Skull Session: Things That Must Go Right For Ohio State to Win a National Title, How Howard Cassady Saved Woody Hayes' Job, and TreVeyon Henderson is the Most Complete Back in Years

By Kevin Harrish on June 3, 2020 at 4:59 am
Chris Olave and Jeremy Ruckert are pals in today's skull session.

I'm pleased to welcome you to another day.

Song of the Day: "Phantom Limb" by The Shins

Word of the Day: Plethoric.

 WIN THE NATTY, IF... Just like pretty much every year in my living memory, Ohio State's entering this season as a national title contender because that's how college football works.

But if the Buckeyes are going to win the whole damn thing, they're going to need a few things to go their way, and famed football-knower Bill Connelly is here to tell us about said things.

If ... the pass rush holds up. Chase Young was unfair. Despite being increasingly double-teamed as 2019 went on, the now-former Buckeyes defensive end generated pressure on 19% of his pass rushes (easily the most among players with 200-plus attempts) and sacked QBs 16.5 times (also the most). It's been a while since Ohio State didn't have an incredible pass-rusher, but that bar's probably too high for anyone to clear.

One way or another, the Buckeyes will have to continue generating high pressure. The OSU secondary has to replace first-round cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette and safeties Jordan Fuller and Brendon White, and while corner Shaun Wade is a proven entity and fellow juniors Cameron Brown and Sevyn Banks have shined when given the chance, the best favor you can give a newish secondary is a stressed-out quarterback. Ends Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith are former blue-chippers, but neither enjoyed even a 10% pressure rate; senior Jonathon Cooper's return from an injury will help, too, but new coordinator Kerry Coombs might have to get a bit creative to get pressure.

If ... young, high-upside wide receivers prove that upside. The Buckeyes' offense was balanced and brilliant in 2019, and it returns quarterback Justin Fields and three linemen who earned all-conference honors, but J.K. Dobbins (2,003 rushing yards) and three of last season's top five receivers all depart.

No one is a sure thing, but the replacements are close to it. Carries will go to some combination of sophomores Master Teague III and Marcus Crowley, redshirt freshman Steele Chambers and Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon, while Chris Olave and blue-chip sophomore Garrett Wilson return after combining for 79 catches and 1,281 yards. Still, diversity was a huge plus in the Buckeyes' receiving corps (six players caught 20-plus passes), and that means a few options from a pool of other recent blue-chippers -- sophomores Jameson Williams, Jaelen Gill and injury-prone Kamryn Babb, plus four incoming freshmen led by all-world Julian Fleming -- have to produce immediately, especially with a Week 2 trip to Oregon looming

I see no lie.

Ohio State's been a defensive line-driven team for as long as I can remember, and for the past five or six years that d-line has included a player who was basically a guaranteed top-five pick, and nobody on the current roster has proven that yet.

As for the receivers, it's a young position group, for sure, but Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave are proven in my mind, and I'll roll the dice that at least one or two of the *checks notes* six other former top-100 prospects in the receivers room turn out to be immediately playable.

That said, I'm perfectly fine with Ohio State's biggest ifs basically being "will Ohio State's five-star prospects be good, actually?"

 SAVING WOODY'S JOB. Woody Hayes has a rightful place on Ohio State's Mt. Rushmore, but the first three years of his Buckeye career were so painful to many in Buckeyeland that his job was in need of saving in 1954.

Thankfully for Woody, Howard Cassady was there to play savior with a timely pick-six against the nation's No. 2 team.

“I scored the go-ahead touchdown in the (1954) Michigan game, and still years later I’m dreaming, ‘Oh, my god, what if I had dropped the ball?’ Everything would have changed,” Brubaker said recently. “And you realize, what a fine line between failure and success. It gets you.”

One play can change the trajectory of a program. Brubaker saw it happen, and not just in his nightmares. On Oct. 23, 1954, the future of Ohio State football turned on an 88-yard interception return for a touchdown by Buckeyes defensive back Howard “Hopalong” Cassady.

When Cassady intercepted Wisconsin quarterback Jim Miller at the 12-yard line and cut left and then cut back right, the junior from Columbus also cut down calls for coach Woody Hayes to be fired.

Cassady’s pick-six early in the third quarter erased a 7-3 deficit and sparked Ohio State to a 31-14 win against the Badgers in Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes improved to 5-0 and went on to finish 10-0 and No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. Hayes coached for 24 more seasons, winning national titles in 1957 and ’68.

“Woody always credited that season with saving his bacon,” said Brubaker, 87, who lives near Cleveland.


“It was one of the more brilliant interception returns I’ve ever seen,” Brubaker said. “He did a 45-degree turn right in front of the Ohio State bench and faked a Wisconsin guy right out of his jockstrap.

Woody went from on the hot seat to the first 10-0 season in program history and a national title in a single season. Let that be a lesson to anyone who currently sucks at their job – you could always just become the best in the country, instead!

 COMPLETE BACK. Ohio State hasn't landed a five-star running back since Beanie Wells, missing out on a few elite backs the past few years.

But if Ohio State is only going to land one five-star running back over the course of a decade, TreVeyon Henderson is a damn good choice, as 247Sports' Charles Power makes the case that he's the most complete running back prospect in years.

The “generational running back” label has almost become a joke unto itself over the last decade. We’ve seen this platitude handed out like Halloween candy. Being truthful, I’ve found many of the recent “best running back prospect since...” statements to be premature or hyperbolic at best and cringe-worthy at worst. 

I say all that to preface this thesis: TreVeyon Henderson is the most complete running back prospect entering his senior season in several recruiting cycles. 

Is the 2021 Ohio State commit the best since (insert running back name)? I don’t know, but he’s assembled an on-field resume and demonstrated a well-rounded skill set that probably exceeds the considerable attention and hype he already receives as a 247Sports Composite five-star prospect.

Let’s start with something simple: TreVeyon Henderson doesn’t get tackled in bounds over the course of a 10-minute highlight video.

He ain't wrong – 10+ minutes and not a single tackle in bounds.

Last year, the dude rushed for 2,424 yards and 45 touchdowns on 198 attempts for an average o 12.2 yards per carry and one touchdown for every 4.4 touches. I'd say those are video game numbers, but video games are realistic these days.

Needless to say, I'm sold. My only question is, how many Heisman Trophies will he win – two or three?

 JUSTIN FIELDS = CAM NEWTON. At this time last year, most folks around the college football world were still skeptical of what Justin Fields could do. After all, he couldn't beat out Jake Fromm at Georgia, so how good could he really be, right?

Ryan Day certainly was not one of those skeptics.

That's a nice comparison and all, Ryan, but Cam Newton completed two passes for 14 yards his sophomore season – Justin Fields led his team to the College Football Playoff and was a Heisman Trophy contender.

I guess what I'm saying is that Fields isn't comparable to a college Cam Newton – he's better.

 SPORTS! Can't say I ever expected that the actual NBA season would end in an empty venue at Disneyworld, but after these hellish few months, I'll take pretty much any sports I can get.

I just hope they have the common decency to let Donald Duck award the O'Brien Trophy. I might have to get my petition ready if it looks like he won't get the honor.

 NOT STICKING TO SPORTS. Your genes have a surprising impact on how marijuana will affect you... Porn takes on personal touch during the pandemic... Inside hackers' pivot to medical espionage... Police arrest a man in his 80s overt the murder of a fellow bingo player... Music synchronizes the brains of performers and their audience... Our magnetic field is acting sketchy again...

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