Skull Session: Ryan Day Declines to Set Deadline on QB Battle, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh Are Great Villains and Ohio State’s Offense Will Be Great For Years to Come

By Chase Brown on May 16, 2024 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day
Adam Cairns/USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Ohio State. Northwestern. Wrigley Field.

Will the Buckeyes get to Fly The W?

Have a good Thursday.

 “MAY THE BEST MAN WIN.” On Wednesday, Ryan Day appeared on two 97.1 The Fan shows, “Morning Juice” and “Bishop and Friends.” Among the many topics Day discussed, the most interesting comment came when Beau Bishop asked the Ohio State head coach if the Buckeyes have a deadline to name their QB1 in 2024.

“It will be a huge part of our season – the quarterback play and how well the quarterback plays. We know that. We know how important the offensive line play will be. We know how important the quarterback play will be. We’re not shying away from that. The defense will be strong, and how well they play late in the season will be critical, but it always comes down to the quarterback,” Day said. “In terms of a deadline, I don’t like to do that. This is something where a lot of those guys are working toward it. I want to make sure we do what’s right by them, but at the same time make sure we do right by the team to make sure we’re prepared.”

While Day did not mention a specific date for naming a starter, he said Ohio State hopes to have a quarterback emerge before the start of the regular season. Day then referred to last year’s competition between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown, which McCord won after Week 2, as “not ideal.”

“The way that it turned out last year, it kind of went into the first couple of games of the season. That’s not ideal. I wouldn’t like to do that again this year,” Day said. “But it will come down to playing the best players. We don’t have time to not play the best players, so they’ll be in competitive situations. May the best man win.”

Indeed, may the best man win.

As it stands, I have to believe Will Howard is the frontrunner to win the quarterback competition this fall. Yet, given Day’s hesitance to name Howard the starter at this gesture, either Howard has improvements to make this offseason or Devin Brown, Lincoln Kienholz, Julian Sayin and Air Noland have looked better than expected. Or, you know, both could be true!

Either way, Day seems confident that the best man will, in fact, win. Whether that’s Howard, Brown, Kienholz, Sayin or Noland, they will lead an Ohio State team that, this fall, will look to beat Michigan for the first time in five years, win a Big Ten championship for the first time in four years and win a national title for the first time in 10 years...

... No pressure!

 *VILLANOUS LAUGHTER*. This week, three of The Athletic’s college football writers – Ari Wasserman, Sam Khan and Mitch Light – named their “Mount Rushmore of College Football Villains.” Wasserman’s list included two people with whom Buckeye Nation is familiar: Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. (His other two names were former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and former Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth).

Here’s what Wasserman wrote about Meyer and Harbaugh:

Urban Meyer, former Florida and Ohio State head coach 

Who has a more complicated legacy than Meyer? On one hand, he is a three-time national championship-winning head coach. On the other, trouble arose during his tenures at Florida and Ohio State. While he was at Florida, Ohio State fans loathed him because he represented the big, bad SEC and the team the Buckeyes couldn’t beat, including in the 2006 national title game. After Meyer departed — a time during which he was mocked incessantly for having what many considered to be a made-up medical condition — he went to Ohio State, a program disliked by fans around the nation. He lifted Ohio State’s program to what it is today, winning a national title along the way, but he left shortly after a scandal involving former assistant coach Zach Smith. Meyer is unquestionably one of the most successful coaches of all time, but he is viewed by many as someone who broke rules along the way. He did a bunch of winning, and there were a bunch of off-the-field incidents, which followed him to his short stint in the NFL as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coach. That’s quite the hate cocktail for fans looking to despise a person.

Jim Harbaugh, former Stanford and Michigan head coach

Harbaugh, now the coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, is one of the most eccentric personalities to ever coach in college football. He revived Stanford’s program and was on the doorstep of winning a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers. Then he showed up at Michigan and immediately started posting veiled shots on Twitter at opponents, climbing trees, throwing the football while shirtless and arranging satellite camps. After failing to beat his arch-rival or reach the Big Ten Championship Game in the first five years of his tenure, he finally knocked off Ohio State and immediately intimated that Buckeyes coach Ryan Day was “born on third base.” In the final year of his time at Michigan, Harbaugh was involved in two NCAA investigations and then won a national title on the heels of one of the biggest cheating scandals the sport has ever seen. He’s a winner. He walks to the beat of his own drum. And he thumbed his nose at the NCAA on the way to winning it all. This sport is going to miss him.

While I’m sure most Ohio State fans don’t see Meyer as a villain, the reasons non-Ohio State fans would are apparent. As Wasserman stated, Meyer is “one of the most successful coaches of all time” and “did a bunch of winning” at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. Add in the off-field drama that surrounded him, and Meyer has all the makings of a college football antagonist.

As for Harbaugh… you get it. 

Like, you get it. 

I don’t have to list the reasons the Michigan Man is a villain. 

If I were to create a Mount Rushmore of College Football Villains, he would be on there, for sure. While I wouldn’t have Meyer on there for obvious reasons, here’s who I would put with Harbaugh: Former Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard, former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

Howard is an Ohio State hater. Always has been. Always will be. I’m not a fan.

Mayfield was an excellent quarterback at Oklahoma, but I will never forget – and I mean never forget – the time he planted a Sooners flag at Ohio Stadium. That was as disrespectful a gesture as I’ve seen, and no amount of Cleveland Browns/Baker Mayfield moments will erase it from my memory.

Swinney wasn’t a villain until he chose to become a villain. Ohio State’s 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2014 Orange Bowl was brutal, and the Buckeyes’ 31-0 defeat to the Tigers was even worse. However, neither of them made Swinney a villain in my mind. No, I believe Swinney became a villain when he took potshots at Ohio State's recruiting in 2017 and when he ranked the Buckeyes No. 11 in his final Coaches Poll in 2020. That’s when he became a villain. Good news: Ohio State demolished Clemson in the 2020 CFP, and the Tigers have never recovered since. Ohio State broke Dabo and Clemson like it Broke the U in 2002.

 LOADED, I SAY! LOADED! Folks, I think On3 likes the Buckeyes. This week, its college football writers ranked Ohio State’s running back, wide receiver and defensive line rooms as the best in college football for their respective positions.

And they’re not wrong.

Ohio State has the best one-two punch in college football with TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins. It has the best wide receiver room in college football with Emeka Egbuka, Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss and Jeremiah Smith. And it has the best defensive line room in college football with JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton.

Ooooooooweeeeeee, the Buckeyes are loaded.

 FUTUREEEEEE. The Worldwide Leader continued its “Future Power Rankings” series this week, as Adam Rittenberg of ESPN ranked the teams he believes will have the best offenses in college football over the next three seasons (2024, 2025 and 2026).

After Rittenberg ranked Ohio State’s future quarterback room No. 1 overall and the Buckeyes’ future defenses No. 5 overall, the veteran college football writer ranked Ohio State’s offense at the top of his list. 

Note: The Buckeyes were No. 2 in last year’s offensive FPR.

“Ohio State’s notable winter personnel push bolstered not only its 2024 offense with transfer players like quarterback Will Howard (Kansas State), running back Quinshon Judkins (Ole Miss) and center Seth McLaughlin (Alabama), but future units with quarterback Julian Sayin, a top 10 recruit who initially signed with Alabama. The Buckeyes have retained Devin Brown and their other quarterbacks for now, and while the room surely will turn over in 2025, coach Ryan Day and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly have plenty of options. Judkins and TreVeyon Henderson form the nation’s best running back combination for the fall, but the room changed a bit with Hayden’s transfer. The post-2024 outlook there could hinge on James Peoples, a top-200 recruit in 2024, but Ohio State likely will remain active in the portal, if only for depth. Offensive line is an area that must improve after 2023, as senior guard Donovan Jackson leads the group. Fellow seniors McLaughlin, left tackle Josh Simmons and right tackle/guard Josh Fryar provide short-term solutions, while younger players such as juniors Tegra Tshabola and Carson Hinzman, and sophomore Luke Montgomery will be factors through at least 2025. Although Ohio State signed 13 ESPN 300 recruits in 2024, only one (tackle Ian Moore) plays offensive line.

“Despite bringing in Kelly, Day retained co-coordinator Brian Hartline, who will continue to oversee an elite wide receiver group. Senior Emeka Egbuka, who had six 100-yard receiving performances in 2022, could be a national awards candidate if healthy. Sophomores Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss form a strong post-2024 core with incoming freshman Jeremiah Smith, ESPN's No. 4 recruit who dazzled during spring practice. Sophomore Bryson Rodgers and senior Jayden Ballard are solid depth pieces, and Ohio State has a 2025 commitment from ESPN 300 wideout De'Zie Jones. The tight end group will miss Cade Stover, a fourth-round draft pick, but Ohio State added Will Kacmarek from Ohio and could get a lift from veteran Gee Scott Jr. The team added ESPN 300 recruit Max LeBlanc this year and has a 2025 commit from another in Nate Roberts.”

Rittenberg’s long-term confidence in Ohio State’s offense comes from its coaching staff – namely Ryan Day, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chip Kelly and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline – as well as its quarterback and wide receiver rooms. 

And, yeah, there’s where I think most people’s confidence comes from with the Buckeyes.

When looking around college football, it’s hard to find a better trio of offensive coaches on one team than Day, Kelly and Hartline. As for the other confidence-boosters, Rittenberg already ranked Ohio State’s signal-callers No. 1 in his future power rankings for the position. I’d imagine the Buckeyes’ wide receivers will receive the same number whenever Rittenberg publishes that article. With Brandon Inniss, Carnell Tate, Jeremiah Smith, Mylan Graham and some other talented prospects leading the room over the next three seasons, how could it not be?

Given those circumstances, Ohio State has a promising future on the offensive side of the ball. As the No. 5 FPR defense behind Georgia, Iowa, Michigan and Clemson, the Buckeyes have a lot to look forward to on defense, too.

Life is good in Buckeye Nation.

Dare I call it… so good?

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Sweet Caroline” - Neil Diamond

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