Skull Session: Cardale Jones Calls Out Stetson Bennett on Twitter, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka Will Shine in 2023 and C.J. Stroud Solidified His Draft Status in the CFP

By Chase Brown on May 16, 2023 at 5:00 am
Cardale Jones

And we back.

Welcome to the Skull Session, the Skully, the Skull Crusher, the Skullington, etc. I am happy you are here. Can I interest anyone in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff for Ohio State and Michigan State on Nov. 11, or a noon kickoff for Ohio State and Michigan on Nov. 25?

You can consider me interested.

Let's have a good Tuesday, shall we?

 "BUDDY DEFINITELY WASN'T PLAYING SCHOOL!" Cardale Jones called out Stetson Bennett in the most Cardale Jones way possible over the weekend when he quote-tweeted a report that Bennett never graduated from Georgia. Reminder: Bennett was a member of the Bulldogs' 2017 class. It's 2023. 

 THE BEST DUO IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL. In Monday's Skull Session, I mentioned that Pro Football Focus has Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 returning wide receivers for the 2023 college football season. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich concur (as should all other media members and fans).

In a recent article for the worldwide leader in sports, Rittenberg and Dinich took a page out of PFF's book and ranked the 10 best wide receivers in college football for 2023, albeit with more information than PFF to break down their choices. Here is what they wrote about the best pass-catching duo in the NCAA:

Marvin Harrison Jr.

Year: Junior
2022 stats: 77 receptions, 1,263 receiving yards, 14 receiving touchdowns.
Points: 100 (10 of 10 first-place votes)

Ohio State has become the nation's premier incubator for elite receivers under Brian Hartline, the former Buckeyes standout wideout who took over the position group in 2018. The Buckeyes have had three first-round NFL draft picks in the past two years and six in the past five drafts. But there's a belief that Harrison, son of the Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver, will end up as the best in the recent stretch. Six-foot-4, 205-pound Harrison had a breakout 2022 season, especially after Biletnikoff Award favorite Jaxon Smith-Njigba sustained a hamstring injury in the opener and never fully recovered. Harrison had 77 receptions for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns, ranking fourth in team history in receptions and yards and second in touchdowns. He became Ohio State's first unanimous first-team All-America wide receiver and won the Big Ten's Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award.

Despite his famous name, Harrison was an ESPN top-100 recruit but was not as decorated as other recent Buckeyes star receivers, such as Julian Fleming, Garrett Wilson and Emeka Egbuka, whose name appears below. Hartline told ESPN last summer that, before Harrison's big senior year of high school, he actually had to push for Ohio State to pursue him. Harrison had seven 100-yard receiving performances last season, and he played his best in Ohio State's biggest games, including Penn State (10 receptions, 185 yards), Michigan (7 receptions, 120 yards, 1 touchdown) and Georgia (5 receptions, 106 yards, 2 touchdowns). He's the overwhelming favorite to win the Biletnikoff Award in 2023 before likely becoming the first non-quarterback selected in the 2024 NFL draft.

- Adam Rittenberg

Emeka Egbuka

Year: Junior
2022 stats: 74 receptions, 1,151 receiving yards, 10 receiving touchdowns.
Points: 87

Egbuka, who missed spring practices with an undisclosed injury, is an intelligent, physical receiver whose versatility makes him the total package. The Buckeyes have used him in the slot, on the outside and in the return game with both kicks and punts, and he has taken handoffs out of the backfield. "If there's an issue, 'Where's Emeka? He'll help us fix it,'" offensive coordinator/receivers coach Brian Hartline said. "That versatility he plays with allows us to do a lot of things."

Egbuka was a finalist last year for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player. A larger role in the passing game was inevitable for him, but the process was accelerated last fall after Jaxon Smith-Njigba was sidelined for most of the season with a leg injury. Egbuka is often the second name mentioned after Harrison, but the plethora of talent in the Buckeyes' receiving room was a selling point, not a deterrent.

"He chose Ohio State because he knew it'd be hard to start," Hartline said, "but the people he's going to play with and compete against to earn that playing time will inevitably shape him."

Egbuka is entering only his second season as a full-time starter, but with a new starting quarterback, the staff is looking for Egbuka to cement himself as a leader and consistently play mistake-free.

- Heather Dinich

Behind Harrison and Egbuka, Rittenberg, Dinich and other ESPN staffers ranked Washington's Rome Odunze at No. 3, followed by USC's Dorian Singer, Texas' Xavier Worthy, Florida State's Johnny Wilson, LSU's Mark Nabers, Washington's Jalen McMillan, Zakhari Franklin (currently in the transfer portal) and Western Kentucky's Malachi Corley.

Harrison and Egbuka separate themselves from these players because of their talent and production relative to their competition, another fact on which PFF and ESPN agree. Ohio State will face Penn State and Michigan in 2023, and in those contests, Harrison and Egbuka will face off with some of the sport's top-rated cornerbacks, including Kalen King of the Nittany Lions and Will Johnson and Mike Sainristil of the Wolverines.

I know you all already have those matchups marked on your calendars this fall, but make sure to add a note for the matchups within the matchups – the game within the game, if you will – between Harrison, Egbuka and King on Oct. 21 in Columbus and Harrison, Egbuka, Johnson and Sainristil on Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor. Popcorn will certainly be needed.

 "THE GAME THAT SOLIDIFIED HIS DRAFT STATUS." Despite a redshirt season in which he threw 44 touchdowns and six interceptions, many analysts had questions about specific areas of C.J. Stroud's play, namely his performance under pressure. After 12 regular-season contests in 2022, those questions still lingered.

Then came the Peach Bowl.

According to Trevor Sikemma of PFF, Stroud's performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal, a matchup where Ohio State faced top-seeded Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, solidified Stroud's draft status for 2023. Why? Because he answered everyone's questions and did so against the best opponent the sport had to offer.

Sikemma wrote about Stroud's efforts against the Bulldogs in an article late last week (PFF+ subscription required):

Every quarterback’s passing grade and efficiency drops when they are pressured, but for Stroud, it was more drastic. In 2021, his passing grade with no pressure was 93.0, but his grade under pressure plummeted to 65.3. Generally, a number in the 60s is fine for quarterbacks under pressure, but the number was worse in 2022. This past season, his passing grade from a clean pocket was still elite at 92.6, but his play under pressure dropped further to 43.2.

As the 2022 college football season wore on, that became the talking point around Stroud. When things were going as planned, he looked textbook in his fundamentals, his progressions, his ball placement and his execution of an elite offense. When he was forced to go off script, his instincts were worrisome. That was almost the whole book on Stroud as a prospect, as that became the theme for him throughout the season.


(But) in his final game of the year, the College Football Playoff semifinal against the best defense in college football, the Georgia Bulldogs, he recorded a career-high 82.6 passing grade under duress. ... Stroud's 19 dropbacks with pressure against Georgia were the second most he had ever seen in a single game. It started early.


In his final game at the collegiate level, against the toughest defense he faced in his career and with his team’s season on the line, he played his best. That means something. It doesn’t mean everything; it doesn’t mean he’ll never struggle with pressure again, or even that this is the new normal for him. But, certainly, it was certainly encouraging as he takes this next step forward into the NFL.

I always attempt to share free content with you in the Skull Session so you can seek more info than I provide here. Or, if I include pieces from The Athletic, ESPN+, Sports Illustrated or another premium website, I try to have as much of the story as possible without committing blatant plagiarism.

For this section, however, I believe I may be doing a disservice to Sikemma's work and his excellent breakdown of Stroud's Georgia film without a recommendation that you read the article for yourself, as Sikemma includes several clips from Stroud's performance that are noteworthy and helpful to picture.

That said, Sikemma's work receives a Gold Star from me and a well-deserved hat tip. If you have a PFF+ subscription, check it out. If not, a free seven-day pass is available at your leisure. Learn more about Stroud's "elite pocket presence," ability to "hang tough in the pocket" and several other qualities he displayed against the Bulldogs.

And one other note: How in the world did Ohio State lose that game?

 LEBRON3. For the final section of the Skully, I have to poke fun at On3 for a ridiculous headline I read on Monday. To be clear, this will not be directed at the Lettermen Row, folks. They are fantastic. You can read their stuff but read ours first. I digress.

After 2023 five-star combo guard Bronny James committed to USC a couple of weeks ago, On3 directed its attention to the recruitment of LeBron's next-oldest son, Bryce, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect in California, No. 19 shooting guard and No. 73 overall prospect in the class of 2025.

That attention led to this headline from On3: "Odds released on what school will land Bryce James"

Really? The whole concept of betting on a high school athlete's recruitment destination is silly to me, and doing it for a person who is currently a high school sophomore? That's even sillier. But that's what Bovada and On3 have here with these reported odds:

  • USC -180
  • Oregon +350
  • UCLA +800
  • North Carolina +950
  • Duke +950
  • Kentucky +1500
  • Kansas +1500
  • Ohio State +1500
  • Duquesne +1800

Looks like Ohio State has some work to do. Also, shout out to Duquesne. As I said, silly. But 'tis the offseason. 'Tis the offseason indeed.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Oh Yeah" by Yello (This has "Chicka Chickaaa" stuck in my head. Apologies in advance if this happens to you – or you're welcome? You decide).

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