Skull Session: Team Doctor Reflects on COVID-19 Season, NIL Isn't Just For Star Players, and Buckeye Linebackers Are Key Free Agent Signings

By Kevin Harrish on May 24, 2021 at 4:59 am
There's a football in today's skull session.

Whatever you did with your weekend, I bet it probably wasn't this!

There's always next weekend.

Word of the Day: Ambrosia.

 A WILD YEAR. I don't think it's fully sunk in just how absolutely nuts the 2020 football season was from start to finish. 

I mean, the season almost didn't even happen – y'all remember when the Big Ten insisted that it would not revisit its decision? – then we had multiple games canceled, Ryan Day had to miss a game and hand the keys off to Larry Johnson, and then there was that weird technical rule that nearly barred Ohio State from winning the Big Ten title as an undefeated team.

It was all wild as hell. And there's nobody better to reflect on it than the team doctor, Dr. Jim Borchers, who helped make it all happen.

Still, the season was a bumpy one. Ohio State’s players sacrificed any semblance of an outside social life to play, and even that didn’t stave off the virus. Three games were canceled — one, at Illinois, because of an OSU outbreak.

The Buckeyes were short-handed in several games, including the postseason. Despite that, Ohio State was undefeated until losing to Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game, a 52-24 rout.

“I don't think anybody will ever know how difficult it was to be as successful as they were last year with all the curveballs that got thrown to them,” Borchers said. “They may not have won the national championship, but it was one of the most incredible feats that's ever been pulled off, and not every team was able to do it.

“Give the coaching staff and everybody else a ton of credit. They didn't really miss a beat. I'm very appreciative that we had as much support and cooperation, knowing that it seemed like every day curveballs were getting thrown. It was a real testament to that team and really to all the athletes. Look at our basketball teams. They did a great job.”


“Nobody wants to live through and go through what they had to go through last year, that's for sure,” he said.

And Borchers didn't just lead the Buckeyes through the season, he was a massive, massive reason why the season was played in the first place, thanks to his expertise and his help developing all the protocols.

TL;DR, he's a proper legend and was the real MVP of the 2020 season.

 NOT JUST FOR FOOTBALL. Everyone's understandably antsy to see how these new name, image, and likeness rules are going to impact the local football team, but the star quarterback ain't the only one who's going to benefit.

(Sophomore lacrosse player Mitchell Pehlke) began vlogging in high school when he recorded a video of himself and a friend giving each other haircuts to the entertainment of their classmates.

“I just remember that next day going to school and seeing people’s faces, and them watching it and just being like, 'Wow, that made me laugh,' or, 'That made my day,’” Pehlke said. “That feeling is something I chase every single time I make a video.”


“There’s definitely different ways I can make money in that space,” he said.


When Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith co-chaired a working group formed by the NCAA in 2019 to study name, image and likeness, he listened to a presentation from Dylan Geick, a former wrestler at Columbia.

Geick discussed how he had built up a following on Instagram by writing poetry. It was an eye-opening moment for Smith, who realized the potential for athletes to gain influence on social media involved pursuits outside of their sport.

“I never thought about that,” Smith said. “He was a poet, and he has followers in poetry. It had nothing to do with his wrestling.”

It's great that kids like this are going to be able to benefit from the new changes, as well, but at the same time, it's absolutely INSANE that for decades, it was impermissible for an athlete to make money writing poetry on the side.

On some level, regardless of if I agree, I get the sentiment behind this rule – protecting amateur status and such. But in practice, for 95 percent of the athletes, the rule is actually just keeping them from acting like any other normal college student.

The only thing stopping me from monetizing a YouTube channel in college was me.

 UNDRAFTED, STILL HYPE. Only half of Ohio State's 2020 linebackers class got drafted, but the road certainly ain't over for the other half as both Justin Hilliard and Tuf Borland are listed among the league's most exciting undrafted free agent signings.

San Francisco 49ers: LB Justin Hilliard

Linebacker Justin Hilliard was one of the most highly regarded high school prospects in the 2015 recruiting class, but he didn't live up to those immense expectations at Ohio State. 

The biggest problem was his health, as he suffered three torn biceps, a torn meniscus and a torn Achilles over his six years with the Buckeyes. During the rare times when the linebacker was at full strength, he showed he could both stuff the run and drop into coverage with equal proficiency.

Had Hilliard been able to stay on the field, he could have been a Day 2 pick. The 24-year-old is capable of doing just about everything that an NFL team would ask from his position, proving as much during the 2020 season. He finished the campaign with a career high 33 tackles, including five tackles for loss, and recorded a forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and an interception in six games.

San Francisco may be getting one of the biggest steals of the offseason. If Hilliard remains healthy, he could end up starting and would be a massive return on the tiny investment.

Minnesota Vikings: LB Tuf Borland

If the Vikings are looking for a future leader on defense or special teams, it would be tough to find a prospect better than Tuf Borland. The linebacker was a three-year captain at Ohio State, a testament to how hard he worked and how consistent he was.

Borland is a natural who has a great feel for the game. He has a knack for making smart decisions, a quality that will translate to the next level.

While he's not an every-down linebacker, he could shine situationally and as a backup. He'd also add value as a special teamer with his strength and ability to shed blocks. That, coupled with his relentless motor, could make him a Pro Bowler.

Strong agree on everything written about Hilliard. The dude proved he's still got that five-star talent inside him, it's just a matter of finally growing into that, and staying healthy as he does it.

As for Borland, I'm certainly not one of his many haters, but I'll say this – labeling him a potential Pro Bowler is... bold.

 YES PLEASE. Folks, I think it's time to 1894 when your favorite football team was presumably always playing.

To be fair, this probably wouldn't be all that hard of a sell to the Buckeyes considering like half the games are against high schools or various YMCAs.

Give me the Bucks -137.5 against the Grove City YMCA. Ryan Day would take me to cover town, no doubt.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "brutal" by Olivia Rodrigo.

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