Skull Session: Ryan Day Accompanies RJ Day on a Clemson Visit, Bruce Thornton Shares Reasons He Returned to Ohio State and Neal Shipley Reflects on His Experience at the Masters

By Chase Brown on April 18, 2024 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Emeka Egbuka is incredible.

Have a good Thursday.

 WAYMENT. Ladies and gentlemen of the gallery gourmet, OH BOY, do I have some news to share. 

On Wednesday, David Hood of TigerNet reported that an Ohio quarterback in the 2027 class visited Clemson this spring. That quarterback’s name? RJ Day. And who accompanied RJ on the visit to Upstate South Carolina? His dad, Ryan Day.

Indeed, Ryan Day visited Clemson in March – not as Ohio State’s head football coach, but as a father to RJ, a high school prospect out of St. Francis De Sales who holds offers from Boston College and Marshall.

Isn’t that nuts?

On the one hand, Ohio State and Clemson have become bitter rivals over the past decade – the Tigers beat the Buckeyes in 2013, 2016 and 2019, and the Buckeyes beat the Tigers in 2020 – making Ryan Day’s presence on Clemson’s campus unthinkable. On the other hand, Ryan Day loves his son and wants what is best for him, making the unthinkable presence understandable… 

… somewhat.

Ryan Day and Dabo Swinney
Ryan Day and Dabo Swinney interact during a press conference before the 2019 College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl (Photo: Ken Ruinard / USA TODAY Sports)

I don’t know what to make of it. Is this a thing? Is this not a thing? You tell me.

For what it’s worth, RJ Day loved the visit.

“I loved the staff and the facilities,” he told Hood. “Everyone was so welcoming and kind. It is like one big giant family. Everyone is very happy to be working and be in the building, which says a lot about the culture that Coach (Dabo) Swinney has built in his time there.”

RJ Day added that his dad didn’t make the visit awkward.

“All the coaches are great considering the dynamic that is unique to us, but I sense a feeling of mutual respect between my dad and other coaches,” he said. “That makes the visit more about what the school has to offer for me than the drama that could stir because of his position.”

Drama, huh?

Kind of like ranking Ohio State 11th in the

Eh, never mind.

 BUSINESS DECISIONS. Bruce Thornton will enter the 2024-25 men’s basketball season as THE face of Ohio State hoops. However, to make sure he made the correct decision about his future, the Alpharetta, Georgia, native had to look beyond that.

“That’s part of growing up, making big-time decisions that are best for your own situation,” Thornton told Adam Jardy of The Columbus Dispatch this week. “Me, being 20 years old in college, making significantly different money decisions (compared to the past) of should I stay or should I leave, but I’m at peace with where I’m at. Me staying here, being a Buckeye, now it’s time to go win games.”

In two seasons at Ohio State, Thornton has averaged 13.2 points, 3.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. However, while Thornton had success as an individual, the Buckeyes did not have success as a team.

Ohio State missed the NCAA Tournament and NIT in 2022-23, and the Buckeyes were headed for a similar fate in 2023-24 before athletic director Gene Smith fired head coach Chris Holtmann. Interim coach Jake Diebler provided enough juice to warrant a promotion, yet Thornton (and his teammates) had a decision to make: Return to Ohio State or enter the portal?

From The Dispatch:

Thornton said it was “definitely” a hard decision.

“You see the number of people in the transfer portal, it’s through the roof right now,” Thornton said. “Seeing my options, what I really need to be a pro, that’s my ultimate goal. Understanding that’s what my decision came to and understanding me and (Diebler) have the same plan to make that dream come true, but also win big-time games at Ohio State next year.”

There were several factors that went into play. Talking with coach Jake Diebler, promoted to the full-time job after taking over midseason for the fired Chris Holtmann, allowed Thornton to make sure he was on the same page with his coach about the direction of the program and the style of play going forward. Then there was the financial side, which led Thornton to describe his return as a business decision.

“NIL and a lot of things come to play, so now it’s a business decision,” Thornton said. “It’s not a regular, old decision with money not involved. Now money’s involved, to be completely transparent. Understanding it’s a business can make you grow up a little bit. Now understand what you need and things you need to be successful for the future.”

With Thornton and Diebler on the same page, the two parties want to play “Ohio State basketball,” a brand of hoops that’s “up-tempo” and played “with a lot of confidence.”

To borrow from former Ohio State basketball star D’Angelo Russell, the results of that brand and this team are #Loading…

 NEAL SHIPLEY, EVERYONE. Ohio State golfer Neal Shipley finished as the low amateur at the 2024 Masters, becoming the first Buckeye golfer to earn the Silver Cup since Jack Nicklaus in 1960.

In an appearance on Tuesday’s episode of “The Pat McAfee Show,” Shipley said he will never forget being next to the tournament’s winner, Scottie Scheffler, in Butler Cabin or hoisting the Silver Cup outside the Augusta National clubhouse. Shipley will also never forget being paired with Tiger Woods for the final round on Sunday.

“That was the freaking coolest day of my life,” Shipley said. “You can’t beat that. Tiger was so cool. That’s probably once in a lifetime for me. He doesn’t play very much anymore, and who knows when I will be back in a situation playing with him. Gosh, it was unbelievable.”

Shipley was the only amateur golfer to play the weekend rounds at the 88th Masters, as Christo Lamprecht, Stewart Hagestad, Jasper Stubbs and Santiago De La Fuente failed to make the cut. He shot 8-over 80 on Saturday and 1-over 73 on Sunday to finish the tournament 12-over, a number that tied Adam Hadwin for 53rd place.

“It was big for me to play under that type of pressure,” Shipley said of making the cut. “I just got a lot of confidence during the week that my game can kind of travel and play against those guys. … That’s the goal is to be playing against those guys every week. I think I can go do that now. I feel really good about my game and learned a lot about what I need to work on to get even sharper and start competing for those green jackets.”

Shipley also shared how surprised he was that social media accounts – from ESPN to CBS Sports to Front Office Sports – posted about him and his caddie, Carter Pitcairn, being paired with Tiger Woods. He also addressed becoming a meme for his “shifty eyes” during his interview with Jim Nantz.

“I think it’s the best thing for my career, honestly,” Shipley said. “The amount of attention I got from that is unbelievable.”

 HOW SCHOLARLY. Ohio State football had a program-record 62 players named Scholar-Athletes for the 2023-24 academic year. Those Buckeyes received the accolade for having a 3.0 GPA or above during the year and were honored at the school’s Scholar-Athlete Banquet at the Schottenstein Center on Monday.

Here is a complete list of honorees:

  • QB: Devin Brown, Tristan Gebbia, Lincoln Kienholz. Mason Maggs and Chad Ray
  • RB: Dallan Hayden, TreVeyon Henderson
  • WR: David Adolph, Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr., Brandon Inniss, Xavier Johnson, Joop Mitchell, Brennen Schramm, Reis Stocksdale and Carnell Tate
  • TE: Patrick Gurd, Sam Hart, Jace Middleton and Jelani Thurman
  • OL: Quinton Burke, Carson Hinzman, Donovan Jackson, Jacob James, Zen Michalski, Luke Montgomery, Austin Siereveld and Toby Wilson
  • DT: Hero Kanu, Tywone Malone, Kayden McDonald, Jaden McKenzie, Jason Moore and Bryce Prater
  • DE: Caden Davis, Joshua Mickens and Jack Sawyer
  • LB: Alec DelSignore, Nigel Glover, Jalen Pace, Gabe Powers, Arvell Reese, Cody Simon, Sonny Styles and Kourt Williams
  • CB: Davison Igbinosun, Cameron Kittle, Calvin Simpson-Hunt and Lorenzo Styles Jr.
  • SAF: Jayden Bonsu, Ja’Had Carter, Malik Hartford, Ryan Rudzinski
  • K: Parker Lewis, Casey Magyar and Austin Snyder
  • P: Jesse Mirco and Joe McGuire
  • LS: Max Lomonico

In addition to his Scholar-Athlete award, Simon received the Eugene D. Smith Award, along with women’s hockey standout Jenn Gardiner. According to an Ohio State press release, the award was established this year “to honor and recognize Gene Smith for his commitment and dedication to the student-athletes he served for 19 years.”

Of Ohio State’s 811 Scholar-Athletes for all 36 varsity programs, Simon and Gardiner embodied “the mission of The Eugene D. Smith Leadership Institute” with their exemplary leadership in the football and women’s hockey programs and in the classroom.

Cheers to Simon and Gardiner, Ohio State football’s 62 Scholar-Athletes and the school’s other 749 Scholar-Athletes for the 2023-24 academic year. They are proof that the term student-athlete still holds meaning in today’s NIL-impacted college sports environment!

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Heartbreaker” - Ohio State Athletic Band.

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