Skull Session: Offense Won't Change, The Value of Versatile Linemen, and Business As Usual at the Final Four

By D.J. Byrnes on March 31, 2018 at 4:59 am
Johnnie Dixon blazes the March 31st 2018 Skull Session

I'm starting to think winter is over in Ohio and we have moved into our traditional spring season of relentless rain.

Big shoutout to Mesopotamia for inventing the levee. Without it, Piqua would be Atlantis by now.


Word of the Day: Gelding.

 TIME IS A FLAT CIRCLE. When Urban Meyer reshuffled his offensive braintrust in 2017, many thought it would lead to an entirely new look. That wasn't the case, though last year's offense was more efficient than the 2016 version.

With J.T. Barrett preparing for the draft, Meyer and Co. once again have a chance to shake things up with three potential quarterbacks of differing skill sets. And while each would bring their own wrinkle to the offense, don't expect a massive overhaul.

From James Grega of Eleven Warriors, whom you should follow on Twitter:

The consensus analysis of the Ohio State quarterback battle is that Dwayne Haskins is the best pure passer, Tate Martell is the most effective runner and Joe Burrow is a combination of both. 

With that, Wilson said the balance of Ohio State's offense won't change, but the reads for the quarterback, depending on who it is, might. 

"I think you play to the strengths. The plays don't change. Now, instead of reading the end, we are blocking him and throwing a run-pass option. It will be a lot of the same running game and a lot of the same protections," Wilson said. "Maybe the protection doesn't change, but the route concepts that the (quarterback) is comfortable with – if certain guys throw certain concepts better, you emphasize those – but you still have to balance the field and attack the defense. In the run game, you still run the offense."

If there's one area Dwayne Haskins showed inconsistency last year, it was on the read-option with running backs. If he hasn't improved, that could be the area Joe Burrow exploits. We all know how much Meyer loves to put close games on the legs of his quarterback—even if RPOs are available.

 VERSATILE LINEMEN = DEPTH. Meyer arrived at Ohio State and decreed the offensive line would drive his program. He improved depth by increasing the Buckeyes' focus on offensive linemen, generally bringing in more per year than his predecessor Jim Tressel.

Meyer and Tressel, however, agree on the value of lineman capable of playing multiple positions.


Tressel viewed it as a way to spread out the numbers a bit. If there were 13 offensive linemen signed, and half of them could play multiple positions, then they’re actually deeper than just 13 players. Under Meyer’s system, the same holds true, but there are generally a couple more options to turn to.

The 2018 Buckeyes should have 15 scholarship linemen, but their overall versatility makes them even deeper. And the competition that comes from that talent and versatility keeps everyone on their toes.

“I think that’s the really cool thing about what we have going right now,” said fifth-year senior center Brady Taylor. “Everyone is so competitive, everyone can play a lot of positions, and it makes everyone step up their game every day. They know that their spot is on the table to be had and they can kind of plug and chug anywhere. I think in the end it’s going to be the best five that play. It makes it really competitive and fun just because we’re all competing every day.”

Taylor's competition, Josh Myers, is a perfect example of this. A move to guard always seemed destined, yet not many predicted a move to center. And though Meyer has been fortunate in lack of lineman injuries, that can change in a couple of snaps.

If Branden Bowen returns to pre-injury form at right guard, I'm getting more bullish on the offensive line with every article I read.

 WHAT'S A SUBPOENA TO A GOBLIN? When the FBI announced a probe into the corruption of NCAA basketball recruiting (who knew such a thing existed!?), visions of Rick Pitino spending the rest of his life on a bread and water diet in federal prison danced in my mind.

Maybe then the NCAA would be forced to reckon with the black market created by its rules. It becomes clearer every day I should have known better.


“It once was true that a coach who got in NCAA trouble could not get hired at another school,” said Jo Potuto, a Nebraska law professor and longtime member of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. “That no longer is the case. I regret this trend. I do not see how universities can recapture the ethical center, can demonstrate that athletics does not run the show, if these hires continue to happen.”

To veteran industry observers, the federal investigation that was supposed to change everything in a scandal-scarred sport has really changed nothing. “I thought it would be different,” Martelli said. “I’m watching these hires from the outside looking in, and I’ll say, ‘Huh?'”

People generally care less about ethics when they stand to profit. Colleges, which have bottom lines like everyone else and are comprised of people, are the same. That's why clean guys like Thad Matta are put to pasture for not competing against cheaters.

You know who is breathing a big sigh of relief about this, though? College football bagmen. You can almost hear them laughing while lighting cigars with burning $100 bills and clinking glasses of Scotch.

At least with this Final Four come Monday we will no longer have to deal with Michigan or Sister Jean. I done had enough of these Cinderallas.

 HEY, LIL' HERM, LET ME WHISPER IN YOUR EAR. I remain convinced the Herm Edwards era at Arizona State will be a hilarious calamity, which is why it's weird to see Edwards actually looking like a competent coach.


Edwards practices are much quieter. His philosophy: The lower a coach talks, the more players have to concentrate. If there’s a lot of yelling, it eventually just turns into noise.

 It’s a style he absorbed during his days in Tampa.

“It’s funny you say that,” Dungy said during a recent telephone conversation. “Because I can remember an article (a Florida writer) wrote here in Tampa when we first got here in 1996 that said he never had been around a professional football practice that quiet.”


“You instruct people and tell them what to do, but it’s a teaching environment,’’ Dungy said. “That’s what we wanted to create. We would get players who were motivated and we’d get players who were hungry and we would just teach them, so we felt like we didn’t have to have that high decibel range all the time.”

Please read all my columns in Herm Edwards' whisper voice. That is how I talk now.

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