Skull Session: Ryan Day Falls in College Football Head Coach Rankings, Brian Hartline Believes Marvin Harrison Jr. Should Have Won the Biletnikoff and James Laurinaitis is a Dude

By Chase Brown on March 10, 2023 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day / James Franklin
Matthew OHaren / USA TODAY Sports

Everyone say it with me: The Ohio State University Men's Basketball Team.

Those words have sounded pretty good the last two days.

Let's have a good Friday, shall we?

 SURVIVE AND ADVANCE. Folks, I tried to tell you. I really did. The Ohio State University men's basketball team has officially made some noise at the Big Ten Tournament. After defeating Wisconsin on Wednesday, the Buckeyes returned to United Center to face an Iowa team they both boat-raced and were boat-raced by earlier this season.

While there was no boat-racing in the rubber match between the teams, Ohio State came out victorious, 73-69, in Chicago, causing some (not me! just some!) to believe that the Buckeyes may actually make it to the weekend.

Now, I understand the weekend take is hot, hot, hot. I also know that Michigan State beat Ohio State both times this season, including a 62-41 beatdown in the first matchup at Value City Arena, a performance I believe – and this is a cold, cold, cold take – was the Buckeyes' worst of the year. How-evuh, the second matchup was competitive from start to finish, resulting in an 84-78 win for the Spartans.

If Chris Holtmann's squad can replicate how they played in the second game but make a few improvements, namely keeping Michigan State off the 3-point line, then I like Ohio State's chances to win. And so does Holtmann, so long as the Buckeyes maintain the competitive edge and fight that was present in the first two games of the tourney.

"Our guys really fought today, they fought yesterday and they really fought for the last couple of weeks," Holtmann told Big Ten Network after the game. "We have found the right way to play when things haven't gone our way. We didn't do that for a stretch. ... It took us getting knocked in the teeth several times for us to understand that there is a way you play when you're struggling that is the right way, and if you do that, you'll give yourselves a chance to win, and I think this (win over Iowa) validates it."

 DOWN HE GOES. Ryan Day is no longer the best coach in the Big Ten, a duo of well-known sportswriters claimed Thursday. According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Day now ranks behind Michigan's Jim Harbaugh as the best program leader in the conference –

wait... and also Penn State's James Franklin?

James Franklin

Here is what Feldman wrote about Franklin, whose only win over the Buckeyes in 10 years at Penn State came in 2016 against an Urban Meyer-coached Ohio State team:

I seem to get more pushback on Franklin than any coach in these rankings. Some of that is probably due to my recognition of just what a remarkable job he did at Vandy prior to his time in Happy Valley. In short, he took an SEC program that hadn’t finished in the Top 25 in more than 60 years to two Top 25 seasons in three years. Vandy hasn’t had a winning season since he left, going 34-73. The 51-year-old took over a Penn State program that was gutted from hefty sanctions and by Year 3 led the Nittany Lions to a 2016 Big Ten title. He’s had four top-10 finishes in the past seven seasons, winning 11 games four times. He’s proven to be one of the country’s top recruiters and program builders.


This was a battle for me of where to rank [Ryan] Day, Franklin and Lincoln Riley. I have Franklin above because of his work at Vandy and because he took over a much tougher situation than Day, 43, did when he inherited a high-powered operation from Urban Meyer and when Riley was promoted into Bob Stoops’ seat at OU. 

Again, I like Feldman, but come on, man. The primary justification for putting Franklin ahead of Day – or ahead of anyone, for that matter – cannot be his tenure at Vanderbilt. Frankin's last season there was in 2013, a year I deem outside the statute of limitations for calling a football coach elite, which a top-five ranking most certainly does.

It's just silly.

As Brian Hartline said about Marvin Harrison Jr. not winning the Biletnikoff Award, something I will talk about in the next section, "anybody with eyes" knows Day is a better coach than Franklin. It's as simple as that. I don't need to explain that narrative more than I already have, especially to readers on an Ohio State website.

 GOT EYES? Marvin Harrison Jr. should have won the Biletnikoff last season because he was the best receiver in college football. We know it. Harrison knows it. Heck, even Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt, the receiver who took home the award instead of Harrison, probably knows it.

And so does Hartline.

On Thursday, the Ohio State offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach was asked how Marvin Harrison Jr. can improve this offseason to be the best pass-catcher in college football next season and finally win the Biletnikoff. In answering the question, Hartline couldn't keep his thoughts about last year's award to himself.

Good on Hartline for backing his best player and doing it in a way that leaves no room for interpretation regarding his opinion of the Tallahassee Quarterback Club's decision to pick Hyatt as its winner last season.

The good news? Harrison has another year in the scarlet and gray. He's not ending that year without some hardware. First, it will be the Biletnikoff, and then, if Harrison has his way, it will be a national championship trophy, the final trophy of the four-team playoff era.

 “HE'S A DUDE. I LOVE THAT GUY.” When Steele Chambers was asked about the addition of former Ohio State All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis as a GA to the Buckeyes' coaching staff (but really as an assistant linebackers coach), Chambers smiled and rattled off a quick response.

"He's a dude. I love that guy," Chambers said. "You can tell that he was a student of the game. He was smart. When I first heard he was coming in, I looked at his résumé, and it's freaking ridiculous – it's something out of a movie – but he's a personable guy, and you can talk to him about anything. He's a helluva coach."

Chambers said Laurinaitis earned the trust of Ohio State's linebackers soon after he arrived because the players saw Day's respect for him as a player and former captain of the Buckeyes. And even more, how much Day respected Laurinaitis as a person and the way he carries himself.

Not only does Laurinaitis have the players' respect, but he also has their attention. In less than two months with the program, the former three-star from Wayzata, Minnesota (as Beau Bishop would call him) has already passed on several "tricks and trades" to defensive players, Chambers said.

"When you have a guy like Laurinaitis as your coach, you try to think the way he thinks," Chambers said. "He's been there. He's done it. He's done it at a very high level. If you can put yourself in that same mindset, then I feel like you can match – you can at least try to match – those results (he had)."

After Laurinaitis was hired, I said he was a home-run hire for Day. As of Thursday, I am ready to double down on that claim. After Thursday, a day I only heard about Laurinaitis from Chambers, I plan to triple down, quadruple down and so on when I listen to what players like Tommy Eichenberg, Cody Simon, C.J. Hicks and others have to say about him.

We are a long way from August and an even longer way from January, but Laurinaitis has the Midas touch. I don't know how else to explain it. He seems like a person who is literally good at everything he does, like everything he touches turns to gold, which excites me about what he can accomplish in his second stint as a Buckeye.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Pool House" by The Backseat Lovers.

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