Skull Session: C.J. Stroud Thinks Ohio State Prepared Him to Lead the Texans, the Browns Got Bigger With Dawand Jones and Columbus Media Members Remember Bob Kennedy

By Chase Brown on May 4, 2023 at 5:00 am
LeBron / C.J. Stroud

A loud BOOM occurred in Columbus recently.

I think it had something to do with Ohio State men's basketball landing former Penn State forward Evan Mahaffey from the transfer portal.

Welcome aboard, Evan.

Let's have a good Thursday, shall we?

 “YOU'RE RIGHT UNDER LEBRON.” After the Houston Texans selected C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, the former Ohio State quarterback traveled to his new home for a press conference with local media.

Seated next to teammate Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama, the third overall pick to the Texans, Stroud fielded questions about his performance on and off the field. One of those questions was about his leadership, a characteristic Stroud said he developed at Ohio State, particularly on offense as the team's quarterback.

"It comes naturally to just be a leader on the team. I think that's the biggest thing for playing quarterback is to be not only vocal but lead by example. That's something I think I bring to the table very well, coming from a place like Ohio State, where the quarterback is – other than LeBron, you're right under LeBron – you're kinda the leader of the whole state. I feel like I got good practice there."

You heard it here first. The leader of Ohio is LeBron, and behind him is Ohio State's quarterback. It sounds outrageous, and in reality, it probably is. Still, let me play devil's advocate here because I don't think Stroud is entirely off-base with his claim.

While doctors, engineers, lawyers, lawmakers, first responders, etc., deserve enormous credit for their impact as leaders in the state, chances are those people – if they love sports, of course – watched LeBron when he was on the Cleveland Cavaliers and consistently turn their attention to Ohio State football, whose success is primarily determined by the team's quarterback play.

LeBron and Ohio State's quarterback don't do the same work but have the same pressure. One could argue they experience more pressure as their lives are constantly under a microscope in the world of social media. After all, they are the state's most well-known and followed people. And in a way, that makes them leaders, no?

Stroud lived under that microscope for two seasons as the Buckeyes' signal-caller, but he never faltered. He thrived. His play on the field was stellar, collecting 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns across 25 starts. His character and personality were also well-received by his teammates as a unanimously voted team captain in 2022.

The only knock on Stroud is that he never beat Michigan. However, I would contend Ohio State's defense didn't hold up their end of the bargain, as Stroud combined to complete 65 of 97 passes for 743 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions between the two contests.

At any rate, Stroud was a leader for Ohio State as it endured its ups and downs over the past two years. That has prepared him well for his future career in Houston, which desperately needs a new "face of the franchise" while it rebuilds from back-to-back seasons as one of the league's worst teams. After two years with the Buckeyes, Stroud is the perfect person for the role.

 THE BROWNS GOT BIGGER. The Cleveland Browns made a massive pick in the 2023 NFL draft, which is standard for the franchise in the event I call Cleveland's Super Bowl. A perennial basement-dweller in the league, the Browns always have massive picks.

But in this instance, I don't mean "massive" as a top pick in the draft. Instead, I meant that Cleveland picked the largest human available: Dawand Jones, also known as Big Thanos.

Members of the Browns' front office discussed their selection of Jones over the weekend and explained their excitement to have Jones travel up I-71 this offseason and contend for a roster spot in Cleveland.

"We certainly got bigger this afternoon by adding Dawand Jones from Ohio State. ... We've seen him for a couple of years. He had a very good career at Ohio State, a massive human being. I think you will enjoy him when you stand next to him and talk with him and see what he's all about. He's a player that we're very excited about. You know it's a premium position at offensive tackle. We're excited to get him in the building. The good thing about Dawand is that for his size, he is nimble and agile.

If you guys watch his high school basketball highlights, you'll probably see how he moves. There are a lot of good highlights out there of him pulling, doing things out there that we ask our guys to do. Again for a guy like that, the size, the athleticism and the quickness really stand out on tape, so we think he can do a lot of things well that we do in our system, and we look forward to seeing him develop."

For whatever "character concerns" and "makeup questions" NFL personnel had about Jones that caused his stoinks to fall, I am thrilled the Browns took him off the board. My Cleveland bias aside, the Browns were a perfect landing spot for Jones, who will have a chance to develop under Bill Callahan, the NFL's most respected and well-renowned offensive line coach.

If Callahan wanted Jones, he saw potential, a ball of clay that could be molded and shaped. That's precisely what Jones will be during his time in Cleveland as Callahan works to discover untapped potential in the 6-foot-8, 374-pound tackle.

If Jones can remain disciplined, keep his weight under control and soak up knowledge from Callahan, Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin, I suspect we could see Jones as one of the steals of the draft when it's all said and done.

 REMEMBERING BOB KENNEDY. Ohio State athletics PA announcer Bob Kennedy died on Sunday at 59. In the days that followed, several members of Buckeye Nation expressed their condolences to his loved ones. Many also shared memories of their encounters with Kennedy.

Kennedy's voice was his defining characteristic for those who knew him most, especially those who work as public address announcers and as on-air radio talent. In a recent feature for NBC4, Whitney Harding spoke with a handful of people Kennedy impacted with his work, all of whom – like many of us – wish they could hear “Heaaaaaaads up fans!” or “First downnnnnnnn!” one more time.

I found these words from iHeartRadio's Johnny Hill to be beautiful:

"You probably never saw his face until recently, unfortunately, and that's too bad," he said. "He was kind of a shy guy, but his voice was not. I don't know if you'll remember the smells of the baseball field or the football game, but you'll always remember his voice."

That I will.

I was 6 years old when I attended my first football game at Ohio Stadium. It was on Sept. 16, 2006. Ohio State defeated Cincinnati, 37-7. Kennedy was there, having just started his sixth season as PA announcer. Every time I entered the stadium from that point forward, Kennedy's voice echoed in the Shoe. I'll miss listening to him in 2023, but his voice will continue in my mind – I can even hear it now.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kennedy. Thanks for the memories.

For those who are able, Kennedy's loved ones have organized a GoFundMe to cover the costs of his funeral and memorials. Here is the link to that campaign:

 ANOTHA ONE. In Wednesday's Skull Session, I included a post-spring top 25 from USA TODAY, where Ohio State ranked sixth behind Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Florida State and Penn State. Today, we look at a similar release from the worldwide leader in sports, except Mark Schlabach doesn't call it a top 25 poll. He calls it power rankings.

Schlabach ranked Georgia, Michigan, Florida State and USC in his top four. Ohio State, who was ranked second in ESPN's post-national championship release, was Schlabach's No. 5-ranked team. Here is what he wrote about the Buckeyes:

Junior Kyle McCord took the first step in taking over the reins from C.J. Stroud with a solid performance in the spring. Sophomore Devin Brown, another contender, missed the spring game with a finger injury. Coach Ryan Day won't name a starting quarterback until preseason camp. The Buckeyes are loaded at running back and receiver (Carnell Tate, a freshman from IMG Academy, was a star in the spring), but the offensive line remains a work in progress. Senior Josh Fryar was the No. 1 left tackle in the spring; sophomore Tegra Tshabola was working on the right. After ugly performances in losses to Michigan and Georgia last season, the defense seemed to make some much-needed strides in the spring. Safety Cameron Martinez might help shore up a leaky secondary. Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau are going to be stars up front.

Pretty standard write-up. However, it doesn't explain why Ohio State should be ranked behind Florida State and USC. Georgia? Yes. Michigan? Yes. I have no problem with either of those, but for the Buckeyes to be behind the Seminoles and Trojans is a head-scratcher, even with the question mark at quarterback and uncertainties with the offensive line.

Oh well. Looks like Ohio State will have to prove its worth the old-fashioned way in 2023: A bunch of wins, including some with the highly sought-after “style points.”

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Wheels in motion for next Philly Naked Bike Ride in August... Snake flips switch, stops traffic at Virginia intersection... In galactic first, star seen swallowing planet in one gulp... Bear gives West Virginia principal a roaring wake-up call... This company adopted AI – here's what happened to its human workers.

View 73 Comments