Skull Session: NIL Collectives Are Changing Recruiting, Terry McLaurin and Cam Heyward Are Media Darlings, and E.J. Liddell Wants a Dog

By Kevin Harrish on April 21, 2022 at 4:59 am
Brutus has his arms crossed in today's skull session.

I hope you all enjoyed your 4/20. Now welcome to your next favorite holiday – national random drug test day!

Word of the Day: Vicissitude.

 NBA MONEY. E.J. Liddell's just a few weeks away from adding a zero to two to the end of his bank account balance (well, probably – I don't know what his NIL package was looking like this year).

That kind of sudden money can change a guy, but probably not E.J. Liddell – he's a pretty simple man with even simpler taste.

Q. When you earn that first big paycheck, what are you going to do with it?

I’m going to be smart with my money. I’m not a big spender. I’m not a materialistic type of guy, but I’m for-sure going to get a dog wherever I end up. I’m going to make sure I take care of my family. I have to get a financial advisor to know the amount of money I can spend, but until then I’m going to be smart with my money.

Q. What kind of dog will you get?

I’m looking for a big dog. I don’t know the specific type, but if I see one that I like I might say, ‘Yeah, that’s the one.’

I made exactly two life-changing purchases the minute I got my first big boy paycheck – a couch and a cat. One is soft, hangs out with me all day and snuggles me to sleep regularly. The other shits in a box and demands that I scoop it daily or he pisses on my floor.

 TIMES ARE CHANGING. Everyone knew the whole name, image and likeness thing was going to change recruiting, but the results are even more absurd than I ever could have imagined.

It's reached the point that some schools are basically just handing six and seven-figure checks to recruits in plain sight and knowing the NCAA isn't going to do a damn thing about it. In a lot of cases, it's completely swinging players' recruitments, because why wouldn't it?

There's a solid chance Ohio State could even end up on the losing end of a high-profile recruiting battle because of it.

“This is the hierarchy,” said attorney Mike Caspino, who has represented dozens of recruits in their dealings with collectives and executed the contracts The Athletic reviewed. “Five-star quarterbacks: They’re getting $2 million a year. The next-most sought after players are D-linemen, edge rushers; they’re getting seven figures. The next is a stud offensive lineman with quick feet — they’re in the high six figures. Everyone else is a hodgepodge, but in the six-figure range.”


Many states’ NIL laws adopted last summer prohibit schools from directly brokering deals. That opened the door for third-party collectives — organizations that pool fan and booster donations in order to compensate a specific school’s athletes. Boosters at a small handful of programs — Texas A&M, Texas, Tennessee, Oregon and Miami chief among them — mobilized the quickest when the NCAA allowed NIL compensation for the first time last July. But they are far outnumbered by exasperated coaches and administrators who fear their programs getting left behind. Many have lost recruits simply because another school’s collective offered an NIL package it couldn’t match.


Elsewhere, Ohio State has long been considered the favorite for five-star 2023 receiver Carnell Tate from IMG Academy in Florida, but two weekends ago he visited Tennessee, and late last week, On3 revised its prediction for Tate to Tennessee. The co-president of Spyre Sports, a for-profit collective associated with Tennessee, told The Athletic in February, “We’re prepared to invest a substantial amount of resources into the 2023 recruiting class.” A co-founder of The Foundation, Ohio State’s recently announced non-profit NIL fund, recently said on a Bucknuts podcast, “We can’t make an official deal with a recruit.”

There are two clear and obvious reactions to take here:

The first and most obvious reaction here is to suggest that Ohio State needs to just pony up and start dropping bags. I mean, how the hell is Tennessee able to outbid Ohio State and all of its resources? If the Buckeyes wanted to play this game, they'd win. So why not try to win?

But personally, I don't think that way. I think Ohio State should simply let this happen because there's just no way this is sustainable in the long run.

See, it's become very clear to me that the thing all of these schools have in common is that they have no idea what the hit rate on elite prospects actually is. Sure, stars matter, but 

Just imagine how this is going to go when some booster drops $6 million on a kid that can't even earn a starting job. Or they shell out tens of millions for a roster that still suffers an inexplicable regular season loss to Vanderbilt, because shit happens in college football.

The boosters and programs throwing around this cash are living large in their hypothetical national titles right now, but I don't think they're at all ready for the extremely likely scenario where this doesn't work out the way they think it's going to, and they've just blown millions of dollars on a Capital One Bowl berth.

But you better believe that I'm ready!

 MEDIA DARLINGS. The Pro Football Writers of America chose four media "Good Guys" who went above and beyond their standard media responsibilities this season, and it doesn't feel like a coincidence that half of them are Buckeyes.

DT Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers — Heyward did not miss an availability for the 2021 season, and those on the beat locally said he never avoided a tough question as he offered open and honest discussions about everything from on-the-field issues to the impact of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. He was cited for consistently going “above and beyond’’ to build an honest rapport with those who cover the team.

WR Terry McLaurin,  Washington Football Team — McLaurin routinely participated in 1-on-1 interviews in 2021 when few others on the team would. He was willing to offer textured answers on a variety of topics like the anniversary of 9/11, mental health issues players face, injuries, COVID or struggles others on the team were facing. On the rare occasion he missed a group session, he would always make it up the following day or the next available opportunity.

There's nobody here that's shocked to hear those two names. And guys like Jordan Fuller, Billy Price, Malcolm Jenkins, Dre'Mont Jones and a few others easily could have made this list and nobody would have even blinked.

I don't know whether it's recruiting, media training, or a combination of both, but Ohio State does seem to have a disproportionate number of players who give extraordinarily delightful, candid, and insightful interviews.

Of course, there are plenty of players who are decidedly not media darlings, but the good outweighs the bad. Or at least my biased brain thinks it does.

 BACK LIKE HE NEVER LEFT. Stephen Collier never even attempted a pass in an Ohio State football game, but the fact that most people reading this remember him fondly proves that he didn't need to start to become a proper Buckeye legend.

He reached legend status in my mind when he learned Oregon's prolific offense in a couple of days to be able to simulate Marcus Mariotta and run that high-speed offense in practice, getting plays off every 16 seconds.

You know how prepared the Ohio State defense looked in that game? You have him to thank for that.

And after his playing days, he went on to get himself a bachelor's degree from Ohio State, a master's degree from Ohio State, and now he's going to finish off the trifecta with a law degree from Ohio State.

Dude is all the way Buckeye and all the way impressive. When I inevitably get myself into some life-altering legal trouble in the next decade, I pray the police let me transfer my one call into a Twitter DM so he can represent me.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Phone Numbers" by Dominic Fike.

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