Skull Session: Urban Meyer Remembers Mark Dantonio's Dominance, Three Buckeyes Are at the Top of the Draft, and Luke Fickell Emerges As Michigan State's Top Choice

By Kevin Harrish on February 5, 2020 at 4:59 am
Kaleb Wesson gives his thoughts on Michigan.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We got ourselves a busy day in early February.

It won't be like the national signing days of old, but we'll still hear from Ryan Day, new Ohio State coaches Corey Dennis and Kerry Coombs, Ohio State's early enrollees, and even some bonus coverage from Colin as Michigan Player of the Year Cam Martinez signs with Michigan Ohio State.

Buckle up (and follow @11W on Twitter).

Word of the Day: Virile.

 JUST LIKE FOOTBALL. Ohio State did the damn thing last night, and this work of art needs framed:

As soon as Jay Bilas described the action as a "football game" I knew the Wolverines were sunk.

 MEYER'S BANE. Nobody was more of a pain in the ass for Urban Meyer than Mark Dantonio.

Urban ran the Big Ten in his time in Columbus, only loses four conference games over a seven-year span. Dantonio was responsible for half of those losses, and it cost the Buckeyes a chance to play for a national title both times.

Shit, even most of the wins were exhausting. In 2012, it was a one-point game that could have gone either way. 2016 was the same thing. In 2018, the damn punter was Ohio State's MVP of the game.

So it's no shocker that when Dantonio stepped down yesterday, Meyer offered nothing but his absolute respect.

But the 2013 loss in the Big Ten championship game denied Ohio State a chance at the national title and ended Meyer’s 24-game winning streak to start his OSU career. Michigan State’s 2015 upset of the Buckeyes in Columbus, ending the 30-game regular-season conference winning streak, did the same. That loss still haunts Meyer.

“To this day,” he said. “To this day.”

Dantonio had a 114-57 record in 13 seasons at Michigan State. He’s the Spartans’ all-time winningest coach.

“Arguably the greatest era of Michigan State football — the modern era — is Mark Dantonio’s,” Meyer said.


In particular, he turned the tide of the rivalry with Michigan, which famously viewed MSU as a “little brother.”

“Whenever you talk about the rivalry between Michigan State and the team up north, he changed it,” Meyer said. “He changed the narrative after that whole big brother comment.”

I respect Dantonio, as well. The man helped bring a natty to Columbus, then regularly stood firm against Meyer and his army of five-stars with a ragtag collection of two and three-stars who weren't even on Ohio State's radar.

But even if that doesn't make him a legend, this sure as hell does:

 FICKELL, DANTONIO PT. II? Mark Dantonio was about as perfect as it gets for Michigan State, but if they can reel in their top target, they might actually hit back-to-back homers on that front.

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell is the front-runner to replace Mark Dantonio as Michigan State's football coach, multiple sources with knowledge of the athletic department's thinking told the Free Press on Tuesday. 

No deal is currently in place, the sources said. 

Dantonio retired as MSU's coach on Tuesday, ending a 13-year run that included three Big Ten titles, a Rose Bowl victory and a College Football Playoff berth. He is the program's all-time winningest coach with a 114-57 record in East Lansing. His overall record is 132-74, including three years at Cincinnati.

If the Spartans pull it off, the similarities would be... striking.

  • Ohio guy
  • Loathes Michigan
  • Won a national title at Ohio State as a defensive coordinator
  • Had success at UC
  • Extremely good at evaluating three-star talent

With Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan in the same division, Michigan State ain't an easy job, but if anyone's built for it, it's probably Fickell. And if it happens, Michigan should be absolutely terrified.

 1, 2, 3. America better be ready for draft night to turn into into a gigantic Ohio State public service announcement, because ESPN's noted NFL Draft seer Todd McShay has two Buckeyes and an Ohio State grad going 1, 2 and 3 in his latest mock draft.

1. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

This shouldn't surprise you, and in case you haven't been paying attention, consider this: 60 touchdown passes, a ridiculous 76.3% completion percentage, an undefeated season, a national title and a Heisman Trophy. There isn't much more Burrow can do to solidify himself as the top quarterback of the draft class, and the Bengals should absolutely take one with the first pick -- especially because veteran Andy Dalton can be cut without a dead cap hit. Burrow's elite accuracy and fantastic pocket presence are undeniable, but can Cincinnati put him in a position to succeed with a better supporting cast? That will be something to watch during free agency.

2. Washington Redskins

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

This could be the easiest pick on the board, and considering the Redskins were 10th in the league with 46 sacks, it doesn't have much to do with a particular need. No, this instead has everything to do with the special talent of Young, who has one of the highest grades I've given a player in two decades of scouting. Last year's No. 2 pick and former Buckeyes teammate Nick Bosa was a difference-maker in Year 1, but the scary truth is that Young is an even better prospect. He can line up opposite Montez Sweat at defensive end or drop back into a 3-4 outside linebacker role. It doesn't matter -- Young will be in the face of opposing quarterbacks every Sunday. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks in 2019, and he missed two games.

3. Detroit Lions

Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The Lions had the NFL's worst pass defense, allowing 284.4 yards through the air per game, and tied for a league-worst seven interceptions. Darius Slay is 29 years old, Justin Coleman fits better in a nickel role and Rashaan Melvin is a free agent, so Detroit might look to address cornerback with a first-round pick for the first time since 1998 (Terry Fair). Okudah has the size, versatility, quickness and athleticism to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL. Detroit has to fix its porous defense, and getting a high-end defensive back like Okudah here is certainly a good place to start.

And then as a cherry on top, McShay also has J.K. Dobbins going No. 32 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

 LEAGUE MVP, CARDALE JONES. Don't look now, but Cardale Jones is projected to run the XFL this year.

The XFL reboot opens this weekend, and coming into the season, former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is one of the favorites to be the league’s most valuable player, according to betting odds from

The signal-caller for the D.C. Defenders, Jones is tied for the second-best odds at 10-1 along with former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones of the Dallas Renegades.

Los Angeles Wildcats QB Josh Johnson, who spent time with the Detroit Lions this past season, is the MVP favorite at 9-1. Johnson will depend on blocking from former Whitmer and University of Toledo standout Storm Norton, who was the first offensive lineman selected in the XFL draft.

I will do it. I will place an ill-advised gamble on Cardale Jones.

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