Skull Session: Jeremiah Smith is The Truth, Ohio State Football Completes a 16-Star Weekend, Justin Frye Gets Mic’d Up and the Basketbucks Beat Two Final Four Teams in the Regular Season

By Chase Brown on April 1, 2024 at 5:00 am
Jeremiah Smith

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Student Appreciation Day was electric.

 SOME OBSERVATIONS. I have some observations I just have to share from Ohio State's Student Appreciation Day practice on Saturday. These observations involve Jeremiah Smith, the Ohio State quarterback competition and the Silver Bullets.

Jeremiah Smith (a.k.a. The Truth)

As I watched Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Marvin Harrison Jr. observe the Buckeyes’ practice on Saturday, I imagined Smith standing among them in three years –Emeka Egbuka, Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss (and Bryson Rodgers?), too.

While Egbuka, Tate and Rodgers had their moments this past weekend (Inniss was absent because of an undisclosed ailment), Smith stole the show. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound wide receiver lived up to his reputation as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2024 class, making multiple impressive catches that garnered oooooooohs and aaaaaahs from Ohio State students.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day praised Smith in a press conference after the practice.

“I’m gonna be careful about what I say, but he’s been a pleasure to watch, and we’re all really excited about his future,” Day said. “If he continues on the path that he’s on, he’s gonna play a lot of football and certainly have a chance to start as well.”

The Quarterbacks

When Will Howard transferred to Ohio State, I thought it was all but guaranteed that the 6-foot-5, 242-pound quarterback would be the Buckeyes’ starter in 2024. 

Now, I am not so sure. 

While Howard shed his black stripe on Saturday – a mark of his development in Columbus – I would argue that Howard’s performance in practice ranked behind Devin Brown, Julian Sayin and Lincoln Kienholz (in that order). Howard made some nice intermediate passes, but he couldn’t complete a deep ball to save his life. Brown, on the other hand, flourished in both areas, delivering some crisp passes to Smith, Egbuka and Rodgers in the 11-on-11 scrimmage.

To be clear, Howard remains in the thick of the quarterback competition. However, he must perform better over the next two weeks if he wants to beat out Brown, Kienholz, Sayin and Air Noland for the coveted title of QB1. Day said as much on Saturday.

“Only a few weeks in here, I think we’re seeing progress,” Day said, “but I’d really like to see him take the next step in the next two weeks.”

The Defense

Ohio State’s defense was among the best in the nation in 2023. With nine returning starters – Jack Sawyer, JT Tuimoloau, Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton, Denzel Burke, Davison Igbinosun, Jordan Hancock, Lathan Ransom and Sonny Styles – and the addition of Alabama transfer Caleb Downs, the Buckeyes should be even better in 2024.

On Saturday, the Ohio State defense generally outperformed the offense. 

Before you disagree with that assessment and claim videos posted to X and YouTube showed the opposite, please note that the program limited each media outlet to 90 seconds of footage from the practice. That means reporters couldn’t waste those seconds showing the defense stuff a run at the line of scrimmage or record a coverage sack.

While the defense performed well throughout the 11-on-11 scrimmage, there was one series in particular where the Silver Bullets shined. On two consecutive snaps at the offense’s 3-yard line, the defense recorded tackles in the end zone for safeties. On the third, the defense sacked the quarterback near the goal line.

After practice, Day sounded pleased with Jim Knowles’ unit. He also praised some of the Buckeyes’ backups, including Jason Moore, Kayden McDonald and Mitchell Melton, who had a couple of sacks.

“You can see the quickness of some of those interior guys,” Day said. “We’re looking for three guys at each position because all of those guys will play. We’re going to roll guys this year because we know it’s going to be a long season.”

 A 16-STAR WEEKEND. Ohio State football had a 16-star weekend, landing commitments from four-star defensive end London Merritt (Bradenton, Florida), four-star linebacker Tarvos Alford (Vero Beach, Florida), four-star wide receiver De’zie Jones (Wayne, New Jersey) and four-star safety DeShawn Stewart (Wayne, New Jersey).

With each commitment, Ohio State’s social media team posted a variation of BOOM to X. However, Alford and Jones’ commitments included unique videos that staff members Peter Fortunato and Ethan Miller created. The videos involved “a new look on a classic post” and featured alumni at the linebacker and wide receiver positions, with some of them saying “BOOM.”

These videos rock.

Andy Katzenmoyer, A.J. Hawk, Ryan Shazier, Malik Harrison, Baron Browning and Pete Werner representing James Laurinaitis and “The Regulators.” Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Marvin Harrison Jr. representing Brian Hartline and “Zone 6.”

I imagine the reason Merritt and Stewart didn’t receive similar BOOM videos is that Fortunato and Miller haven’t completed them for the defensive line and safety rooms yet. If and when they do, I look forward to seeing some alumni represent Larry Johnson and the Rushmen and Matt Guerrieri and BIA.

 MIC’D UP. I’m a sucker for a Mic’d Up video. I am! Sue me!

On Friday, Ohio State posted one of offensive line coach Justin Frye.

It’s excellent.

This season will be make-it-or-break-it for Frye, who has been under fire since Ohio State’s offensive line looked like Swiss cheese in the team’s 14-3 loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. And it’s not like the offensive line looked all that great before the Cotton Bowl, either, as I am sure we can all recall a time the combination of Josh Simmons, Donovan Jackson, Carson Hinzman, Matt Jones and Josh Fryar had some baffling reps during the regular season.

In 2024, Frye will benefit from Simmons, Jackson and Fryar returning as starters. Depending on how the offseason goes for Alabama transfer Seth McLaughlin, the number of returning starters could remain at three, with McLaughlin at center and someone like Luke Montgomery at guard, or increase to four with Hinzman at center and McLaughlin at guard.

Frye will also benefit from Chip Kelly’s leadership as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Before he came to Ohio State, Frye spent four seasons working under Kelly at UCLA, during which time the Bruins had one of the top offenses in college football. With Ohio State’s talent, I have to believe Kelly and Frye can replicate that success in Columbus, but time will tell.

 WHAT A WORLD. Over the weekend, Alabama and Purdue punched their tickets to the Final Four. The Crimson Tide beat Clemson 89-82 in the West Regional and the Boilermakers beat Tennessee 72–66 in the Midwest Regional.

That means Ohio State beat two teams that made the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.


But true!

On Nov. 24, 2023, Ohio State defeated Alabama, 92-81, at the Emerald Coast Classic –a tournament the Buckeyes won with victories over Western Michigan, Alabama and Santa Clara. To beat the Crimson Tide, Bruce Thornton paced the Buckeyes with a career-high 29 points and Roddy Gayle Jr. added a then-career-high 23 points.

On Feb. 18, Ohio State defeated Purdue, 73-69, in the first game after athletic director Gene Smith fired Chris Holtmann. With Jake Diebler as the team’s interim coach, Thornton’s 22 points, Battle’s 19 – all in the second half – and a massive performance from Zed Key (nine points, five steals) helped the Buckeyes down the Boilermakers in Columbus.

Ohio State also earned regular-season wins over three other NCAA Tournament teams: Oakland, Michigan State and Nebraska. All but Nebraska won at least one game in the Big Dance.

How did the Buckeyes miss the NCAA Tournament?

*Insert Holtmann GIF*

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Don’t Stop Believin’” - Journey.

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