The 6-foot guard shot 40 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range while while playing in 30 games, including 25 starts.

Seems like Matta lost middle-of-the-road roleplayers as opposed to game-breakers. I'll always wonder what Matta could have done with this year's team if given a final chance. Sadly—or thankfully, depending on your opinion—we'll never know.

 STAY FROST, VILLAIN. Evan Turner will not apologize for signing a $70 million contract. In fact, he wants random, middle-aged NBA fans to know he earned those commas in his bank account.


In telling the middle-aged heckler to “shut the (expletive) up,” Turner might as well been speaking to all who still harp on his 4-year, $70 million contract.

“First off, let me say one thing: Everything I have done, I have earned,’’ Turner said. “My contract – that’s my bread, and I earned my bread. So, kiss my ass. Dead serious. Write that. I earned that (expletive) money.’’

In Portland, his teammates call him one of the smartest players on the team. And his coach says he is invaluable both for his defensive versatility and for his array of offensive weapons, from posting up, to shooting mid-range to passing to running the offense. And above all, they all say he is team first, all the time.

As the old Marionaire parable says: "Don't hate the player. Hate the game."

 THOSE WMDs. ESPN and NFL executives describe their relationship as worse its ever been... Man arrested in 1986 murder of Massachusetts teenager... Insanely popular YouTube channel making bank off fake science... British groundsmen making splash at at Europe's biggest clubs and beyond... Woman on trial for hiring a hitman charged with same crime again.

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