Skull Session: Sherrone Moore Comments on Ohio State’s Offseason, Sonny Styles is “A Weapon” and Anthony Grant Has “Tremendous Respect” for Chris Holtmann

By Chase Brown on February 21, 2024 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day
Adam Cairns / USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Wait, let Ohio State's social media team cook...

Have a good Wednesday.

 WHEN NOVEMBER COMES. This offseason, Michigan promoted Sherrone Moore to head coach after Jim Harbaugh left the program for the Los Angeles Chargers. Since his promotion, Moore has focused on rounding out his coaching staff (because Harbaugh took so many of them) and keeping his roster intact (because Harbaugh leaving opened a 30-day transfer window), among other responsibilities.

Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ryan Day convinced TreVeyon Henderson, Emeka Egbuka, Donovan Jackson, JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton, Cody Simon, Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock and Lathan Ransom all to return for another season at Ohio State. He also added Will Howard, Quinshon Judkins, Seth McLaughlin, Will Kacmarek and Caleb Downs from the transfer portal — oh, and Julian Sayin, just because he felt like it. All that, and he hired Chip Kelly, James Laurinaitis and Matt Guerrieri to his offensive and defensive staff.

On Sunday, Moore attended the Michigan-Michigan State men’s basketball game at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, a game the Spartans won 73-63. There, FOX commentators Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson interviewed Moore on their broadcast. Jackson, an Ohio State hoops legend, asked the Michigan head coach about the Buckeyes’ offseason moves (and, by extension, how it compares to those of the Wolverines).

“We’ll settle all of that in November,” Moore said.

That’s a much more poised answer than I expected, especially for someone who cursed and cried one of the last times he was on national television — a FOX broadcast, to be specific.

But Moore is correct. You don’t get a pair of Gold Pants for winning the offseason; you get a pair of Gold Pants for winning The Game. That will be decided on Nov. 30 in Columbus.

 “HE’S A WEAPON.” On Tuesday, James Laurinaitis admitted he wants Sonny Styles to play linebacker for the Buckeyes next season. That shouldn’t come as a shock, Laurinaitis said. Given Styles’ skill set, each of Ohio State’s defensive coaches wants him in their position room in 2024.

“I think all the coaches on our defensive staff would lobby for Sonny to come to their room. He has that kind of versatility and skill set,” Laurinaitis said. “It’s a combination of what Coach (Jim) Knowles and Coach Day talking about what’s best for our defense and what’s best for our future. … When you look at his body size, I think he would excel at linebacker.”

Moments earlier, Laurinaitis had compared Styles (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) to former Clemson star Isaiah Simmons (6-foot-4, 238 pounds). Before Simmons became the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, he played at all four levels for the Tigers. In 2019, Simmons won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker, recording 104 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, eight pass breakups, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

“Sonny has such a rare skill set in the sense that he can look like a safety, an outside linebacker, an old-school Sam — to use those terms. He’s so versatile,” Laurinaitis said. “There are a lot of different roles that we can put Sonny in to bring out the best in him. … He’s just a weapon.”

As a freshman in 2022, Styles flashed his upside on several occasions. He appeared in 12 of Ohio State’s 13 games, including the College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with Georgia, and collected nine tackles and one tackle for loss. In 2023, Styles started in all 13 games as the Buckeyes’ nickel and strong safety, recording 53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.

Oh, and with all of that, did I mention that he was 17 and 18 years old in those seasons?

I don’t think I did.

Is that good?

“He’s a dynamic playmaker,” Ohio State safeties coach Matt Guerrieri said on Tuesday. “You’ve seen that on plenty of Saturdays here. He had a starting role in that Georgia game his freshman year. He’s dynamic in what he can do. He’s a unique combination of being able to run, cover, tackle, mentality, size — he has a lot of things and attributes there.

“Without getting into specifics, we will take a look at a number of things for him and put him in the best position for him to be successful and the team to be successful.”

*whispers*… It’s at linebacker next to Cody Simon… *whispers*

 “TO ME, HE’S A WINNER.” Before last summer, Anthony Grant didn’t know Chris Holtmann well. Then, the Dayton men’s basketball coach reached out to the now-former Ohio State coach about participating in an exhibition game at UD Arena, with all proceeds for the contest donated to a heartfelt cause.

Grant’s daughter, Jayda, took her own life in 2022, and he wanted a high-profile showcase to promote mental health.

“Ohio State is obviously the flagship program in the state,” Grant told Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch on Saturday. “Reaching out to Chris, I didn’t know if that was something they were able to do. Immediately, he said, ‘I’m on board. I know what you guys have been through, so whatever we can do (we will).’”

A few months later, Holtmann and his team loaded onto a bus and traveled one hour on I-70 West to the Gem City. The exhibition between Ohio State and Dayton drew a sellout crowd of 13,409. The Buckeyes won the scrimmage, 78-70, but the teams never crossed paths after that.

Last week, Ohio State fired Holtmann with the Buckeyes at 14-11 overall and 4-10 in the Big Ten.

“Seeing what he was able to build there, I have tremendous respect for how he does it, who he is as a basketball coach, and more importantly, who he is as a man,” Grant said.

Fired as Alabama’s coach late in the 2014-15 season, Grant said he’s been in Holtmann’s shoes before. He understands the pain. Now at Dayton, who is 21-4 overall (11-2 Atlantic 10) and checked in at No. 16 in the latest AP Poll, Grant also understands that Holtmann’s career could be far from over.

“I know it hadn’t been what the fans and the supporters wanted the last two years, but we as coaches, we kind of know what it is,” Grant said. “My thing is, Chris is what this profession should be in terms of helping young kids mature, doing it the right way, and just helping them become men. … That’s what I saw when I watched his teams play and when we had conversations. I’ve got nothing but respect. To me, he’s a winner.”

 WELL, HOW ABOUT THAT? How has NIL and the transfer portal changed college football? Look no further than this tweet from Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.

Despite the wails of complaints from coaches (and some fans) about the changing world of college athletics due to those factors, I see that number as… kind of a good thing. So does Wetzel:

It turns out players aren’t rushing out the door of college football now that they can use the portal to react to coaching changes and seek better playing opportunities.

Others, meanwhile, are choosing to remain with their team and chase championships while being rewarded financially by fan collectives for their prior success. Plenty of players are choosing the guaranteed money of playing college ball over the uncertainty of the draft, where seven round produces a little more than 250 selections.

The result is 60-80 additional high-end talents populating college football rosters next fall. And it’s changing the competitive complexion of the sport for the better.

Projected first-round picks — who will sign guaranteed deals into the eight figures — are still mostly jumping into the draft as soon as possible. Of the 58 early entrants, 21 are projected first-round picks in the latest Yahoo Sports mock draft. That includes eight of the top 10. No one expected anything different from Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Marvin Harrison Jr. 

However, that means just 37 others — some of whom will be in the mix for late first-round status — are willing to leave before their eligibility runs out. 

That’s more talent in the college game. More recognizable names. More roster continuity.

No one has benefited more from NIL and the transfer portal this offseason than Ohio State. As I mentioned in the first section, TreVeyon Henderson, Emeka Egbuka, Donovan Jackson, JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton, Cody Simon, Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock and Lathan Ransom are all returning. Will Howard, Quinshon Judkins, Seth McLaughlin, Will Kacmarek, Caleb Downs and Julian Sayin are on campus.

If not for the new era of college athletics, I assume all of those players aside from McLaughlin, Kacmarek, Judkins (a sophomore running back), Downs (a freshman safety) and Sayin (a high school senior) would have left for the NFL after 2023.

Yeah, I think I’d call NIL and the transfer portal a good thing for Ohio State...

...for now.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “No Quarter” - Led Zeppelin.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Capital One will buy Discover for $35 billion in deal that combines major US credit card companies... Welcome to the “Hotel California” case: The trial over handwritten lyrics to an Eagles classic... Beatles to get a Fab Four of biopics, with a movie each for Paul, John, George and Ringo... One woolly mammoth's journey at the end of the Ice Age... It's a Leap Year. How will you spend your extra day?

View 57 Comments