Skull Session: Alex Hornibrook Grades Higher Than Dwayne Haskins, Slobs Among the Nation's Best and People Are Doubting Chris Holtmann Again

By Kevin Harrish on October 11, 2018 at 4:59 am
Mike Weber high fives the band.
Ohio State Athletics

This is the best thing I've seen online in at least a month.

Caution: It might get a little dusty in here.


Word of the Day: Lacuna.

 HORNIBROOK > HASKINS? I generally love Pro Football Focus. I love the work they do, I think their advanced stats are incredible and their game grades are extremely helpful in comparing players who might not always generate stats.

I'm positive everyone that works there is smarter than me, and I'm going to keep using them in the Skull Session for as long as I sit on this throne.

That said, they gave Alex Hornibrook the highest grade of any quarterback in the Big Ten Conference, topping Dwayne Haskins by more than eight points. I just think that's wrong, regardless of what their numbers say.

They gave Haskins the third-highest grade in the Big Ten with an 83.9, behind Trace McSorley's 90.8 and Hornibrook's 92. Here is their rational:

From Pro Football Focus:

Noticeably on this list above, Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins averages a depth of target of just 7.9 yards past the line of scrimmage, the second-lowest in the conference. This, of course, has led to the fact that 54.8% of his passing yards have come after the catch this season. Of all 14 Big Ten quarterbacks with at least 90 dropbacks in 2018, Haskins has targeted passes short of the first-down markers the most, throwing a pass short of the line to gain on 61.6% of his passes.

Obviously, Haskins’ 25 touchdowns lead the conference as the next closest, Peyton Ramsey, only has 11, but Haskins’ supporting cast has been doing a large amount of the work for him, a larger amount than most in the conference. He has only nine big-time throws despite his large number of touchdowns (big-time throws are the highest-graded throws in the PFF grading system). Not every touchdown throw is the same and not every touchdown throw is going to move the needle, that’s where PFF grades differ from the standard efficiency ratings or the QBR so commonly attached to college quarterbacks. In the same fashion, not all interceptions are the same and not all interceptions are the quarterback’s fault. PFF grades take into consideration only what an individual player can control and doesn’t give extra credit for another player putting forth an outstanding effort and coincidentally, doesn’t fault a player for someone else’s mistake.


Speaking of clean-pocket passing, Haskins has much to thank his offensive line for as well this season as he’s been kept clean from pressure on 79.7% of his dropback attempts – the most in the Big Ten. He sees a significant drop in passer rating from that 147.2 mark all the way down to 46.9 when pressured, seeing the biggest dropoff in passer rating from a clean pocket to under pressure.

Yes, the old adage is true, ‘obviously, a quarterback will fare much better when kept clean than when pressured’ but a dropoff of over 100.0 points is massive and is the biggest jump of any Big Ten quarterback. That area of weakness showed up on the big stage against Penn State during his lowest-graded output of the season. He finished with a 38.6 grade when under pressure against the Nittany Lions.

Here's the thing, I agree with pretty much everything they said here – kind of.

Haskins doesn't really throw down field very often, his receivers are the ones responsible for the majority of his passing yards and touchdowns – especially in the biggest game of his career – and pressure bothers him more than a typical quarterback.

Those are all fair criticisms. But at some point, you have to just use your brain instead of the computer to avoid situations like this:

I think those are all fair criticisms of Haskins, and I think they should definitely be considered when comparing him to guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Kyler Murray, Will Grier, or hell, even McSorley.

But if your calculations spit out Alex Hornibrook as the highest-graded quarterback in the Big Ten – higher than Haskins by an eight points – maybe don't take that as gospel.

I'm not sure there's a coach in the world that would willingly allow Hornibrook to quarterback their team over Haskins.

 SPEAKING OF A CLEAN POCKET. With how great Dwayne Haskins has been when he has time to throw and how steep his production drops off once he faces pressure, I think it's fair to say Ohio State's offensive line has played a huge part in his success this season.

The slobs have been great for the most part this season, especially in pass blocking situations, even with a new tackle, a new guard and Michael Jordan shuffling over to center. Pro Football Focus has the Ohio State offensive line as the No. 6 line in the nation midway through the season.

From Pro Football Focus:

The Buckeyes offensive line is once again one of the very best in the nation, thanks to their efficiency in pass protection and strength in the running game. Center Michael Jordan has been their best player so far, with just two hurries allowed from 231 pass-blocking snaps, and just one penalty committed on 431 snaps since the season began. They are tied with Washington as the 22nd-ranked team in the nation with a pass-blocking efficiency rating of 92.7, and Ohio State running backs see an average of 2.42 yards before contact per carry.

Keep in mind, that's including two games against a top-15 S&P defense in TCU and a strong pass rush in a hostile environment against Penn State. We're six games in, and the offensive line has been battle tested in pass protection and come out the other side.

Now if they could just start creating a little more space in the running game.

 SHAWN SPRINGS TALKS HASKINS. It's no secret that Dwayne Haskins is going to have a decision to make after this season.

He's clearly got the talent to jump to the league after just one year as a starter and already has scouts salivating, it's just going to be a matter of how this season turns out and what he wants to do.

Thankfully for Haskins, he's got a mentor who's been riding with him since middle school who happens to have gone through the same process at the same school – Buckeye All-American Shawn Springs.

From  Kalyn Kahler of

Springs first discovered Haskins when the quarterback was a seventh grader at a passing camp for middle school football players in Hillsborough, N.J. Springs was sitting in the stands watching his son Skyler, a sixth grader at the time, when he noticed a chubby kid with a killer arm. “I see this little kid out there throwing the ball,” he says. “My son is in the same line and I'm like geez, my son is throwing it like 20 yards and Dwayne is throwing it like 50 yards.”

After the practice ended, Springs followed the kid with the big arm and introduced himself to his dad, Dwayne Haskins Sr. The two dads hit it off, and Springs became a close family friend and mentor to Dwayne Jr., so close that Haskins Sr. turned down an interview request for this story but passed along Springs’s contact info to speak on his behalf. After that passing camp, whenever Springs went to New Jersey for his own football camps or other business he’d stop by the Haskins family home in Highland Park to watch film with Dwayne Jr., who he says had an advanced football IQ for his age. “He’s in eighth grade and on tape, he is already like a senior in high school,” Springs says. “I would escalate the conversation a little more, like, He,y when it's Cover 3, Cover 4... I’m talking to him like he is a high school or college kid, and he is only 14 at the time and he got it.”


After his junior year at Ohio State, Springs was faced with the same kind of tough decision Haskins will have to make this offseason. Springs was named All-America and Big Ten defensive player of the year in the 1996, and he felt like he’d accomplished everything he could on the field except that he hadn’t yet won a national championship and hadn’t been voted a team captain.

The main advice he’ll give to Haskins is the same thing he asked himself after the 1996 season. “What makes you happy?” he says. “Will you be excited to go back to college another year and win another award? One of the things we talk about is your obligation as a student-athlete is to the Ohio State University. You want to leave your legacy there. What is that going to mean 20 years from now, when you bring your kids back to the university? What is your legacy?”

Of course, we know what Springs did – he left and was selected No. 3 overall, which remains the highest a cornerback has ever been taken in the NFL Draft.

Either way, it would be adding to Haskins' legacy. But selfishly, I want to see him back.

 WE'RE REALLY DOING THIS AGAIN? Folks, the people are doubting Chris Holtmann again, even after paying dearly for their words last year.

Look, I get it. All signs point to a pretty subpar season. The Buckeyes lost Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams this offseason and have a youth-heavy, unproven lineup this season. Ohio State overachieved last year and it ain't happening twice, right?

See, I'm not betting on that. Last year I thought the team was going to be absolutely atrocious and borderline unwatchable and then the Bucks were slapping Izzo by 20 and erasing 14-point deficits against Purdue on the road.

After what I watched last year, I'm giving Holtmann the benefit of the doubt before assuming this team is going to be bad. And if the Buckeyes are bad this year, it's cool. They'll just win the national title the year after.

 SPIELMAN'S CRIB UP FOR SALE. If you're in the market for a new abode in the Columbus area, you have chance to purchase from Buckeye legend Chris Spielman.

From Better Homes and Gardens:

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It's 9,023, has 7 bedrooms and 8.5 bathrooms with an asking price of $2.15 million, and as someone blogging from a half-finished attic bedroom in the campus area, I can say with authority that it is beautiful.

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