Skull Session: Ohio State’s Run Game Could Thrive Under Chip Kelly, Chris Olave and JSN Call Marvin Harrison Jr. “One of One” and PFF Names Two Buckeyes Top 101 Players in 2023

By Chase Brown on February 13, 2024 at 5:00 am
TreVeyon Henderson
Joseph Maiorana / USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

A word of wisdom from Tyvis Powell:

I couldn’t agree more, Tyvis. I couldn’t agree more.

Have a good Tuesday.

 YEAH, THAT’LL DO! On Sunday, a friend asked me, “What should I make of the Chip Kelly hire? Is he better than Bill O'Brien?” I answered, “I think all Ohio State fans should love it, especially those who love to watch the Buckeyes run the football. And, yes, he's better than Bill O'Brien.”

The second part of that response can be debated — until Kelly's Ohio State offense gains a yard and scores a point. When that happens (a couple of minutes into the season opener), it will be indisputable that Kelly is a better offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes than O'Brien, whose Ohio State offense never gained a yard or scored a point.

Jokes aside — Ohio State's run game is the main focus of this section.

Under Kelly, I believe the Buckeyes will thrive in that department.

While O'Brien has looked for a balance between the pass and run throughout his career, Kelly is known for his commitment to the latter. In Kelly's final three years at Oregon, the Ducks were a top-five offense running the football. In his final four years at UCLA, the Bruins averaged more than 37 carries a game in each season.

If Kelly's desire to pound the rock continues in 2024 (spoiler: it will), an Ohio State running back room that features TreVeyon Henderson, Quinshon Judkins, Dallan Hayden, James Peoples and Sam Williams-Dixon will be hard to stop. Henderson and Judkins should also receive a sizable workload in what could be will be a 16-game season for the Buckeyes. Oh, and don't sleep on Will Howard as a runner, either.

While UCLA took a step backward in 2023, the 2022 Bruins are a good example of what the Buckeyes could achieve with Kelly as its coordinator and play caller. In that season, UCLA ranked No. 6 in rushing offense at 237 yards per game.

Running back Zach Charbonnet (the No. 52 pick for the Seattle Seahawks in the 2023 NFL draft) and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (the future No. 140 pick for the Cleveland Browns in 2023) led the UCLA backfield. Behind a decent offensive line — decent in that it wasn't nominated for the Joe Moore Award but also wasn't a collection of matadors — Charbonnet and DTR led the nation in yards before contact (3.19) according to Pro Football Focus. Moreover, TruMedia marked them as an explosive duo that collected 12 yards or more on 14.2% of their carries.

If Kelly could accomplish that with Charbonnet and DTR, imagine what he can do with Howard, Henderson and Judkins.

Howard ran for 921 yards and 19 touchdowns in 34 games at Kansas State.

Henderson ran for 2,745 yards and 32 touchdowns in 31 games at Ohio State.

Judkins ran for 2,725 yards and 31 touchdowns in 26 games at Ole Miss.

That's 6,391 yards and 82 touchdowns in 91 games that Kelly has at his disposal.

That's a three-headed monster.

 “HE IS ONE OF ONE.” While C.J. Stroud appeared on several shows in Las Vegas last week — Bleacher Report, ESPN, FanDuel TV, Yahoo Sports and The Athletic, to name a few — Stroud's former Ohio State teammates, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, were also hot commodities on Radio Row.

While Olave and JSN completed most of their media sessions without each other, Scott Polacek of Bleacher Report secured an interview with the wide receivers together. He asked the former Buckeye receivers about Ohio State, the Super Bowl and more.

Their comments about Marvin Harrison Jr. stood out to me:

"He's going to be a top-tier talent right when he steps into the league," Olave said. He has all the potential in the world, but his work ethic is going to push him over the top. I'm excited to see what he does in the NFL and where he lands in the draft."

Smith-Njigba echoed those sentiments and said, "I know me and Chris agree, he is one of one. We're excited to see him flourish at the next level."

Olave and JSN had similar comments about Brian Hartline:

"He's a one-of-one coach," Olave said. "He pushes everybody. Everybody gets coached in different ways, and he finds out based on the player and the person. The experience that he has in the NFL, he comes back and teaches that to us on and off the field. He allows us to grow as players and as people."

Smith-Njigba agreed and said, "Just him being in the league means he can give us information on what helped him have a long, successful career in the league. Honestly, I think his biggest talent is just being a good person and coming to work every day and helping young men be who they want to be and their best selves. We wouldn't be sitting here without the man pushing us to be great. And we appreciate him."

... Wait, Marvin Harrison Jr. is goated.

... Wait, Brian Hartline is goated.

I will miss Marv at Ohio State. I hope I never have to miss Hartline at Ohio State. I am excited to see what both achieve in 2024 — Marv for whatever team drafts him, and Hartline for the Buckeyes (with the help of Emeka Egbuka, Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss, Jeremiah Smith, Mylan Graham and some others).

 PFF TOP 101. Speaking of Marvin Harrison Jr., Pro Football Focus released its PFF College 101 for the 2023 college football season last week. Harrison was featured on the list — shocker, I know — and so was Jack Sawyer. Here is where Max Chadwick and Dalton Wasserman ranked them:

No. 8 - Marvin Harrison Jr.

After being snubbed for the Biletnikoff Award last season, Harrison took home the honor this year. His 3.44 yards per route run mark ranked third among Power Five receivers in 2023, and he tied for third among FBS receivers with 14 receiving touchdowns.

It's hilarious to read the word "snubbed" in Chadwick and Wasserman's description of Harrison. Me, personally? I think Harrison checking in behind Jayden Daniels, Laiatu Latu, Michael Penix Jr., Bo Nix, Malik Nabers, Joe Alt and Rome Odunze on the PFF College 101 is him being "snubbed," but that's just me. Daniels, Penix and Nix? Sure. But those other dudes? Give me a break.

No. 34 - Jack Sawyer 

Sawyer was the only edge defender in college football to earn 85.0-plus grades as both a pass rusher and a run defender in 2023. His 86.6 run-defense grade ranked third among college football edge defenders.

If Sawyer can perform at the same level he reached toward the end of last season and sustain it for all of 2024, he could become a first-team All-American next year. When was the last time Ohio State had one of those at the defensive end? The answer is Chase Young in 2019.

He was pretty good!

 THE ACTUAL “ONE OF ONE.” While I appreciate Chris Olave and JSN's term “one of one” for Marvin Harrison Jr. and Brian Hartline, the former Ohio State wide receiver and current Ohio State wide receivers coach are not that — at least not yet. You know who is “one of one”? Archie Mason Griffin.

College football's only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Griffin collected 5,589 yards and 26 touchdowns on 924 carries across four seasons with the Buckeyes. The three-time All-American is Ohio State’s career rushing yards leader and its leader in rushing yards per game (121.5) with an impressive 34 career 100-yard rushing games. He also holds the NCAA record for most consecutive 100-yard games with 31 (from 1973-75).

That's one of one.

On Tuesday, Griffin will appear on The Garage Beers Podcast, where he will discuss his Ohio State football career, his future statue at Rose Bowl Stadium and more with co-hosts Michael Keefe and Chad Meyer.

The Garage Beers Podcast is a new endeavor for Keefe and Meyer. However, the duo has had several notable guests on their show, including former Ohio State quarterback Joe Germaine, former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Campy Russell and current Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli.

Griffin's appearance will be on The Garage Beers Podcast's 200th episode, which will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. on its YouTube channel. After Griffin's time on the show ends, former Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) outfielder Kenny Lofton will discuss his career with Keefe and Meyer.

Griffin's appearance should be a fun one.

I look forward to it — you should too!

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Be More” - Stephen Sanchez.

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