Skull Session: Jim Tressel's Michigan Mentality, Zach Harrison's Disdain For Recruiting, and Dwayne Haskins' Understanding of the Rivalry

By Kevin Harrish on November 22, 2018 at 4:59 am
Dwayne Haskins beat Michigan. People forget that.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Enjoy the feasting and consume the nervous bird with confidence.

Reminder: The Best Damn Band in the Land is marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning on NBC. Set your DVRs accordingly, and be sure to tune in.


Word of the Day: Anathema.

 TWICE AS IMPORTANT AS ANYTHING ELSE. John Cooper's foundering against Michigan shaped many of your collective disdains for that particular school to the north. His failures against the Wolverines gradually made that game more important than life.

As a mere youngling, I do not have that as the base of my distain, but don't think for a second that means I write off the importance of this game.

I never experienced that pain of losing, but that's just because the coach I grew up with instead cared near-neurotically about that game – as if it was the only thing that mattered. As a result, he kicked the shit out of team up north for a decade.

Jim Tressel's commitment to beating Michigan gets even more impressive in hindsight. Especially when you realize his inaugural address was not scripted; he knew off the top of his head how many days it was until that game, and where it would be played. And when he was spontaneously handed a microphone that, that's the thing he wanted to talk about.

From Laken Litman of

Jim Tressel wasn’t expecting to say anything. On the night he was formally introduced as Ohio State’s new head coach, greeting the crowd at the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game in Columbus on Jan. 18, 2001, he thought he’d smile, wave and “we’d live happily ever after,” as Tressel says now. But that evening, following introductory remarks by former athletic director Andy Geiger, Tressel was abruptly handed a microphone.

On the spot, he came up with his first address to Buckeye Nation: “I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan.”

The fellow in the sweater vest delivered, downing Michigan 26-20. And then he delivered the next year, and then eight out of the next nine. He knew how much it mattered, and that manifested itself in wins.

“The only way we ever measured any other game or any other moment versus the Michigan game is we always used to talk about that one yard in the Michigan game is worth two. Everything is magnified times two,” Tressel says.

“I guess surmising the discussions we constantly had, I suppose you could say it was twice as important as anything else.”

"Twice as important as anything else" is what that coach modeled for me as a young Buckeye fan, and that might even be underselling it.

Shit, get me a helmet. I've still got some eligibility and I'm ready to rumble a few days early.

 A MAN OF FEW WORDS. Five-star defensive end Zach Harrison, perhaps Urban Meyer's most coveted prospect since his arrival in Columbus, is planning to enroll at his selected school in January. Meaning, a decision has to be coming soon.

But it's not here yet.

From Ari Wasserman of The Athletic ($):

Are you down to a final three of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State? “Yes.”

Do you have a plan for making your decision? “No.”

At The Opening Finals in Dallas over the summer, you said you were very confused with your recruitment. Is that still true? “Yes and no.”

What does that mean? “I am still confused, but I am not as confused.”

OK, but you’re torn between the three? “Yes.”

Do you think it’s strange that you’re not going to Ohio State for the Michigan game on Saturday? “No.”

Do you think people are going to read into that? “Yes.”

Do you care? “No.”


“I answer the questions the best way I can answer them,” Harrison said. “If you don’t get much out of the answers, I’m sorry.”

Harrison said he hasn’t really thought a lot about much of the stuff people are saying about him. He doesn’t think he’s a public figure, he disagrees if you tell him he isn’t just some regular high school student and he hasn’t given much thought about how important his recruitment is to Urban Meyer and Ohio State.

Yup. That's Zach Harrison.

Harrison genuinely hates everything about the recruiting process and wants no part of the fame or publicity that comes with being one of the five best players in the country. And in an era of kids announcing their top-20 schools and absurd commitment videos, that's actually incredibly refreshing.

He thinks it's insane that so many people are emotionally invested in where a high schooler decides to go to go to college, and he's been sick of talking about it since day one.

Here's an example. In this video, he would like to be doing just about anything else in the world that isn't this interview.

That's what makes the people in the comments sections calling him an "attention whore" or a "prima donna" so hilarious, because it's the absolute furthest thing from the truth. If he could go through this entire process without a single person so much as knowing his name, he absolutely would.

He visited Ohio State yesterday, and visited campus a few weeks ago on a campus tour as a regular prospective student. But he won't be attending the game on Saturday because, as Ari notes in his piece, he wants to watch it on television at his friends house, which is awesome and hilarious.

I don't know when he's going to commit, I don't know where he's going to commit, and he doesn't either, or he would have done it by now.

What I do know is that he has no interest in playing recruiting games. He's just trying to quietly decide where he wants to spend the next few years of his life. And I respect the hell out of that.

 TOLEDO WOLVERINES. As a proud Ohioan, I am keenly aware of the Toledo War, when our brave Ohioans met the enemies to the north to put the contested border city and its surrounding lands in friendly territory.

What I somehow missed in that story was that the University of Michigan was originally slated to be founded in Toledo – before Ohio took what was theirs.

From Kyle Rowland of The Toledo Blade:

The Toledo War unfolded the next year, resulting in one wounded man and the wounded psyche of an entire territory. Michigan, which became a state in 1837, was given the Upper Peninsula as consolation for losing the war.

Lost in its battle with Ohio was 900 acres in present-day Toledo where construction of an institution of higher education was planned: the University of Michigan.

Instead of Fifth Third Field, picture the Big House. Instead of Spaghetti Warehouse, imagine the University of Michigan’s historic Shapiro Undergraduate Library. Instead of Promenade Park, envision UM’s Quad.


On Huron Street, between Grumpy’s and Bronze Boar, is a plaque that reads, “One of Toledo’s oldest neighborhoods and originally in Michigan, Huron St. Village was considered as the site of the University of Michigan. After the outcome of the Michigan-Toledo War of 1835 the area was permanently established in Ohio and averted the proposed location of the University from here.”

Oh hell yeah.

This feels like a much bigger win now. Our brave troops took the proposed Wolverine stronghold, forced the enemy further north and added a critical buffer region for sustained defense of the borders.

 QUINCY AVERY BRIDGES THE GAP. A few weeks ago, we got a peak at quarterback trainer Quincy Avery's relationship with Dwayne Haskins.

A few days before the greatest rivalry in all of sport, UNINTERRUPTED shows us Avery talking to the starting quarterbacks of both sides of Saturday's conflict.

My biggest takeaway from this video is that Haskins has been preparing for this game for months.

The way he talks, he's had it circled on the calendar all season, and he knows this is the real one. And as someone who grew up watching Jim Tressel teams, I think it's safe to say he has a healthy appreciation for how important this game is.

I mean, he grew up idolizing Troy Smith.

And for those of you wondering about the cordial relationship he displayed with Shea Patterson a few weeks ago when he sought advice on playing Michigan State, he's well aware that he's the enemy this week.

“I'm not going to talk to him that week,” Haskins said.

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