Skull Session: Hilliard and Cornell Persevere Together, Grinch's Exit Leaves Wazzou in a Hard Place, and Behind-the-Scenes with Coach Jenkins

By D.J. Byrnes on May 23, 2018 at 4:59 am
Jordan Fuller tackles the May 23 2018 Skull Session

We're flipping out of the office for an early Memorial Weekend at 2 p.m. today like Wisconsin's 336-pound nose tackle Olive Sagapolu:

Look at the size of that lad. What an absolute unit.


Word of the Day: Ingenue.

 HILLIARD & CORNELL PERSEVERE. Eleven Warriors last crashed (in our pre-12th Warrior days) when Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell committed on July 2, 2014, an event locals dubbed "10-Star Wednesday."

It was a grand occasion welcoming two future Hall of Famers into the fold, and I celebrated by not doing any work until noon that day.

As we now know, hype sometimes fades before on-the-field production can replace it. A lot of the time, it's due injury. Such was the case with Hilliard and Cornell, who have maintained their bond through their struggles.


“We came in here together. Committed on the same day,” Hilliard said. “Been really close since sophomore year of high school. We kind of went through the same struggles.”


“Yeah, it was hard. It was really hard because I had some bumps in the road,” [Cornell] said. “I had a hernia my sophomore year. I kept getting hurt and that would always set me back.”

After the healing process, Cornell is down in weight and fully healthy, and he feels great where he’s at right now.

It would be sweet to see Hilliard and Cornell stay healthy this year and finally contribute. Even better if it came on a championship team and they could ride off into the sunset together.

 REPLACING A GRINCH. Let's all take a moment to thank ourselves for having the sense to cheer for an alpha college football program. If an Ohio State assistant leaves, he's almost instantly replaced with someone who is at least an equal.

For other programs, losing a key assistant can be devastating. Just ask Washington State. The Cougars went from Alex Grinch to Minnesota's old bag of garbage.


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One of the departures was of the best hire Leach has ever made. Coordinator Alex Grinch transformed Wazzu’s defense from barely-top-100 to, in 2017, a top-30 unit (per S&P+), but he left to become DC in waiting (more or less) at Ohio State. The Claeys hire was an astute one — Minnesota had a top-40 defense in each of his last three years in Minneapolis, as either DC or head coach — but Grinch set the bar high. If there’s a difference between Leach’s performance at Tech and Wazzu, it’s that he averaged only 3.4 one-possession finishes per year in Lubbock and has averaged 5.5 in Pullman. Grinch was a big part of navigating those.


But the Wazzu defense was simply ... reliable. The Cougs completed their absurd transformation under Grinch, who inherited a defense ranked 101st in Def. S&P+ three years earlier and improved to 74th, then 63rd, then 29th.

Grinch established an aggressive, efficient identity that occasionally got them into trouble — Arizona and Khalil Tate torched them to the tune of 58 points and 11.5 yards per play — but overall held opponents to 17.4 points per game (with two shutouts) and 4.2 yards per play in their nine.

Looking at that chart, it's easy to see why Urban Meyer focused on Grinch as soon as NCAA laws allowed the hiring of a 10th assistant coach. He'll be just fine when Greg Schiano inevitably departs for a program that's not run by a clown cabal after this season.

 BEHIND-THE-SCENES WITH COACH JENKINS. Malcolm Jenkins is one of the suavest figures in Buckeye Kingdom and watching him work the locker room and sidelines during the spring game is a pleasure:

Quite the ambassador for the university.

 DADS LOVE TO DAD. One of my favorite tropes in college sports is when dads get indignant in the defense of their sons, the greatest player to walk the gridiron since Demario McCall laced 'em up.

Enter Owen Brennan, father of LSU quarterback Myles Brennan, who was once considered the favorite to replace Purdue-castoff Danny Etling. Brennan's battle against Lowell Narcisse and Justin McMillan got more heated this weak when famous Midwest gunslinger Joey Burrito strolled through the saloon doors.

Papa Brennan, however, remains unfazed.


Regardless of the changes, Owen said his son "is good with where he is."

"I try not to read social media but with these developments and the quarterback coming in, some people are losing their minds,” he said. “I want people to know that emotionally it has not affected Myles at all.


"Here's what I think: I think Joe Burrow has three years and 15 pounds on Myles. That's it," Owen said. "I don't think he has a huge upper hand."

Owen is partial to his son, but he said he's not worried about Myles' spot on the depth chart.

As anyone who has any experience with youth sports knows, the only way this can be settled is for the Brennans and the Burrows to rumble in the parking lot after practice.

These blood laws predate the Constitution.

 BOTTLE FLIPPING PUNTER AT IT AGAIN. Drue Chrisman, the Notorious B.F.P., is at it again. This time remixing the coffee run scene in Baby Driver:

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