Skull Session: Gunnar Hoak's Buckeye Blood, David Pollack's Bitterness Towards Justin Fields, and Denzel Ward's Workout With Odell Beckham Jr.

By Kevin Harrish on June 11, 2019 at 4:59 am
Ohio State has strong shoe game in today's Skull Session.

Here's hoping the ground stays in one place this morning all across the Buckeye state.


Word of the Day: Prevaricate.

 BUCKEYE BLOOD RUNS DEEP. If all goes according to plan, Gunnar Hoak won't play a competitive snap for the Buckeyes. But by just putting on the uniform and running out of that tunnel this fall, he'll be living his childhood dream.

From my friend Bill Landis of The Athletic ($):

Hoak sat with his family on Easter Sunday at their home in the Columbus suburb of Dublin. When Hoak was younger, his childhood bedroom was painted scarlet and gray, and maize and blue so that he could literally be surrounded every day by the rivalry he cared about so deeply. Over the closet door, his mother had painted a scoreboard with the final tally from the 2006 No. 1 vs. No. 2 game: Ohio State 42, Michigan 39. Gunnar and his dad, Frank, were at that game. See, Frank played tight end at Ohio State from 1984-87. Gunnar’s uncle Fred Pagac played and later coached at Ohio State. Gunnar’s cousin, Fred Pagac Jr., played linebacker for the 2002 national champion Buckeyes. Gunnar was born at the Ohio State University Hospital and grew up dreaming of following in the footsteps of his father, uncle and cousin.


This was a 6-foot-4 pocket passer blessed with a perfect crop of quarterback hair that swept over one side of his head and later, when he got to Kentucky, grew long enough to peak out of the bottom of his helmet. Suburban Columbus kid with prototype size, Buckeye blood and the arm to play major college football would have been a no-brainer for Ohio State, but Hoak’s game was precision from the pocket, and Urban Meyer’s preference included having more mobility and escapability.

“It was difficult. I grew up wanting to be a Buckeye and your kids grow up wanting to be a Buckeye,” Frank Hoak told The Athletic. “There comes a point where you look at them and say, ‘Hey, listen, this isn’t going to work here. You need to look elsewhere.’ So I’m still kinda shaking my head now like, ‘Is this really happening?'”

As always, Bill does a spectacular job with the rest of the piece and it's certainly worth your time if you're a subscriber. He talks about Ohio State's quarterback situation, how things got where they did, the stakes, and the future.

All in all, it seems like the Buckeyes were extremely fortunate to land Hoak.

From a standpoint of pure logic, Hoak's transfer to Ohio State to almost-surely sit behind Justin Fields for his final two seasons of eligibility doesn't really make a ton of sense, when he could have gone elsewhere and started. But the thing is, Hoak was already a Buckeye – he was just playing for another team. All he needed was an invitation to come home.

Frankly, Ohio State lucked the hell out that Hoak was available, but Hoak probably thinks he's the luckiest guy in the world that the Buckeyes were an available destination. So it all works.

 BITTER BULLDOG. You'll be shocked to learn that one of the best players in Georgia football history was not a fan of the highest-rated quarterback in program history taking his talents to Columbus after a year in Athens.

From Mike Griffith of DawgNation:

“I think the people at the NCAA need to have some more consistency,” (David) Pollack, the most decorated defensive player in Bulldogs history, said. “The transfer thing drives me nuts. 

“I’m more about stay and fight, so Justin Fields, I don’t get that,” Pollack said. “I get that Jake Fromm is really good, but I’m the type of person, I never thought about running from competition. I always thought about comping and getting better, so I think it’s kind of a strange situation.” 

I wonder if he was equally furious that that Dwan Mathis flipped his commitment from Ohio State to Georgia the second Georgia's roster situation became a bit more advantageous. I mean, that's effectively the same thing, even if Mathis never enrolled at Ohio State.

You can say Fields was afraid of competition all you want – hell, maybe he was – but in my mind it's less about what he's running from than what he's running to. He just watched Dwayne Haskins commit arson to Ohio State's single-season passing records and become a first-round pick under Ryan Day's tutelage.

His choices were become the heir to that throne or be a change-of-pace gimmick for another season in an offense where he'd never be more than a game manager even when he is the starter.

17-year-old Fields made a bad decision going to Georgia for a lot of reasons that aren't just Jake Fromm. It's insane to expect him to ride that out for another four years when he's given a chance to more-than remedy it.

 IRON SHARPENS IRON. Practicing against the absolute best every day is a make-or-break thing. You'll either be strengthened by it and get better, or absolutely demoralized and crumble.

Denzel Ward ain't the crumbling kind, so expect him to thrive with Odell Beckham Jr. in the building.

From  Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal:

“It was exciting,” Ward said Friday before hosting a youth football skills camp at his alma mater of Nordonia High School. “I love going against Odell, someone who’s going to compete, and he’s going to get me ready for the games.

“We have a lot of conversations. I told him he’s going to be one of the reasons my game goes to the next level. I definitely enjoy [the competition], and [I’m] looking forward to going against him more and Jarvis [Landry] and a lot of those receivers.”


“I personally think that he’s going to be a top, top corner,” Beckham said of Ward. “From what I’ve seen, we’re going to go at it every single day, and we’re going to get better. That’s what me and him talk about when we [have conversations]. I tell him, ‘If you have any questions, anything, you come ask me.’ I’m going to do the same. I’m going to walk up to you and be like, ‘What did you see on the route?’ What made you do this?′

“That’s how you get better. The quote ‘iron sharpens iron’ or whatever you want to call it, all I’ve known is ever to compete, so there’s never no hard feelings if we’re getting grabby. He might get grabby one play. I might push off the next play. It’s about competing. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Ward appreciated Beckham’s vote of confidence.

“He’s a top player in this league and elite at his position,” Ward said. “Coming from him, it means a lot.”

Practicing against the best isn't exactly a new concept for Ward.

He got to Ohio State in 2015, meaning throughout his career, he practiced against Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, Jalin Marshall, Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown, Parris Campbell Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon.

He was guarding NFL receivers in practice long before even sniffing the NFL. No wonder he has no problems sticking OBJ in practice.

 LIVING THE DREAM. Scary Terry's officially a professional athlete, but the fame hasn't changed him – he's still an absolutely delightful interview.

I can't wait to watch Redskins fans absolutely lose it the first time Terry McLaurin does Terry McLaurin things this fall, like cleaning up three guys on a single block.

 HERE'S TO YOU. Ohio State gave you – yes, you – a hearty salute and hearfelt yesterday for the part Buckeye Nation plays in all of Ohio State's athletic excellence.

This is a football school, for sure, but the thing is Ohio State fans are absolutely nuts for any Buckeye team. I've seen pretty much any venue – softball games, volleyball games, baseball games, women's hockey games, tennis matches – completely clad in Scarlet and Gray.

If you ever wonder how Ohio State is always competing for national titles in seemingly any given sport, that fan support is a good reason why.

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