Skull Session: The Importance of the Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison Hires, Anonymous Big Ten Coaches' Takes, and No Injury Reports

By Kevin Harrish on August 8, 2019 at 4:59 am
Iron sharpens iron in today's skull session.
Ohio State Athletics

Me, knowing college football starts this month:


Word of the Day: Colly.

 AU PAIR. Ohio State's defense was ass cheeks last year. More ass cheeks than its ever been before, in fact.

So it makes total sense that Ryan Day's defensive hires would be some of the most important assistant coaching hires in college football.

From Zach Barnett of Football Scoop agrees, ranking Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison collectively as the most important assistant coaching hires of the offseason.

We all knew Ryan Day would remake the staff upon ascending to the head coaching role — but nobody knew he would do it like this. In conjunction with Greg Schiano’s expected departure, Day put the defense in the hands of an odd couple two-some of the weathered Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley.

Mattison has been coaching nearly 50 years, almost entirely at the college level. Hafley hasn’t coached at the college level since 2011. Mattison will turn 70 this season; Hafley just turned 40.

That pair will head an almost entirely new defensive staff, a group both new to Ohio State and each other. Mattison worked briefly with new linebackers coach Al Washington and assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes and Michigan, but no one in scarlet has worked with Hafley or returning defensive line coach Larry Johnson prior to this season.

This is an odd subjective list for a blogger to get worked up over, but No. 6 for these two feels extremely low to me. I mean, they're the two guys brought in to fix what was the worst defense in program history for a national title contender. How much bigger can it get?

To answer my own question, Michigan's voluntarily ran an offense from 1995 for the past four years and just hired an offensive coordinator (who's never actually been a coordinator before) to bring it into this millennium.

That's certainly going to be impactful, one way or another.

 FYI, FWIW. Anonymous sources certainly have their place in sports media, but I'm not sure that place is "3,700 words of unattributed vague quotes."

However, that's exactly what we got yesterday.

Athlon Sports put together a collection of quotes from anonymous "coaches in the Big Ten" about all 14 teams in the Big Ten. Here's what those anonymous "coaches in the Big Ten" had to say about the Buckeyes.

  • "No one expects this team to take a step back because Urban Meyer left. They showed how good they can be without him. Expect that level of execution from the three-game suspension period. They weren't a different team in terms of what they called — they called the exact same stuff later on — but they had energy. Ryan (Day) was already evolving the play calling before he got the head job."
  • "They're really just two hiccups away from the Playoff these last two years, Purdue and Iowa. Those two games are the difference for them making the Playoff back to back."
  • "Defensively, they were good up front, but they didn't have the secondary play last year that you expect from OSU. There's no Marcus Lattimore. There's no Eli Apple. It's a position that's hurt them again and again. The linebacker play is still good but not exceptional. They don't have anyone who can run and close on coverage like a Ryan Shazier. Teams got more and more confident that if you blocked well up front, you could hit them hard downfield. That's what Purdue did." 
  • "They're an exceptional offense. When you have a good quarterback and running back, that much speed across the field is impossible to account for. It's not even just downfield speed, it was all the little small routes, too."
  • "They’re not going to miss a beat after Urban, that’s why they hired the guy already in the program."

To be straight up with y'all, I just assume most of this is made up. Maybe that's unfair to the fine folks at Athlon, but none of this is anywhere close to groundbreaking or provocative that indicate anyone actually speaking their mind, and even if they are totally real quotes, someone on a Big Ten coaching staff is so vague it could be a Rutgers video coordinator for all we know.

So until one of these quotes reads something like, '"P.J. Fleck is a gigantic pussy and I can't wait to kick his ass in November."' – anonymous Big Ten west head coach, I'm pretty skeptical and mostly disinterested.

Then again, this bit about Iowa sounds... familiar.

“When they get you at their place and you turn the ball over a little bit, they'll eat you alive."

Ryan Day, is that you?

 NO INJURY REPORTS THIS YEAR. Around this time last year, Gene Smith openly stumped for a national injury report.

According to the NCAA Board of Governors – chaired by his boss – that ain't gonna happen.

From the Associated Press:

The NCAA’s Board of Governors announced Wednesday that it still supports the association’s rules prohibiting athletes and school administrators from wagering on sports or providing information to people associated with gambling. But the board concluded an injury or availability report across college football is not viable. An ad hoc committee on sports wagering studied the possibility of teams publicly disclosing whether players would be available for games.

“The ad hoc committee gathered thorough feedback from conference commissioners, athletics administrators, athletic trainers and student-athletes across all three divisions about potential player availability reporting,” said Ohio State President Michael Drake, who is chairman of the Board of Governors. “The membership has significant concerns about the purpose, parameters, enforcement and effectiveness of a player availability reporting model.”

The NFL uses a standardized injury report, but even calling it an injury report was problematic for the NCAA because of federal laws that safeguard student and patient privacy.

First off, if today is the day you learned that Michael Drake is the chairman of the NCAA Board of Governors, you certainly are not alone.

Second, in a perfect world, you would want to eliminate corruption – insider trading, if you will – from gambling just like you would any type of market to make sure everyone has the same information to work with. But there's just no way you can enforce that uniformly and fairly at 130 different programs.

Also – and I say this as someone who has placed multiple wagers on sporting events – if you're staking your financial well-being on the health and physical ability of a college student to play a game, any loss you incur is squarely on you, not the team that chose not to disclose an injury.

 MOVE THAT NEEDLE. Note: if you want people to watch your televised event, just make sure it somehow involves Ohio State.

See, Ohio State fans are always down to watch almost anything Buckeye related, including a the championship game of a glorified exhibition tournament featuring players who haven't worn a Buckeye uniform in over half a decade.

*whispers* That game was more entertaining than any actual college basketball game I've seen in years.

 GET UP THEN, GOLIATH. Dawand Jones is nearly three of me, and is coincidentally also three times as athletic.

380 pounds is not supposed to be able to move like that. Or this:

 NOT STICKING TO SPORTS. A Japanese flying car... He went to jail as a fake doctor and now he’s a real one... Police order a man who threw a fridge off a cliff to drag it back up... Inside the 20th gathering of the Juggalos... Who invented the cardboard box?... Why round design is making a comeback... The forbidden images of the Chinese internet... The Polish village where no boys have been born in a decade... How record rentals bolstered Japan’s music industry...

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