Skull Session: Jake Diebler “Really Excited” About Ohio State’s Future, Chip Kelly Helped LeBron James Win Back-to-Back Titles and James Laurinaitis is Here to Stay

By Chase Brown on April 4, 2024 at 5:00 am
Jake Diebler

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Carlos Locklyn has arrived in Columbus.

Have a good Thursday.

 “WE’RE REALLY EXCITED.” On Wednesday, Jake Diebler appeared on 97.1 The Fan’s “Rothman and Ice” with Anthony Rothman and Matt “Ice” Hayes to discuss Ohio State’s recent roster moves and the expectations for his first full season as the Buckeyes’ head coach.

Here’s a YouTube video (with audio) of the appearance and a transcription of what Diebler shared with Rothman and Hayes:

On making Ohio State his own

“I wanted people to feel the urgency and aggressiveness that fits my personality and how we’re gonna be playing moving forward. But I thought that was important to give our guys the best chance to be successful there down the stretch of the season. I had a great deal of conviction behind that. The pace of play is so important to me. I think you have to have some of that in today’s game. But I wasn’t going through the interim process like, ‘Hey, I want people to see what it could be like (if I was the coach). It was more about what best serves these guys and puts them in a position to win games.”

On the kind of players Ohio State wants on its roster

“Roster management is fluid. It’s a fluid thing, and it’s going to be that way for a little bit of time. The beautiful thing about this program is it’s going to attract good players who want to win for Ohio State as (their highest) priority. We’re looking for that in the portal. We feel like we want to play at that place. There’s a skill and feel and things required to do that. We’re looking at that, too. But a lot of it is putting the pieces of the puzzle together that’s going to be changing. I’m really, really excited. Retention is a big part of this. You’re seeing that. That’s important for us.”

On building his staff at Ohio State

“We need guys who are committed to serving our players and this program with all the energy and positivity and love and care that’s required. Development for the guys on and off the court is really important to me. This program has always been about that. We have to keep that. … We need guys with great basketball minds, experience, recruiting experience. Dave Dickerson fits all of that. For me, you got a guy who won a national championship and who’s been to a Final Four at Ohio State. … His wisdom and knowledge and all the different areas that go into being a college basketball coach was something I just felt was critical for our staff.”

On Juni Mobley and Colin White

“Those guys love Ohio State. They want Ohio State to win at the highest level. That’s a very, very important quality. You look at the history of this program. That’s the mentality that really sets it up to be one of the premier programs across the country. I love that about those guys. Two tough guys. Both are really competitive guys who have won a lot and their skill — I think you can see that with both of them. They’re skilled guys. We’re excited about them. They fit exactly what we want this program to be about.”

On whether Ohio State is looking for a guard in the portal

“That’s something we’re constantly evaluating. Again, there’s a fluidity to all of this. We have to be monitoring that. But for all of us, it’s about the pieces we know are here and want to chase a championship with us. We want to start there. Then, you can build around it from there.”

On his expectations for Ohio State next season

“I sure hope we are (in the NCAA Tournament). We’re going to be working everything toward competing for a championship in our conference, positioning ourselves to hopefully make a run in the postseason. We have big expectations for this program. We’re attacking those head-on, and we’re not afraid of those. But there are no guarantees in this. I feel like we are off to a great start as far as building the team. I’m excited. I wish we could get to work tomorrow. That’s kind of where my mindset is. I’d love to get this team settled and get to work tomorrow so we can start building toward that. … We’re really excited.”

If Diebler’s excited, I am excited.

That final quote about Diebler’s expectations for Ohio State next season — that’s the one that should have Buckeye Nation excited for what the men’s basketball team can accomplish in Diebler’s first full season as head coach.

Diebler will do all he can to help Ohio State compete for its first Big Ten title since 2012, its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2013, and its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2022.

I believe in him.

I think you should, too.

 CHIP WITH THE ASSIST! Believe it or not, new Ohio State offensive coordinator Chip Kelly could be the reason LeBron James and the Miami Heat won back-to-back NBA championships in 2012 and 2013.

On his “Mind The Game” podcast with former NBA sharpshooter J.J. Redick, James shared how the Heat bounced back from their loss to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. The Akron, Ohio, native said Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra — then in his fifth year as the team’s head coach — instituted more floor spacing in the Heat’s offense.

From whom did Spoelstra receive the idea?

None other than Charles Edward Kelly.

“Spo was the reason we were a better team, and why our team was assembled more properly. When we lost to Dallas, he went out to Oregon and hung out with Chip Kelly and learned the spread offense and tried to figure out if he could translate that to basketball. I don’t know the conversations he and Chip had, but I know when he came back to us, he knew for us to reach our potential I had to be f— 10 times better than I was that previous June (in the) Finals. But Chris Bosh had to go to the five (the center position). And CB, being who he is, there was no pushback. He knew in order for us to reach our potential, that CB would have to go to the five. He had to start working on his corner three, faithfully, every day after practice. … Spo knew it. He had that vision.”

In 2011, Kelly was the head coach at Oregon. Two years later, he left Eugene to become the Philadelphia Eagles head coach. After three years in the City of Brotherly Love, one year with the San Francisco 49ers and six years at UCLA, Kelly arrived in Columbus to lead Ohio State’s offense and coach the team’s quarterbacks.

Hopefully, Ryan Day can receive some advice from Kelly that will help the Buckeyes win back-to-back titles — or more!

More would be good.

 THE SUNSHINE STATE. Florida has produced 48 consensus All-Americans since the modern era of recruiting started in 2002. Knowing the immense talent to come out of the Sunshine State, Manny Navarro of The Athletic created a team of 26 players — 12 on offense, 11 on defense and three on special teams — that represent the most decorated and talented college football players from the state.

Former Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa made the cut.

“The Fort Lauderdale and St. Thomas Aquinas product was a two-time consensus All-American and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2014, when he racked up 13.5 sacks,” Navarro wrote. “He committed to Ohio State in April of his junior year, picking the Buckeyes over Alabama.”

According to Navarro, Ohio State could have had three more prospects on the all-time list had those prospects picked the Buckeyes over their respective schools. Wide receiver Amari Cooper, the No. 45 overall prospect in the 2012 class, chose Alabama over Ohio State, Florida State and Miami. Offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles, the No. 94 overall prospect in the 2002 class, chose Ohio State, Miami, Arkansas and Nebraska. Lastly, punter Johnny Townsend chose Florida over Ohio State.

While Ohio State missed on Cooper, Jean-Gilles and Townsend, the Buckeyes did not miss on Jeremiah Smith, the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2024 class. Five, 10, 15, 20 years from now — whenever Navarro chooses to recreate the Florida all-state team, Smith could be on the list.

Three months ago, when Navarro interviewed Larry Blustein, a recruiting analyst with over 50 years of experience in Florida, Blustein called Smith a “top three all-time” recruit out of the Sunshine State. He also called the current Ohio State receiver “the best of his generation.”

“High school level in-state? He’s top three all-time,” Blustein said. “Andre Johnson was pretty good. Wes Chandler was elite. Ron Sellers dominated. I never use the word the best when it comes to comparing players in different eras. Different generation. Different times. Smith is the best of his generation. One hundred percent of the people covering or watching football now never watched the 1960s, 70s or 80s, so it really becomes subjective. But he is definitely the best of his generation.”

Smith has been at Ohio State for 10 practices. Still, there is palpable excitement in Buckeye Nation for the impact the 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect can make as a freshman, let alone as a sophomore and junior. And that’s for good reason. Some of the plays he’s made — against excellent competition, I may add — are just incredible.


He’s the truth.

I think we’ll see him on Navarro’s list sooner rather than later.

 HERE TO STAY. It’s no secret that I am a James Laurinaitis stan.

I am!

Sue me!

On Wednesday, Laurinaitis held a press conference after Ohio State’s 10th spring practice. A reporter asked Laurinaitis to share his approach toward recruiting for the Buckeyes. His answer fired me up:

“I think one of the things that is helpful is my playing experience. When you’ve played, and you’ve done it, the drills you’re doing, you know that they work. You’re not going to waste time on stuff that doesn’t work. And then the fact that I’m blessed to be at my alma mater, so there’s no sense of trying to leave here. That’s a question I get a ton is, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I’m like, ‘Where I’m sitting. It’s my alma mater.’ My kids love it in Columbus. I love Ohio State. I think those are things that can be an advantage.”

The response, “Where I’m sitting,” goes unbelievably hard.

Five years from now, Laurinaitis — one of the greatest linebackers in Ohio State history — plans to be in Columbus coaching the next generation of Buckeyes to play the position.

That rocks.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Feels Like Home” – CAAMP.

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