Skull Session: Kyle McCord, Devin Brown Need to Take Baby Steps, Marvin Harrison Jr. Has Outperformed His High School Evaluations and Never Count Out Ohio State Women's Basketball

By Chase Brown on March 27, 2023 at 5:00 am
Cotie McMahon
Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Like shoes?

Happy belated Air Max Day to all who celebrate.

Let's have a good Monday, shall we?

 BABY STEPS. An Eleven Warriors crew of Dan Hope, Griffin Strom, Garrick Hodge and I visited the Woody Hayes Athletic Center over the weekend to view over two uninterrupted hours of Ohio State's fifth spring practice and first offseason scrimmage.

And, yes, the rumors (and factual reports) are accurate. Kyle McCord was one of the practice's standout performers, but it wasn't a perfect effort session from beginning to end. McCord's efforts on Saturday perfectly encapsulated the phrase, "It's not how you start; it's how you finish."

In the team's red zone passing period, Ohio State's offense only reached the end zone once in 12 attempts against the defense – a quick strike from Devin Brown to Kaleb Brown in the middle of the field being the lone touchdown. Meanwhile, McCord didn't lead his unit to paydirt in any of his reps, as his accuracy faltered from snap to snap.

But McCord didn't let the early adversity rattle him. After a brief 7-on-7 period in which the 6-foot-3, 222-pound quarterback connected with Marvin Harrison Jr., Kojo Antwi and Cade Stover in three consecutive reps, McCord started to heat up. And, folks, it didn't take long before McCord was flat-out hot. It was as if he equipped a Hall of Fame "Microwave" badge in 2K from the end of that 7-on-7 period to the scrimmage – that's how night and day different the Philadelphia native was before and after that moment.

In complete control of his craft, McCord produced the practice's best moment in the scrimmage, which was also the final period of the session, when he connected with the speedy Jayden Ballard for a 50-yard bomb against the first-team defense. He then put the cherry on top with another explosive pass to Noah Rogers and added completions to Dallan Hayden and Jelani Thurman that helped Ohio State's offense win the day.

Now, I haven't talked about Brown much in all of this. Let me do that real quick.

Brown didn't have as memorable a practice as McCord, but he certainly flashed at times. The Draper, Utah, native had one moment that stood out to me: A perfectly-placed touch pass to Brown on the near sideline that set up a Chip Trayunum rushing touchdown at the goal line. He also had a few well-timed balls on the run, making several offensive players on the sideline loudly voice their approval.

All of that said, am I ready to name McCord the starter? No, and I don't think Ryan Day is, either. Am I ready to count out Brown from the competition? No, and I don't think Ryan Day is, either. McCord takes the crown for the fifth practice and the first scrimmage, but that's merely baby steps toward a long process of becoming Ohio State's quarterback.

And that's all anybody can ask for – small improvement day after day until one separates from the other and eventually earns the coveted QB1 title. And then, whoever earns that title leads Ohio State to its first national championship since 2014. That's how this story ends, right? ... right?

 GRAINS OF SALT. On Feb. 15, 2020, Brian Dohn of 247Sports submitted a talent evaluation for St. Joseph's Prep School's Marvin Harrison Jr. (you may have heard of him), a wide receiver who committed to Ohio State three months earlier on Oct. 31, 2019.

Here is Dohn's report for Harrison:

Great frame with length but needs to add strength. BIg, strong hands. Can eventually get to 220 pounds. Son of NFL Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison. Great route tactician. Gets out of breaks quickly and is precise in his route depths. Good release and technical at top of routes. Has separation skills. Uses size and length well to shield defenders. Red-zone threat. Catches every routine ball and tracks it well. So smooth he makes it look effortless. Needs to add strength to handle jams and become more effective blocker. High-level player for Top 15 college program. Should develop into a second- or third-round NFL draft pick.

Great frame? Yes. Big, strong hands? Yes. Son of NFL Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison? Yes. Great route tactician? Yes. Gets out of breaks quickly? Yes. Good release? Yes. Has separation skills? Yes. I could continue for a bit longer, but I think you know where those question marks and yeses lead...

Should develop into a second or third-round draft pick? Uhhhhhhhh no.

And, for the record, the reason Dohn wrote "should develop into" is because his initial projection for Harrison was that he would be drafted anywhere between the fourth and seventh round at the NFL draft with a pro comp of Kenny Golladay, who was good for the Detroit Lions at the time but was a non-factor for the New York Giants in 2022.

Now, I understand I have the virtue of knowing what Harrison has become at Ohio State, but whenever I look back at evaluations of Harrison from his high school days, I can't help but have a hearty chuckle. Harrison, the son of an NFL Hall of Famer but possesses better athleticism and size than Harrison Sr., was the No. 97 overall prospect and No. 14 wide receiver in the class of 2021. What?

Dohn's evaluation of Harrison shows that these recruiting services don't always have it together when judging high school prospects for their future worth within a college program. And I mean no disrespect to Dohn, as I'm sure this is a difficult position where you judge potential more than any other factor.

But from now on – or at least until proven otherwise – I'll ride with what Ohio State's coaches say about players they recruited rather than what an analyst from a website claims. Because for every evaluation where the arrow hits the bullseye, there could be another that's like Harrison's where it feels like Dohn took his bow, turned the opposite direction and fired his arrow into the sun.

 STILL DANCIN'. Remember when Ohio State women's basketball accomplished a Big Ten Tournament record when it erased a 26-point deficit to defeat No. 1 seed Indiana, 79-75, in the conference semifinals, and I told you all that I had learned a lesson to never count out the Buckeyes?

Well, I didn't really learn that lesson back then.

When No. 3 seed Ohio State faced No. 2 seed UConn in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, the Buckeyes were expected to lose by more than 10 points. That's what the oddsmakers at FanDuel expected, at least.

Like the lost sheep I am prone to be, I was convinced the Geno Auriemma-led Huskies, who had racked up 29 appearances in the Sweet 16, 26 in the Elite Eight, 21 in the Final Four and 12 in the national championship game in addition to 11 titles since Ohio State last reached the Elite Eight 30 years ago – were bound to cover that spread and then some.

But then Kevin McGuff and Ohio State reminded me once again: Never. Count. Out. The. Buckeyes. Never do it, folks.

This past weekend, Ohio State took down UConn, 73-61, and advanced to the program's first Elite Eight since women's basketball legend Katie Smith, whose No. 30 hangs in the rafters at Value City Arena, helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship in 1993 as a freshman.

This team is too dang fun.

Cotie McMahon is a freshman phenom – even Magic Johnson tweeted about her excellence! – while Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell are about as solid as veteran players can be. And don't even get me started on Taylor Theirry. She is the Silent Assassin who quietly drops double-digit points every time out and sneakily leads the team in rebounds as a 6-foot small forward.

When those core four players are on, the Buckeyes are hard to beat. Add contributions from Rikki Harris, a defensive menace, and the duo of Rebeka Mikulasikova and Eboni Walker, and this team could do some serious damage the rest of the way.

Their first chance comes later today against No. 1 seed Virginia Tech. And believe me. I've learned my lesson. Never, ever count out the Buckeyes. Time for Ohio State to show the Hokies (what's a Hokie?) who's boss.

 GOAT STATUS. Proud son moment: Ohio State synchronized swimming won its 34th national title over the weekend, and my Mom, Holly Vargo-Brown, claimed her sixth U.S. Collegiate Coach of the Year Award.

My Mom is the GOAT.

That is all.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "We Are The Champions" by Queen.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Book thief in plot that duped famous authors avoids prison... What is the healthiest fast food? This is the kind of menu you should be on the lookout for... Colorado man becomes oldest to cross the Grand Canyon at 91... Mental health struggles are driving more college students to consider dropping out... Ohio woman pushes past breast cancer, won't let diagnosis slow her down.

View 75 Comments