Skull Session: Ohio State's Best 100 Game Stretch Ever, Top Recruiters Brian Hartline and Jeff Hafley, and Tackling Practice

By Kevin Harrish on October 4, 2019 at 4:59 am
The Defensive line is ready in today's Skull Session.

Here is your near-daily reminder that Chase Young is extremely good at football.


 GOLDEN ERA. With every passing day I'm more and more convinced that there's never been a better time to be an Ohio State football fan, which is pretty hilarious because I probably would have said the same thing at any given point in the past five or 10 years.

And I would have been right the too.

A 0.910 win percentage sounds totally unsustainable, but that's actually just averaging about a loss a season, which has become the low end of the expectations for the Buckeyes every year.

So basically, if Ryan Day doesn't maintain or even improve upon that absurd stat, he's not living up to expectations. And so far – somewhat hilariously – he's doing just that.

 BEST DAMN RECRUITERS IN THE LAND. As much as I loved the Ryan Day hire, I I had strong doubts that he and his staff could ever match what Urban Meyer's Ohio State teams did on the recruiting trail.

Folks, I may have been wrong!

Ryan Day's first-ever recruiting class currently sits at No. 3 in the nation thanks to two guys Tom VanHaaren of ESPN has as the best recruiter and fifth-best recruiter in the country.

1. Brian Hartline

Ohio State wide receivers coach

Top recruit landed: WR Julian Fleming

Hartline is a younger coach who already has made a big impact on the field with the receivers as well as on the recruiting trail. Hartline was the primary recruiter with the five-star receiver Fleming, who committed to Ohio State in May.

Fleming is the No. 4 prospect in the country, the second-highest-ranked recruit to announce his commitment, and the highest-ranked receiver in the class. Hartline also played an instrumental role in landing ESPN 300 athlete Mookie Cooper as well as ESPN 300 receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Gee Scott Jr., and he was the secondary recruiter with four-star receiver Cameron Martinez out of Michigan. Hartline is reloading his receiver room with some outstanding prospects in this class.


5. Jeff Hafley

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator

Top recruit landed: CB Clark Phillips III

Hafley already has helped improve Ohio State's defense on the field, and now he is making an impact in recruiting with a ton of top recruits in Ohio State's class. Phillips is one, along with ESPN 300 safety Lejond Cavazos, who decommitted from the Buckeyes, then recommitted in April.

Getting Cavazos back on board was a big deal, and Hafley also has played a part in landing Lathan Ransom, Cody Simon, Cameron Martinez, Kourt Williams II and a few others in this class.

Ohio State is the only team in the country with two coaches even in the top-10 of these rankings, and the Buckeyes have the best one overall and the fifth-best. And neither of them have been full-fledged assistants at Ohio State for longer than two years.

Let's pray Ryan Day wasn't fibbing when he said he doesn't expect anyone on staff to be leaving anytime soon.

 PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. My favorite change of pace this season from last season is that there are significantly fewer (almost none, actually) plays where a swing pass/tunnel screen/drag route/bubble screen/check down turns into a 50+ yard gain.

The revamped defense is doing its job so far, but one huge difference maker is quite a bit simpler than a scheme overhaul – the Buckeyes are actually practicing tackling.

From Bruce Feldman of The Athletic ($):

One big reason is Ohio State is doing something most other teams are having a harder and harder time with: tackling. Coaches all over the country have lamented their inability to tackle as well as they used to because health and safety concerns have forced practice and drill schedules to change. The Buckeyes, though, are tackling better than they have in years. Hafley’s standard has not changed. On the team goals board, they work to have fewer than six or seven missed tackles a game. He told The Athletic the only time this season they missed that was in a 76-5 blowout of Miami (Ohio).


But the secret to sound tackling doesn’t really seem like it’s such a secret: The Buckeyes practiced tackling in camp.


Hafley came to Ohio State after seven seasons coaching defensive backs in the NFL. That experience shaped his belief that tackling skills are like a muscle that can get soft and needs work to remain toned.

“What I learned in the NFL was in the first preseason game, you’re terrible at tackling,” he said. “The second game, you’re a little bit better, and by the third, you’re almost ready to play it. You’re figuring all those preseason games, everybody probably gets three or four tackles in those preseason games, three or four live tackles, because the starters don’t play a whole bunch.

“So our goal, where in college football you don’t have any preseason games, is to have each starter get a handful of live tackles to kind of simulate a scrimmage or a preseason game. That way, the first time we weren’t really tackling somebody was the first game of the season, and we felt the safe way to do it was in seven-on-seven, where we could control it.”

I'm not sure it should take a coaching overhaul to arrive at "we should practice tackling," but all is well now and Jeff Hafley can stay forever.

 DON'T BURN BRIDGES. Chris Holtmann's a damn good basketball coach, but it also seems like he's also just damn good with people. And ultimately, that helped him win over C.J. Walker in the sequel of his recruitment.

From our favorite Indiana beat writer Taylor Lehman of

“In life, you learn lessons about not burning bridges,” Holtmann said Wednesday at Big Ten Media Day. “I’ve not always been great at that. I think in recruiting now, that’s become more and more important because if you burn a bridge, you might not have a chance with the kids afterwards.”

Going into the 2019-20 season, Holtmann is thanking himself for maintaining a positive relationship with Walker after the former Arsenal Tech star and Indianapolis Player of the Year announced his commitment to Florida State during an official visit June 20, 2015, just a week before he was scheduled to visit Butler officially too.

Walker said Holtmann, the former Butler head basketball coach, never expressed anger when the No. 113 recruit made the decision, and that left the door open when Walker decided to transfer out of Florida State in March 2018.

“There was never bad blood that I made that decision not to go to Butler,” Walker said. “Once my release got out that I was transferring, I was able to talk to him again, and it just felt right, just to be able to play for him. I knew what he stood for, and I knew how he was coaching. I just knew that I couldn’t miss on the opportunity again playing for a coach like him.”

Walker might be the most "people forget!" player in the country. Dude started 34 games for an Elite Eight team in 2017-18, sat out a year, and now is lost in the hype of the three top-50 freshmen joining the squad. He's legit good. Shoutout to Holtmann for getting him here.

 SELL OUT THE SCHOTT. LeBron James never went to college, but he dropped some not-so-subtle hints about where he would have gone if he had to.

“The Schottenstein Center would have been sold out every single night" is ambitious as hell even if you dropped Michael Jordan in his prime onto the roster, but I see his point. He definitely would have put asses in seats.

Man, we truly got cheated of the Tony Stockman/LBJ dynamic duo none of us knew we needed.

 NOT STICKING TO SPORTS. Why I ditched my therapist to hire a dominatrix instead... Man sues a fertility clinic after learning he's the father of at least 17 children... The man who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan is interested in a music career... These days, you can sublet almost anything, meaning there's an Airbnb for everything... Football’s concussion crisis is awash with pseudoscience...

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