Skull Session: Why Ryan Day Chose Ohio State Over the NFL, Chris Holtmann Recruits Transfers, and Why You Shouldn't Sleep on Malik Harrison

By Kevin Harrish on May 22, 2019 at 4:59 am
Ohio State helmets are lined up in today's Skull Session.

I greet you this morning with the hilarious realization that no current college football prospect was alive for Michigan's last national title.

Better yet, someone born in 1997 (the year of Michigan's last claimed title) can legally drink alcohol.


Word of the Day: Aeonian.

 CFB > NFL. I think there is at least a slight concern among the Buckeye faithful that Ryan Day will bolt to the NFL as soon as he has a prime chance (more specifically, whenever Bill Belichick croaks or decides to hang it up).

It's a legit fear, and one that I've expressed privately on multiple occasions. But the problem with that theory is Day already turned down an NFL offensive coordinator job – which likely would have led to an NFL head coaching job shortly after – to stay at Ohio State.

The reason is, he wants to be here. He wants to coach an elite college football team. That's always been the plan, and his stint in the NFL was to help him achieve that goal.

From Doug Lesmerises of

“At the end of the day, there were times I would go home,” Day said of his previous stops as a football assistant, “and I’d feel like I’d be working a million hours and I’d have nothing to show for it. You’d be working as hard as you could possibly work, but at the end of the day, you come home to your wife and kids and you’re like, ‘What do I have to show for this?’

“Here, you’re relevant. Here, you have something to show for it. Here, it makes sense. You’re working a million hours and you’re on the road recruiting and you’re doing all these things, but at the end of the day, you’re competing for a championship. You’re competing for a Big Ten Championship, you’re in the Rose Bowl, you’re taking your family to the Cotton Bowl.

“These are the things I’ll never forget.”


Day looked at his two NFL seasons as pursuing his football PhD.

“You spend your whole time on football, where you just don’t have that time in college,” Day said. “When I went to the NFL, I said, ‘I’m going to spend my whole time until I’m out of the NFL studying quarterback play and the pro passing game. I’m going to study that and that’s what I did. When I got done with my experience there, I was ready to go coach anywhere in the country and have great conversations with the best minds in football about quarterback play and the passing game.”

The whole article is a great read from Doug. It talks about Day coaches college athletes differently than professional athletes, goes a little deeper into the reasons the Day family chose Ohio State over the NFL, and talks about R.J. Day's relationship with the Ohio State quarterbacks.

The more I read and hear about Day, the more positive I am Ohio State just replaced an absolute coaching legend with a legitimate coaching prodigy, and Michigan fans are going to be inching closer to the ledge when they figure that out.

They waited 10 years for Jim Tressel's departure, and then got Urban Meyer instead. They waited seven years for him to leave, and now the Buckeyes have a spry 40-year-old who by all accounts seems to be a beautiful combination of the two guys that just went a combined 16-1 against them.

But at least they saw South Africa!

 RECRUITING TRANSFERS. Whatever your stance on transfers in college athletics, the practice is widespread and ain't going anywhere. And like any good coach, Chris Holtmann's going to do everything he can to use that climate to his advantage.

From Joe Scalzo of the Canton Rep:

“Recruiting in the last five or 10 years has changed dramatically from 25 years ago,” Holtmann said. “Recruits from 25 years ago, for the most part, would stay in your program for three or four years. They’d give your fan base a chance to know them and identify with them.

“Now, there’s over 850 Division I men’s basketball transfers (so far this spring). There will be over 1,200 to 1,300 by the time mid-summer rolls around. You’re basically looking at one out of every two young men transferring before their junior or senior year.”


The NCAA seems to be getting looser with transfer waivers, not tighter. (New Buckeye QB Justin Fields is a perfect example.) And Holtmann understands that a Power Five school such as Ohio State can’t afford to ignore potential prospects, just because they’re looking to transfer from their old school. He got a solid rotation player two years ago in guard Andrew Dakich, who came to Columbus as a graduate transfer from Michigan.

“Everybody recruits transfers,” Holtmann said. “Now, they have to be the right one. We’re not going to take a guy if he’s complaining about his coach the whole time. Or if there’s a hint of trouble off the floor. But if there’s a young man who said, ‘Man, I loved where I was at, but I want to be closer to home.’ Or, ‘Coach, I loved where I was at, but we were struggling and I want to be at a program where I can win.’

“Sometimes those transfers work out. Sometimes they don’t. But you have to continue to recruit guys like that because every program in the country experiences turnover in some way.”

Loyalty and four-year players are really cool things, but winning is also a really cool thing. And if the Buckeyes have a shot to add a transfer player that can help them win more, they should do that.

There's no reason a program like Ohio State shouldn't be one of the teams benefiting from a relatively open transfer market. So until the NCAA decides to tighten things up (they won't), give me all of your C.J. Walkers and Justice Sueings. I will have them.

 DON'T SLEEP ON MALIK. Ohio State's linebackers were a collective dumpster fire most of last year, but people seem to forget that Malik Harrison is a legit stud who had a chance to jump to the NFL as an underclassman.

He obviously decided to stay another year instead, and former NFL director of player personnel and current analyst Gil Brandt has him among the best senior linebackers in the country heading into the 2020 season.

Let's make a pact not to lump him in with the other backers this offseason, because he's more than earned his respect and praise.

 THRIVING OUTSIDE. I remember quite vividly when Curtis Samuel was most of Ohio State's effective offense in 2016. I'm still not all the way sure if those are fond memories or haunting memories, but I am sure that he was extremely good and could do damn near everything.

His position quickly became "however we can get him the ball in space as quickly as possible," which meant plenty of snaps at running back and the slot, and not many outside. But at the next level, the Panthers wanted him to play out wide. And you'll be shocked to learn he was pretty good at that as well.

From Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus:

Samuel, a former four-star athlete turned gadget player for the Buckeyes, played just 66 of his 1,118 career offensive snaps from an outside wide receiver alignment at the collegiate level. The Panthers’ coaching staff, however, had different plans for their second-round pick and have since played the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Samuel at outside wide receiver on 476 of his 692 offensive snaps in the NFL.

And the results have been encouraging.

After earning just a 54.9 receiving grade at outside receiver in his debut NFL season (2017), Samuel caught 34-of-51 targets for 403 yards, 15 first downs and five touchdowns at his new position this past season, improving his receiving grade at outside receiver to from 54.9 in 2017 to 74.8 in 2018.


After catching passes on just four different route concepts in 2017, Samuel split out his receiving production to 10 different route concepts in 2018. Most notably, his receiving production ballooned while running hitches, post routes and crossing routes.

It's almost like he's just an incredible and versatile football player. Who would have ever guessed that?

 JOHNNIE D! Johnnie Dixon wasn't drafted, but if his Ohio State career taught us anything, it's that it's not a good idea to give up on him. And it sounds like he's already turning some important heads down in Texas.

Without an intimate understanding of the Texans receiver depth, I have a good feeling Johnnie can make the roster. He's too versatile and too good on special teams for him not to be an asset somewhere. 

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