Skull Session: Jaxon Smith-Njigba Says He is “The Best Receiver Available” in the Draft, Kevin Wilson Reflects on Time at Ohio State and Ryan Day and Kirby Smart's Career Trajectories Are Similar

By Chase Brown on February 22, 2023 at 5:00 am

There's no better phrase for a Buckeye fan to hear than "Ohio State rolls over the Wolverines."

That's exactly what you'll find is this video of Ohio State women's basketball's victory over Michigan on Monday.

Let's have a good Wednesday, shall we?

 "THE BEST RECEIVER AVAILABLE." During an interview with Yahoo Sports' Matt Harmon before the Super Bowl, Garrett Wilson called Jaxon Smith-Njigba "a cold-blooded man" and said JSN will be even greater than he and Chris Olave could ever hope to be in their careers.

"That boy is, we call him 'The Natural.' He's got hands. He's got feet that will throw you by, make you miss," Wilson said. "He'll do the laundry for you. Jaxon's cold, man. I'm confident that wherever he goes, he's going to have a huge impact early."

Smith-Njigba had a chance to respond to Wilson's comments in a recent interview with CBS Sports' Josh Edwards. He reflected on his time as a teammate to Wilson and Olave and said the former Buckeyes have set a new standard for Ohio State receivers in the NFL. 

"(Wilson and Olave) are pushing the bar. There is no pressure. I just try to be myself and that is really what they tell me; just be yourself and everything will take care of itself. ... A lot of guys from the receiver room that I was in are ballers. Those guys are the best right now and it is fun to chase greatness."

Smith-Njigba also used the platform to make it known that he should be the first receiver taken in the 2023 NFL draft, yet he realizes he will have to prove why that should be the case at the NFL Scouting Combine and Ohio State’s pro day in March.

"I definitely believe that I am the best wide receiver available in this draft, but I'm all about proving it. No matter what happens, I'm just ready to go out there and prove it."

I know JSN's time in Columbus didn't end in the best way, seeing as he only played in three games for Ohio State because of the hamstring ailment. But what he provided in a receiver room that also had Wilson and Olave is something I will never forget, and I hope he finds nothing but success at the next level.

 WILSON REFLECTS ON OHIO STATE. Kevin Wilson appreciated his six seasons at Ohio State as an assistant under Urban Meyer and Ryan Day. But when Tulsa called and offered him a chance to be the next head coach of its football program, it was an offer he couldn't refuse.

On a recent episode of The Number One College Football Show, Wilson reflected on his time at Ohio State and explained his decision to leave the program to lead the Golden Hurricane – an opportunity he feels is a "good swing to lead a program, make an impact and make a change."

"I had a great job, having been a head coach prior at Indiana, I tried very hard to be a great assistant coach at Ohio State. I tried to do the job that was asked – to be a good teammate, to be someone that tried to bring something to the table but did what was best for the team, and most importantly, what I thought was best for our players, best for the fans and for the program.

When you're an assistant coach, you don't get a chance to be a head coach a lot. When the opportunity came, it wasn't about ego. It wasn't about needing to show anyone I could do it. I thought we did a strong job and a tough job at Indiana with the program we built there and at Ohio State. But what I felt was my best opportunity, and what I felt was what the Good Lord wanted, was that I thought I had one good swing to lead a program, make an impact and make a change. ... We got some resources in place (at Tulsa). We will have shortcomings like everyone, but we have a lot of things in place, so I'm excited to be here and excited to see what we can do."

While I am excited to see what Brian Hartline can do as Ohio State's offensive coordinator, I will also be sad to see someone like Wilson leave the program. As he mentioned briefly in the interview, it has always been clear to me that he cared about being a teammate to his fellow coaches, an excellent leader to his players and a great representative to the fans and supporters of the Buckeyes.

Consider me a Tulsa fan so long as Wilson is the head coach. Unless, of course, the Golden Hurricanes are standing on the opposite sidelines of the Buckeyes inside Ohio Stadium. If so, I will be forced to root against him. But in all other instances, I hope KDub succeeds in everything he does in the Sooner State, and I hope you all feel the same.

 SAME SAME, BUT DIFFERENT. Kirby Smart and Ryan Day aren't that similar at first glance. The former is a defensive-minded coach and back-to-back national champion, while the latter is an offensive-minded coach who has yet to win a title.

However, when asked if there were any similarities between Smart and Day on a recent episode of The Audible with Stew and BruceThe Athletic's Bruce Feldman told co-host Stewart Mandel he could see how fans and media members may connect the two because of their trajectories as coaches of two of the premier programs in the sport.

Feldman's answer comes at the 39:12 mark of the episode:

Mailbag Question: Do you see any similarities between Kirby Smart and Ryan Day's career trajectories? I live in Atlanta, so I am surrounded by UGA fans and media who questioned if Kirby could win the big game and get Georgia over the hump. Now, after back-to-back national titles, those questions have been answered, but it took Kirby some time to get there. I feel like Ryan Day is now in the boat that Kirby was in – good coach, wins many games, but can he win the big one?

Feldman: “From the first sentence about the career trajectory I was like, 'I don’t get this at all,' but then when he explained about winning the big one because the bar is incredibly high. Like, in the case of Ryan Day, he followed Urban Meyer and Urban Meyer won a national title and brought a ton of talent there. ... And in some ways, I feel like Kirby Smart was being measured up against Nick Saban where that’s yes, that’s his mentor, but it’s also not the guy he’s coached in the same place with. 

"So I do think there is more of a career trajectory (between Smart and Day) there. I mean look, if Ryan Day’s kicker hits the field goal, I feel pretty confident they would have won the national title. Could you still have said the same thing that he would have lost, you know, two in a row and handily to Michigan? Or like, does that exorcise the demons that you won a national title in spite of that?”

It is funny, really. Smart has almost provided a road map toward what Day can be as a head coach. And it's not like they are that far off. As Feldman mentioned, Day was a field goal away from the national championship, where many would have picked Ohio State to beat TCU. Had that happened, Smart and Day would have the same number of titles (one), and Day would have secured his first championship in four years compared to Smart's five.

Instead, Smart now has two titles compared to Day's zilch, zip, nada, which creates what feels like a Grand Canyon-like difference between them. But that's not to say Day can't rise to Smart's level. In fact, Mandel believes he would be the next head coach to claim their first-career title over the likes of Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly.

"I'd put Lincoln Riley third because he has not yet proven as great of an offensive coach he is, he has not yet proven he can have a national championship defense. And his first recruiting class was not as impressive as you would have thought. Brian Kelly, what great opportunity this LSU team has this year coming forward. 

“But Ryan Day, I would think we would say is further along with his program. A 50 yard field goal probably wins the national championship. I’m gonna say, I don’t think Ryan Day’s national title is inevitable, like I thought Kirby Smart’s was, but I think it’s more likely than not. ... So I’ll say Ryan Day 45%, Brian Kelly 35%, Lincoln Riley 20% in that order."

An Ohio State national title under Ryan Day being "more likely than not" feels like it has become a hot take at this point of his tenure, doesn't it? After the 2019 and 2020 seasons, a championship for Day felt like a lock in the mind of most Buckeye fans, but after the 2021 and 2022 seasons? Ehhhhh, not so much.

Still, I think if Day can get a top-10 pushing toward top-five defense from Jim Knowles and the Silver Bullets in 2023, he could reach that summit as soon as next year. Before we get there, though, the goals must be – and I will say this until Nov. 25 – beat Michigan, beat Michigan and beat Michigan.

 END OF AN ERA? Ezekiel Elliott's tenure with the Dallas Cowboys could end this offseason after seven years with the iconic star on the sides of his silver helmet. However, the decision to cut ties with the franchise will be a decision Elliott must make for himself.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Elliott has another year left on his contract that would provide Dallas with a $16.7 million cap hit – a number the Cowboys would like to decrease by restructuring the running back's deal. Should Elliott agree to a pay cut, he will remain with Dallas. However, if he refuses, the Cowboys will move on from the former Ohio State star and pursue other options.

"You always want Zeke, but do the numbers work?" said Stephen Jones, Dallas' executive vice president, CEO and director of player personnel. "You can't define what Zeke does for our football team."

Elliott has played 103 games for the Cowboys in his career, collecting 1,881 carries for 8,262 yards and 68 touchdowns. However, he had his least productive year in 15 appearances for Dallas in 2022, recording a career-low 876 yards on 231 carries. He also had 12 touchdowns in those contests.

It's safe to say Elliott is no longer the same running back that tore up college defenses as a Buckeye. While that's sad to think about, who would be at this point in their career? Zeke is 27 years old and will turn 28 this summer, which means there's a lot of mileage on those legs. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't have value in Dallas or another franchise next season. Wherever he ends up, I hope he can still eat.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Someday" by Rob Thomas.

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