Skull Session: Ohio State's Title Recipe, Ryan Day's Recruiting of Cincinnati, and Chris Holtmann's Need to Lock Down Ohio

By Kevin Harrish on June 28, 2019 at 7:20 am
Chase Young is happy to be in today's Skull Session.

Y'all, I've done it again. I allowed my mindless self to fall asleep before scheduling the Skull Session.

Early risers, I apologize. Although I expect your Friday is now off to an undeniably better start without my online words ruining your morning.

I will take my Crying Jordans and lambastes in the comments below with honor, as is the online code.


Word of the Day: Pawky.

 TITLE RECIPE. Noted football-knower Bill Connelly made the real bit switch from his long-time home of SB Nation to ESPN recently, and he dropped his first piece for the World Wide Leader on Thursday.

Basically, Connelly took a look at what would have to happen for each team he deemed a preseason title contender to actually win the national title. And the good news is, the Buckeyes made the list and there really aren't that many ifs!

One of the the three is "If ... the defense suffers fewer catastrophes," which seems obvious enough. The other two are at least sort of related to Justin Fields.


If ... Justin Fields lives up to blue-chip hype ... and doesn't get hurt. I know, I said I wasn't going to mention QB injuries. But considering what else Ohio State has on the roster besides the sophomore Georgia transfer -- former WVU backup Chris Chugunov, former Kentucky backup Gunnar Hoak, and that's about it -- an injury here would be absolutely devastating, more than for other top teams.

Fields was an all-world recruit in 2018, and Georgia used him in awfully confusing ways last year. To keep him involved, the Dawgs would periodically send him onto the field for one snap, usually a zone read. Wasteful. (We won't even talk about the fake punt.)

Fields' full-season stats (with most of the passing numbers coming in garbage time) were excellent: 27-for-39 passing, 7.7 yards per non-sack carry. But now he's got to throw meaningful passes, all while wrapped in bubble wrap.

If ... the Ohio State run game becomes the Ohio State run game again. In 2017, JK Dobbins and Mike Weber gained 2,029 yards on 295 carries. In 2018, they gained 2,007 ... on 402. Without much of a run threat from Dwayne Haskins, the Buckeyes' run game was a lot more basic, and it showed.

How Ryan Day uses Fields will be fascinating because he is extremely mobile, and he could be exactly what last year's run game was missing ... if you can actually risk him running the ball and taking more hits. Dobbins could use the help.

I see an awkward catch-22 with this season, particularly involving Fields.

Ohio State won't be a national title contender unless Justin Fields is healthy, which means the Buckeyes have to protect him like a glass swan on grandma's mantle. But they also won't be a title contender unless they fully unleash Fields, and that includes his running ability.

Personally, I'd rather roll the dice on his versatility than be afraid to use his God-given gifts. Still, whenever he takes a hit this season I'm going to be looking at him the same way I look at my phone when I drop it face down on the concrete.

"Please be okay, please be okay, please..."

 COMING FOR CINCY. Ryan Day seems to have taken a particular aim at Cincinnati this recruiting cycle, which is certainly a change from year's past with Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel and even John Cooper seeming to neglect Ohio's third-largest city.

For perspective, according to my good pal Marcus Hartman of the Dayton Daily News, Meyer averaged 1.3 Cincinnati signees per year, Tressel averaged 1.2 and Cooper averaged 1.4. Day is currently on pace for about five when both Joe Royer and Darrion Henry ultimately commit.

5. Ryan Day might buck the trend this year. 

Ohio State already has three verbal commits from Cincinnati for 2019 — Johnson, Elder offensive lineman Jakob James and La Salle kicker Jake Seibert — and Henry is not the only candidate to join that list. 

Joe Royer, a three-star tight end from Elder, was among the many visitors at Ohio State last weekend and is pegged as a likely future Buckeye by 247Sports recruiting analyst Bill Greene. 

The last time Ohio State had four signees from the Cincinnati area in the same class was 1990 when Cooper signed Princeton quarterback Johnny Mattress (the last Viking to sign with OSU), Hamilton offensive lineman Mike Dully, Elder defensive lineman Matt Bonhaus and Cothran. 

It's way too early to tell if this is going to be something that continues under Day, but I don't see why it wouldn't. He seems more committed to going after Ohio talent than Meyer was, and it only makes sense that he'd hit one of Ohio's biggest cities hard.

Also, Skyline is extremely good.

 BRING 'EM IN, CHRIS. We're about to see how good Chris Holtmann is at keeping the Ohio's top talent in the state, because it's looking like the next two classes are going to be absolutely loaded with can't-miss Ohio players.

To illustrate my point, Brian Snow of 247 Sports took at look at the top performers from this week's Nike Elite 100 camp featuring the top players in both the 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes. Of the 11 players snow highlighted, three of them were from Ohio.


Malaki Branham, CG – It has been a big-time spring and summer for Brahnam, and he continued it with his play on Tuesday. At one point on Tuesday night the Ohio native went on a personal 12-0 run, and did it in a variety of ways. The 6-foot-4 and 195-pound guard can get to the rim, is a good athlete, and then is turning himself into a very good shooter. Overall, Branham was as good as any guard in attendance, and showed his rise this spring wasn’t a fluke.

Recruiting: Ohio State, Xavier, Purdue



Chris Livingston, SG – One of the more physical wings in the class at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Livingston put on a big-time scoring show. He can finish above the rim with ease, shoots it well from deep, and also is a very capable passer. Livingston is also a competitor who brings it every single time on the court, and showed why he has the look of a top five prospect in the class.

Sencire Harris, CG – A big combo guard at 6-foot-3, Harris is a tremendous athlete with the ability to get into the lane at will. Harris routinely beat his man with an explosive first step, and then did a very good job of attacking the paint and finishing. His decision making can use some work still, but he was as good as any guard on Tuesday night, and proved that his physical talent can carry him a long way.

There's no reason to doubt Holtmann as a recruiter so far, so I'm just going to put on my rose-colored glasses and be excited about these kids' Buckeye futures

 GET YER DRAFT CLASSES. If you're a fake football video game consumer who enjoys Madden's franchise mode, one hero is doing everyone an extreme solid by piecing together four separate downloadable draft classes based on current rosters and recruiting rankings.

His work is not yet complete, but he's already done Ohio State's players, and here's how he has them rated for the next two classes.


2020 Class
Position Name Class H/W Madden OVR
HB JK Dobbins Junior 5’10, 219 lbs 77
WR KJ Hill Redshirt Senior 6’0, 198 lbs 75
WR Austin Mack Senior 6’2, 215 lbs 69
LT Thayer Munford Junior 6’6, 319 lbs 76
LE Jonathon Cooper Redshirt Senior 6’4, 257 lbs 70
RE Chase Young Junior 6’5, 270 lbs 80
LOLB Malik Harrison Senior 6’3, 240 lbs 75
CB Jeffrey Odukah Junior 6’1, 200 lbs 78
CB Shaun Wade Redshirt Sophomore 6’1, 200 lbs 76
CB David (sic) Arnette Redshirt Senior 6’0, 195 lbs 69
FS Jordan Fuller Senior 6’2, 205 lbs 76
2021 Class
Position Name Class H/W Madden OVR
QB Justin Fields Junior 6’2, 230 lbs 74
TE Luke Farrell Redshirt Senior 6’6, 250 lbs 74
LG Wyatt Davis Redshirt Junior 6’4, 318 lbs 76
C Josh Myers Redshirt Junior 6’5, 317 lbs 77
LE Tyreke Smith Junior 6’4, 260 lbs 77
DT Taron Vincent Junior 6’2, 298 lbs 75
LOLB Pete Werner Senior 6’3, 236 lbs 72
MLB Baron Browning Senior 6’3, 245 lbs 70
MLB Tuf Borland Redshirt Senior 6’1, 230 lbs 67
FS Brendon White Junior 6’2, 210 lbs 73
P Drue Chrisman Redshirt Senior 6’3, 215 lbs 72

He did the 2022 and 2023 draft classes as well, but we're going to skip those given that pretty much nobody on that list has played a meaningful snap, and some aren't even on campus yet. Also, Brian Snead is still on the list.

As far as these draft classes go, I don't understand how Drue Chrisman isn't the highest-rated player in the 2021 class, but all in all, I think this is, especially given how many teams he had to comb through.

 NEW OLD SPICE MAN! I'm pleased to announce I am an Old Spice consumer now. Dwayne Haskins has sold me.

I'm just praying Dwayne replaces the notorious Old Spice Man in commercials because I absolutely need that on my television in the fall.

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