Skull Session: Tracy Sprinkle Thrives Despite Adversity, D'Angelo Russell Helped Secure DJ Carton's Commitment, and Larry Johnson's Martial Arts Techniques

By Kevin Harrish on July 24, 2018 at 4:59 am
Dwayne Haskins.

Well, yesterday was eventful and with Urban Meyer and three players set to appear before the media, today should be more of the same.

Make sure you're following @11W, @Dan_Hope, @JGrega11 and @AndrewMLind on Twitter for live updates from the Big Ten media days as we hear from Urban Meyer, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Prince and Dre'Mont Jones.


Word of the Day: Operose.

 DON'T BET AGAINST TRACY SPRINKLE. Tracy Sprinkle went undrafted following his senior season at Ohio State, meaning he'll have to earn a roster spot during the preseason. But that's fine with him; nothing's come easy his entire life, he's not about to stop fighting now.

In an article he wrote for, Sprinkle discussed his difficult upbringing that made him who he is today. He was born the youngest of 12 into a family living off of food stamps, and suffered through the death of his brother, who was shot in killed at age 22.

Now, he faces his next battle.

From Sprinkle:

After all the challenges that I’ve faced, my biggest occupational one lies ahead. I’ll use everything at my disposal to conquer it, from the past heartache and adversity to the lesson learned along the way.

The competition is never comfortable, but it’s not catching me off-guard. Ohio State fostered plenty of tough battles for playing time. Still, it’s different here. You are fighting against grown men who are all trying to feed their families. Jobs are on the line.

Ultimately, I want to get through camp healthy. I have to be durable and keep my mind on the game. Some say you can have a great camp and make it elsewhere if things don’t work out here, but I want to be on the Carolina Panthers. This is my team. Now it’s time to hit the field and prove my worth.

I have to Keep Pounding.

After all Sprinkle's gone through in his life, I'm not about to count him out now. He's got too much drive and too much to play for. He's making that roster. Book it.

 LARRY JOHNSON, MARTIAL ARTIST. It's no secret that Larry Johnson is one of, if not the best defensive line coach at any level of football, but the reason for his success has its roots not in football, but in martial arts from a man named Joe Kim, a fourth-degree tae kwon do black belt who worked on Bill Belichick's staff.

From Bruce Feldman of The Athletic ($):

“I didn’t really know much about football,” Kim told The Athletic. “They started teaching me about what they need to win pass-rush drills. I was pulling out martial arts drills — Yes, that works. No, that won’t. Maybe this will. After a couple of months, the players were just raving about it. I went over and met Coach Belichick and (Browns defensive coordinator) Nick Saban. They asked me to demonstrate some things, and Bill ended up hiring me.”

Kim would watch tape with Belichick, Saban and defensive line coach Jim Bates. He learned what they needed and would come up with more drills.

The basis of Kim’s hand work came from the hapkido self-defense manipulation; the footwork — being able to match and marry your hands and feet together — came from tae kwon do, and the grabbing art of using your leverage stemmed from judo and jiu jitsu, he says.

Johnson, always looking to improve his craft, reached out to Kim and with his help and input, developed the technique that he's taught some of the most dominant pass rushers to come through the program recently like the Bosa brothers, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes.

 MARRIED BETWEEN BASKETBALL GAMES. There's been some speculation that Jared Sullinger, who carried The Scarlet & Gray alumni team on his back for much of the first two games of the TBT, will not be with the team this weekend because he's getting married on Saturday.

The team has been insistent, though still vague and noncommittal, that he would still be playing. But now it seems a little more definitive:

Sullinger's wedding is on Saturday and The Scarlet & Gray's games are on Friday and Sunday, which means if this happens, he'd literally be getting married between games. As insane as that sounds, his teammates will gladly let him do it, because he finished the last game with 28 points and 20 boards.

But even if he doesn't play, the Buckeye alumni are getting reinforcements from a large, large man as Greg Oden is joining the team this weekend. I feel like there's no way he's anywhere near as dominant during his playing days, but I'm absolutely going to tune in to find out.

 WE'RE REALLY GONNA DO THIS AGAIN? At this time last year, media types were tabbing the basketball Buckeyes to finish as low as 13th in the Big Ten with nobody of note predicting first-year Chris Holtmann and his squad to finish in the top half of the conference.

Folks, they're at it again.

Look, I get it. Ohio State lost most of its contributors from last season, including the Big Ten Player of the Year, but we all saw what Holtmann did to a team that went 6-10 in the conference in like three months. You really want to pick him to finish 10th in the conference when he's had a full season to coach and recruit next year's team?

I'm not saying the Buckeyes will win the national title this season – they'll have to wait until next season for that – but doubting this squad after what we witnessed last season just seems a tad reckless.

Then again, I'm just a guy who puts words online.

 FULL-COURT PRESS FOR CARTON. Chris Holtmann's mind was made up, the Buckeyes were getting DJ Carton. There was no backup plan.

The staff basically put their entire recruiting schedule on hold pending his commitment, letting him know he wasn't just valuable, he was their only real option.

It was bold, but it worked.


"That whole staff could have been spread all over watching grassroots, AAU basketball. And they said, 'No, we need to make this guy a priority,'" Bettendorf head coach Curtis Clark said. "It’s kind of unprecedented."

Carton said seeing Ohio State coaches rearrange their recruiting schedule just to host him July 11-12 (during July's first evaluation period) spoke volumes.

"I’ve been their guy," he said. "They didn't recruit any other point guards for 2019. They said they were going to stick with me until I was ready to make a decision. That means a lot. I want someone to like me for who I am and trust me."

Of course, it helps that Russell reached out to Carton, too.

"He was telling me about how special Ohio State is and how you’ll be remembered forever," said Carton, who was wearing a Buckeye shirt with Russell’s name on the back. "How he could have gone to all these big-time schools and things like that, and how he was recruited by all these blue-bloods — and how Ohio State meant something to him, and how special it was."

The coolest thing about this is Silk closing the deal, especially after just a year ago he said he didn't think he would ever come back with Thad Matta gone. Now, he's helping the Buckeyes lock down their five-star point guard of the future.

And now, Carton has turned recruiter himself, and is dead set on bringing four-star forward E.J. Liddell with him to Columbus, which would likely seal up a top-five recruiting class for Ohio State.

We're just one year removed from what was basically a full-system restart, and Buckeye basketball is back running smoothly.

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