Skull Session: J.K. Dobbins is Back to Dominant, Terry McLaurin Practices How He Plays, and Ohio State's Two-Headed Monster at Running Back

By Kevin Harrish on September 16, 2019 at 4:59 am
J.K. Dobbins mentors josh proctor in today's skull session.

Play action to Ezekiel Elliott for a 51-yard bomb to Devin Smith? What year is it?

Related: The Devin Smith touchdown winning streak is still alive!


Word of the Day: Orphic.

 DOBBINS IS BACK. Y'all wanted vintage J.K. Dobbins, and it doesn't get more vintage than running wild in Bloomington.

From Doug Lesmerises of

Dobbins carried the ball 22 times for 193 yards, the second-highest rushing total of his career, topping his 29 carries for 181 yards in his first game in Indiana’s Memorial Stadium in 2017. Take away the 56-yard run and he still averaged 6.5 yards per carry, which would have been better than all but two of his games last season. Of course, the 56-yarder is a function of the plan, as was his tackle-breaking, stiff-arming 26-yard touchdown.

“I think that showed what I can really do,” Dobbins said. “I think a lot of people forgot what I can do.”

They didn’t forget. They just wanted to see it again. Day wanted to see it again. He got it as the result of this physical, emotional and mental plan to get the leader who gives the pregame locker room speech to the offense running like a leader as well.

“To play tough, you’ve got to run the ball,” Dobbins said. “I just feel I’ve got to be great so this offense can click.”

I know the whole talk this offseason has been about Dobbins getting back to his 2017 self, but on Saturday, I think he looked better than his 2017 self, bouncing off tackles like a bowling ball while still burning folks for 50-yard home runs.

 PRACTICE LIKE YOU PLAY. If I've learned from the tens of thousands of words I've read about Terry McLaurin throughout the years, it's that he works his absolute ass off.

But he's not just out there doing meaningless drills for the sake of doing drills. He – with the help of Brian Hartline – has learned to come up with practice routines that simulate actual in-game scenarios.

From Les Carpenter of the Washington Post:

​What had the school’s coaches said was his weakness? Contested catches? Those plays they called 50-50 balls, where the receiver and defender seemed to have the same chance to catch the pass, fighting for control? No way he was going to have any weaknesses, so he had invented a drill in these months before his senior season, pretending the tackling dummy was a defensive back that he had to find a way to twist and jump around to catch the ball as it shot from the machine.

The machine hummed, the balls burst from its spinning wheels, and McLaurin kept running into that dummy, catching passes until dozens of those balls had burned into his hands and his arms ached. But he would be back again the next day and the day after that and the day after that, running more drills with the same dummy and the same machine, until every weakness was a strength, because someday it would all matter.


“Do you play with your mind?” Hartline asks his players. Often, he asks himself, “How do you create a situation where something occurs in a game and you already did it in the arena?”

In McLaurin, he found he had a player hungry to know, too. He had another drill at Ohio State where he would stand behind a line of those tackling dummies, unable to see the machine shooting out passes, until at the last minute he would slap one of the wobbling dummies aside and reach out to grab the ball just as the dummy crashed back into his arm. He did it again and again until he no longer cared if he could barely see the quarterback and defenders knocking into him as he tried to catch the ball.

“People think you drop the ball because of your hands,” McLaurin said. “Mostly it’s your eyes. You got to train your eyes. Rarely do you catch the ball cleanly.”

This type of coaching makes all the sense in the world, and it seems Ohio State is extremely good at it.

If you scroll through the Twitter accounts of Brian Hartline or Keenan Bailey, you'll see dozens of videos showing a player running through a drill, and then using that exact skill in a live game scenario.

If you're wondering why Ohio State's receivers have seemed to take gigantic leaps in terms of development between seasons (shoutout to Binjimen Victor this year), I have a strong hunch this is a big part of why.

 TWO-HEADED MONSTER. After a season-long hiatus, I think it's safe to say that the Buckeye running game is back, and it's not just J.K. Dobbins.

As much as I loved watching Dwayne Haskins carve apart every defense he faced last season, watching Ohio State blast a team with 314 rushing yards is a breath of fresh air.

See, I'm a guy that likes options. I certainly don't mind my quarterback throwing for 450 yards and five touchdowns, I'd just like it to be equally possible that my running back rattles off 180 yards and two scores the next week.

I know we're only three games in, but so far this year's offense has an aspect of "who the hell do you stop?" that hasn't been there since the 2014 season (well, hypothetically 2015, but we'll gloss over that). There are so many different schemes, so many different packages and so many different players that can just ruin your day as a defense.

The Buckeyes won their first game running a third of their plays out of two tight-end sets and threw a touchdown pass out of a formation that had three tight ends. The second game, the spread the ball out and let Justin Fields dissect Cincinnati through the air. The third, the pounded them with two running backs combining for 299 yards and 9.3 yards per carry.

At this point, I expect them to start next week's game in the flexbone and runs some triple option just for shits and giggles.

 PAC 12 REFS! Michigan State fell to the fighting Herm Edwards in pretty catastrophic fashion at the end of the game. The Spartans tied the game with a field goal, but had it negated due to too many men on the field.

The second effort was... off, to say the least. But it turns out, they should have had one more shot.

The PAC 12 revealed an officiating error in a statement:

"An Arizona State defensive player took a running start and leapt over the kicking team's line in an attempt to block the kick. In the process, he leapt into the frame of the body of an opponent. The penalty would have been 15 yards from the previous spot and an automatic first down. In this case, it would have been administered as half the distance to the goal and Michigan State would have been provided one untimed down."

Okay, sure, they technically missed the call, but let's not get too up in arms about a fellow inconsequentially jumping over the line when my guy shanked this kick by about 30 feet. 

This is what it really looks like when a Big Ten team gets absolutely jobbed by the officials against Arizona State:

Also, God bless the ticker in that video for reminding me of the time Michigan needed a late touchdown and a goal line stand to fend off the mighty Zips of Akron.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 FIND THE FIVE-STAR ATHLETE. When you have by far the best player on the football field, you do everything he can to make sure he stays on the football field. Even if that means playing your star defensive end at quarterback.

Yes, five-star Ohio State defensive end commit Jack Sawyer is now Pickerington North's starting quarterback, and it's every bit as amazing as it sounds. As it turns out, a 6-foot-5, 225 junior in high school ain't easy to bring down – and also is way faster and more athletic than you'd expect.

Sawyer will be highlighted every play, but you won't need it. He's the one that's better than everyone else.

Hey, if Ohio State ever needs one yard, I sure wouldn't be against it – as long as he can get the snap under control.

Also, it's a convenient time to point this out, as well:

Imagine the fake kicks!

 NOT STICKING TO SPORTS. Meet the “artificial embryos” being called uncanny and spectacular... The Ontario government lost $42 million selling cannabis in the last year... Welding probably won't make you rich... Police seize 'super obedient' lookout parrot trained by Brazilian drug dealers... The people who send nudes before their first date...

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