Skull Session: Small Ball Worked For Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes, Dawand Jones Plays Basketball to Stay in Shape, and Richard Sherman Feuds With Jim Harbaugh

By Kevin Harrish on January 30, 2020 at 4:59 am
Kerry Coombs is all dressed up in today's skull session.

Congrats, you've made it to another day. Survive and advance, baby.

Word of the Day: Impetuous.

 SMALL LINEUP, BIG RESULTS. Ohio State's been struggling to find much rhythm offensively the past few weeks, but they might have found a way to help solve that puzzle during their road win against Northwestern this past week – play small.

For the bulk of the last two seasons, center Kaleb Wesson has been an irreplaceable part of any success the Buckeyes men’s basketball team has enjoyed. When Wesson picked up his fourth foul with 7:35 to play Sunday and Ohio State hanging onto a six-point lead at Northwestern, his teammates had to figure out how to win without him.

Their response might have given coach Chris Holtmann another option as the season continues. With their leading scorer and rebounder on the bench and no true center on the roster ready to step in, Ohio State pulled away from the Wildcats by going small.

It wasn’t the first time the Buckeyes had done so this season, but it might have been the most effective.

“We’ve done that a few times before where we’ve had to play without him,” Holtmann said of Wesson. “He gives us such a presence, and teams game plan so much for him that we just felt like we were going to play smaller, and once that group was rolling when we went smaller we just decided to stay with it.”


“There’s just a little bit more player movement,” Holtmann said. “Your offense can get stagnant at times when you’re playing around a big and kind of force-feeding in a lot of ways.”

I think the trick, in general, is to just not get locked into one thing and beat each team how they're letting you beat them. Small ball worked against Northwestern, when the Wildcats were basically begging Ohio State to shoot wide open threes (shoutout to Justin Ahrens), but I'm going to lose my mind if they start free hoisting from deep if Kaleb Wesson has a size advantage down low.

TL;DR, find mismatches and exploit them. Sports!

 MORE LIKE J-WAND JONES. Dawand Jones is properly gigantic right now, and Mickey Marotti's job this offseason is to make sure he stays that perfect and correct amount of gigantic and doesn't get too gigantic.

And to do it, he's got a secret trick up his sleeve: basketball.

“We have to be creative in keeping his weight down,” Marotti said of Jones. “He likes basketball, so I told him I’ll get one of our interns to feed him the basketball. He can do jump shots for two hours in a row and see how much he sweats.”


For Marotti, training Jones isn’t just a tall task. It’s a fun one. Jones constantly has a smile on his face, even when Marotti tries to yell at him. Marotti loves being around Jones because of his size.

“I love him,” Marotti said. “He’s a great kid. He smiles all the time. Even when you’re trying to coach him really hard, he looks at you and just smiles. He’s so tall. The best thing is when he’s with our nutritionist. Kaila [Olson] is like not very tall and he’s super tall, and he follows her around. He does exactly what she tells him.”

I dig it – keeping his weight down while also getting him game-ready for whenever that call comes down from Chris Holtmann. Kill two birds with one stone.

I think I'm joking, but if this is seriously all he does all summer, he's going to be more lethal than Steph Curry from three-point land, so maybe it is worth a shot? I mean, imagine a 6-foot-8, 350-pound sharpshooter. I'm in.

 DEFENDERS, ASSEMBLE. Sure, Ohio State's got two former players competing for a Super Bowl this weekend, but once we can get that in our rear-view mirror, we can move onto the main event: D.C. Defenders season.

D.C. has made the extremely good business decision of becoming effectively the XFL team of the Ohio State Buckeyes. They've got more Buckeyes than any other team, and every Buckeye currently in the league is on their roster.

They're Buckeye heavy. And they aren't going to let folks forget it.

While Ohio State fans may still be reeling from the painful memories of the 2019 Fiesta Bowl, the XFL’s D.C. Defenders may be the perfect remedy for the off-season blues that plague Buckeye Nation. Here is an in-depth look at three former Buckeyes who are all wearing a different shade of scarlet this season.


D.C.’s Buckeye triumvirate will be exciting to watch. All three players are projected to be impact players. All three have also spent some time with NFL programs, and likely aspire to return to that level.

If you are an Ohio State fan, pay attention. These former Buckeyes are looking to make a statement on the new and uniquely big stage of the XFL. Expect them to leave it all on the field this year, as these guys know better than anyone that you only get so many chances to prove yourself.

So if when your football withdrawals kick in, you know exactly where to turn. And they'll be a 12-gauge jersey waiting for you in the fan shop.

 WELCOME ABOARD. Quite a few of Ohio State's quality control and graduate assistant positions need filling in the next few weeks after a few departures this offseason (get those applications ready), but the Buckeyes are already welcoming one new face.

This could be an extremely strategic hire, based on the schedule. Billy Fessler played for current Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead at Penn State and coached under him at Mississippi State.

Ryan Day's out here playing 4D chess.

 SHERMAN, HARBAUGH FEUD. You'll be absolutely shocked to hear this, but one of Jim Harbaugh's former players dislikes him so much he has no interest in ever mending the relationship.

Also, that former player is future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman, who Harbaugh refused to put on his NFL team because of his pettiness.

Sherman and Harbaugh have a long-standing rift that dates to their days at Stanford, where Sherman started as a wide receiver and Harbaugh was the head coach.

When Sherman signed with the 49ers as a free agent in 2018, he said owner Jed York told him the team thought highly of him coming out of the 2011 draft, but that Harbaugh, now the head coach at Michigan, nixed a reunion.

"Jed had a funny story about when I was coming out because they had a higher draft grade on me than most teams and Harbaugh came and took me off the draft board," Sherman said Monday at Super Bowl 54 media day. "He was like, he was really upset about that. But I’ll let you guys ask him about the rest of it."

Harbaugh, according to the San Jose Mercury News, thought Sherman, who played wide receiver from 2006 to 2008, quit on his team in 2008, when a knee injury cut short his season.


Asked what it would take to mend the relationship with his former coach, Sherman said: "There’s no interest in mending it."

"Honestly, I wanted to put him out of the league, and once I got that done, I got no animosity towards the 49ers or any organization," Sherman said Monday. "Once I became a free agent, every team was available for me to go. I had conversations. I felt like this was the best fit, I felt like this was the place I could go and we could win, and it’s worked out well."

Sherman said he changed positions from receiver to cornerback at least in part so that he didn't have to work so closely with Harbaugh his final season at Stanford (which is a great sign for Harbaugh's ability as a leader).

So in a weird way, Harbaugh's arrogance led to Sherman's emergence as Hall of Fame corner, which might legitimately be Harbaugh's greatest contribution to football the most productive thing he's ever done as a coach.

Now, Richard Sherman is now one of the top cornerbacks in the league and is playing in the Super Bowl for a team Harbaugh once coached to the Super Bowl, Meanwhile, Harbaugh continues to coast through mediocrity in Ann Arbor.

Glad to see it worked out for everybody involved!

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