Skull Session: Ryan Day Faces “Competitive Pressure” in 2023, Paris Johnson Jr. Shares Precious Moment With His Mother and Jaxon Smith-Njigba's Stock Draft Rose at the Combine

By Chase Brown on March 7, 2023 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day

Today is the day.

Ohio State's spring football practices have arrived.

Let's have a good Tuesday, shall we?

 FEELING THE HEAT? Ryan Day and his security as Ohio State's head coach has been a popular topic since the Buckeyes lost their second consecutive game to Michigan on Nov. 26, 2022. Some called for him to be fired immediately, while others chose the wait-and-see approach.

Wherever you stand on the matter, it's hard to deny that Day enters this season with more pressure to perform as leader of the Buckeyes than he ever has before. However, it might not be the pressure you're thinking of. Josh Pate of CBS Sports explained the kind of weight Day has on his shoulders heading into 2023 in a recent episode of his show Late Kick.

"Ryan Day doesn't have job security pressure, but I think it's very fair to call it competitive pressure. Listen, I think we're already there. This past year, when (Late Kick) went to the Michigan game, I said, 'This is the most important game of his career.' That was because of how radically uncomfortable it would get afterward if he lost. Well, he lost."


"With Ryan Day, you can ask me what happens if they lose a third game in a row to Michigan. Well, my answer is they lost a third game in a row to Michigan. That's what will have happened. But if they win all of their other games, he's not getting fired. You can talk about that all you want. They're not firing a coach who goes 11-1 – they're just not. If they do, we have entered into a total bizarro world.

"But that's why I say he's not under job security pressure but it's competitive pressure. Becuase at that point, if once again you're not winning a Big Ten Championship because you're not playing in a Big Ten Championship, you may start to doubt yourself internally. ... Three years in a row you will have lost to a team you fully believe you out man, you fully believe you have a better staff than and you fully believe you put your guys in a better position and you haven't gotten it done? That's called competitive pressure. Nobody needs to tell you your job is on the line to feel that kind of pressure."

To me, Day has always been a coach that has looked to address problems head-on. I expect that to be the same this offseason as the Buckeyes prepare for a 2023 season full of questions about the quarterback position and the defense under second-year coordinator Jim Knowles.

Hopefully, the added pressure on Day will lead to positive results in both areas. However, we won't really know how positive the results are until Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor, when Day attempts to get the Michigan-sized monkey off his shoulder after back-to-back years of losses against the Wolverines. For the sake of Buckeye Nation, let's hope he tosses that monkey off easily.

 MOMMA'S BOY. A video of Paris Johnson Jr. and his mother Monica Daniels at the NFL Scouting Combine proved to me that the 6-foot-6, 313-pound offensive lineman is 1,000 percent a Momma's Boy, which honestly made me love him even more, mostly because I am a Momma's Boy, too (if you knew my Mom, that wouldn't surprise you).

"It's unreal. It's truly a surreal moment," Daniels told the NFL Network about her son's invitation to the combine. "I'm blessed to be here, and for Paris to receive this invite is amazing because it doesn't happen very often. This is a blessing."

Johnson shared a heartfelt message with his Mom. He told her that his entire football career, let alone an invitation to the combine, wouldn't have been possible without the sacrifices she made from when he was a little boy to when he stood next to her on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"If it wasn't for you and all the sacrifice – the (things) you gave up, kind of having some blind faith to believe that I would continue to work this hard and go this far and that schools like Ohio State would take a chance on me and I would compete to be here," Johnson said. "I just want to thank you. You worked without seeing the result, but it's all starting to show, so I appreciate that."

"Always," Daniels responded, "I love you."

That is some Grade-A content if I have ever seen it – chef's kiss, as they say.

Johnson is a beautiful example to young athletes looking to reach where he performed on Sunday at the combine. Not only is he a fantastic football player, but he is also a fantastic young man who recognizes he didn't reach where he is today without help.

He showed that recognition as he noticed and appreciated his mother's sacrifice to provide him with the best chance possible to succeed. Even more, a sacrifice that allowed him to live out his lifelong dream of playing professional football in the NFL.

Cheers to Daniels and Johnson for this moment. I hope we see many more like this between them for years to come as the Ohio State left tackle becomes a blindside protector and cornerstone player at the next level.

 STOCK UP/DOWN. Last week, I mentioned that Jaxon Smith-Njigba didn't have to do much at the NFL Scouting Combine to receive praise from coaches, scouts and executives. It would be as simple as doing well at what he does well.

That's exactly what the Ohio State receiver did in Indianapolis, and it's why ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Rockwall, Texas, native listed as one of the 10 prospects who boosted their draft stock the most from their performance at the combine. Here is what Kiper wrote about Smith-Njigba in his most recent article:

This selection isn't so much about a player rising as it is entrenching his position. There were a lot of questions about Smith-Njigba heading into the week because he is coming off a totally lost season due to a hamstring injury. We saw him dominate in 2021, but he ran just 42 total routes all of last season. Would he show that he's a lock to be a first-round pick?

The answer is a definitive yes, even though he's waiting to run the 40-yard dash until his pro day later this month. Smith-Njigba led all receivers in Indianapolis with a 6.57-second 3-cone time and a 3.93-second short shuttle. Those are quick numbers. That explosiveness is all over his 2021 tape. Plus, he was effortless in the receiving drills, snatching the ball out of the air and being silky smooth out of his breaks. Smith-Njigba is going in Round 1 in April, potentially in the top 15.

While I appreciate that Kiper now officially recognizes that Smith-Njigba is a lock to be a first-round pick, I find it curious that he entertained the idea of JSN being a second-round pick or later before the combine.

Should Kiper have had questions about the former Buckeye before his performance in Indianapolis? Probably. But they should have only been about Smith-Njigba's speed, which I don't think warrants JSN plummeting out of the first round after he started the 2022 season as an almost unanimous top-10 pick.

And now that Smith-Njigba has proved his athleticism is elite – his 3-cone and 20-yard times were the fastest among all players at the combine, and he had similar vertical and broad jumps to Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave from last year – I feel like JSN isn't just "potentially" a top 15 pick in the draft, as Kiper claimed. I feel like that's a lock, too.

If, for some reason, JSN falls out of the top 15, some lucky team could end up with one of the steals of the draft.

 "NO ONE WANTS TO PLAY THIS OHIO STATE TEAM." When you read that quote, you probably think of the Ohio State football team. You may even think of women's basketball or hockey in their upcoming NCAA Tournaments or men's and women's tennis as they head deeper into the regular season.

But no, that quote isn't about any of those teams. Instead, it's about the Ohio State men's basketball team before they play Wisconsin on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago.

Former Purdue forward and current Big Ten Network basketball analyst Rapheal Davis made that claim in Monday's episode of B1G Today as Dave Revsine, Tre Demps and Davis previewed the conference tournament that will take place this weekend.

"Bruce Thornton has really stepped up in a big way. He's been the point guard they expected him to be all season long with 20 points in two of the last three games. He can put the ball in the hole. He's big, strong and he can get to spots. Brice Sensabaugh is one of the best freshmen in the country. They have the talent. They have the veterans like Justice Sueing. They have (Felix) Okpara who is a rim protector. No one wants to play this Ohio State team right now. The record doesn't match the talent. Sometimes they get into games and they get stuck – the ball doesn't move. But they've learned how to grow through and keep that ball moving. If they're making shots, I could see this team making it to Saturday."

My first reaction to Davis' take was that it sounded utterly ridiculous. I thought of questions like, "Has he watched the same Ohio State team that I have?" and "Does he know the Buckeyes have only won three games since the calendar changes from 2022 to 2023?"

But as I sat back and thought about it, I realized Davis made some excellent points.

Let me ask this: If I said at the start of the 2022-23 season that Ohio State would finish 13th in the Big Ten with a 5-15 conference record and be 13-18 overall heading into the conference tournament, would you have believed me?

The reality is that we had (relatively) high expectations for this Buckeyes squad until they repeatedly found new ways to lose in January and February. Those expectations were for a team that looked similar to the one we saw in Ohio State's wins over Illinois and Maryland.

If that version of the scarlet and gray shows up in the Windy City, it does feel like anything can happen for this Ohio State squad. After all, it is March, meaning some madness will occur. Are they destined to win the Big Ten Tournament? No, probably not. But that doesn't mean they can't land a couple of punches while they play in it.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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