Skull Session: Veterans Form Early Bonds With Recruits, Dwayne Haskins Remembers Intense Buckeye Practices, and a Look at Chris Holtmann's Reinforcements

By Kevin Harrish on January 29, 2020 at 4:59 am
The boy are back in town in today's skull session.

Everyone's got thoughts about the future of college football, but this is my personal favorite for one very specific reason.


Word of the Day: Forlorn.

 “THAT'S GANG. THAT'S LITTLE BRO.” My college experience began with my parents dropping me off at a dorm, throwing my shit in a bin, and wishing me luck.

For the newcomers to the Ohio State football team, there's a little more to it than that. They aren't just arriving at school hoping to make some friends, they're joining a family that's already been through hell together multiple times.

But as Griffin Strom of The Lantern writes, that family is waiting for them with open arms.

Those relationships begin forming right away, and a new batch of 24 freshmen will soon start building their own –– though with 14 midyear enrollees and the power of social media, the cycle has already commenced for some.

“We talk to them. That’s gang. That’s little bro,” freshman wide receiver Jameson Williams said about top-rated wide receiver recruit Julian Fleming and the three other incoming wideouts. “[We tell them] what they can come in and do next year, how big of a family this is.”


Another receiving option with potential for a big year is sophomore tight end Jeremy Ruckert, whose one-handed touchdown grab in the Big Ten Championship was one of the most photogenic moments of the Buckeyes’ season.

He just finished his second year in the program, but he’s already taken on the mentorship role for incoming top 10 tight end Joe Royer from Elder High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ruckert said he hosted Royer on one of his recruiting visits and has hung out with him several times.

Two years has been long enough for Ruckert to whittle down his experiences into wisdom with which to impart Royer and other program newcomers.

“Come in with an open mind and not expect anything,” Ruckert said. “Expectations only make you disappointed, or they’re just so far out of reach. So you could have goals, but to expect things to be given to you, that’s not going to help with your growth as a player. I think coming in with an open mind and ready to help the team any way you can –– that was my mindset coming in, and I think it’s paid off.”

We love to prognosticate about which freshmen will be ready to play in their first year on campus, but they ain't going to be ready to play until they're ready to be part of the team. Already being close with the older players before spring practice even starts – that's massive.

 “EVERYONE 1-ON-1 ALMOST STARTED A FIGHT.” Ohio State football practices are like a perpetual civil war between two over-weaponized factions constantly wrestling for superiority.

You've got five-stars going against five-stars. All-Americans on All-Americans. Future first-round picks on future first-round picks. Shit, the way players talk about their time in the Woody, it's like they're lucky to come out the other side alive.

Dwayne Haskins remembers it fondly. In fact, the absolutely insane practice matchups are what lured him to Ohio State in the first place.

"Every one-on-one almost started a fight" sounds like the working title to Eli Apple and Michael Thomas' compiled memoirs. I'm not sure how either of those two survived three years of practice against each other – emotionally or physically. A complete transcript of their back-and-forth trash talk would win a Pulitzer in a landslide.

But hey, it works. Everyone likes to toss out the adage Iron Sharpens Iron, and it certainly ain't wrong, but good luck sharpening iron without quite a few sparks. 

 HELP IS ON THE WAY! With how things are trending, I'm not really convinced the Buckeyes will be cutting down any nets this spring (though nothing would surprise me at this point).

It certainly ain't the season I expected in the first year I've felt allowed to have expectations, but I'm just gonna rest easy knowing reinforcements are coming.

Eugene Brown, Zed Key and Justice Sueing are all joining the roster, Musa Jallow will be back, the current top-50 freshmen will have another year of development and I'm hearing whispers that our favorite Harvard graduate Seth Towns could be in the mix as well.

Whatever happens this year, I'm optimistic. Maybe I shouldn't be, considering this team added three top-50 freshmen and a transfer starter from an Elite Eight team and seems to have somehow gotten worse. But still – optimistic.

 BEST THING SINCE RYAN DAY. If you were uncontainably stoked when Ohio State decided to bring back its sentient Red Bull can of a secondary coach, you sure ain't alone. It seems like everyone who's even had a brief conversation with Kerry Coombs is certain he's a home run hire, but his former players have the testimony to prove it.

Armani Reeves spent four years coached by Coombs, and he's so confident in the move he told our very own Avery DePaola that it's the best thing to happen to the program since they named Ryan Day head coach.

"I think it’s the best thing that happened to Ohio State really and since obviously Ryan Day being the coach there. Having Coach Coombs, he really brings the juice and the intensity. I mean you’ve seen all of the first-rounders and all the great things those guys have done in the league, but you also have those like myself and Tre Forte and Nik Sarac who didn’t make the league, but they’re still making an impact and it’s just because of the way Coach Coombs instilled in us of being hard workers and having every day be the best day.

Like he always said in practice, “it’s not a good day, it’s a great day.” And that’s really how we all approach it. So, if you really look back to all of the players that Coach Coombs coached at Ohio State, whether they’re in the league or not, they’re all successful and they’re all doing great things with their lives. Now, I’m not saying Coach Coombs was the be-all and end-all, but he definitely helped us and shaped us to have that work ethic and to be the best player, person, and man that you can be."

I always said I would entrust my son's future to Jeff Hafley without a second thought, but I might even feel even stronger about Kerry Coombs. And there are about a decade's worth of testimonies for why.

 HOLLYWOODESQUE HIGHLIGHTS. Ohio State's video team is just unreasonably good that it just feels like showing off at this point. I mean, look at this flex from video sorcerer Alex Farkas.

I get that nobody's going to commit to a school just because they make cool highlight clips, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have someone on staff who can make a defender literally disappear from the screen because you juked him too hard.

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