Skull Session: Bijan Robinson “Silently Committed” to Ohio State in 2019, A Big 12 Coach Thinks Will Howard Will “Have a Monster Year” and Ryan Day Talks Renovations at the Woody

By Chase Brown on May 17, 2024 at 5:06 am
Bijan Robinson
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

TreVeyon Henderson is cooking.

Mixtape soon?

Have a good Friday.

 WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN. Hop in the Delorean with me as we travel back in time to June 2019.

Five months after Ohio State defeated Washington in the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes welcomed a five-star recruit on campus for an official visit. The recruit was Bijan Robinson, the No. 1 running back and No. 15 overall prospect in the 2020 class.

Then-Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford and members of the Buckeyes’ recruiting staff took Robinson on a tour of Ohio State’s 50,000-student campus, its 78,000 square-foot Woody Hayes Athletic Center and its 103,000-seat Ohio Stadium.

By the end of his visit, Robinson wanted to be a Buckeye. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound ballcarrier committed to Alford, head coach Ryan Day and Ohio State moments before he departed for John Glenn International Airport and his hometown Tuscon, Arizona.

However, Robinson never made his commitment public. 

It remained silent – for seven days.

“I silently committed to Ohio State for a week,” Robinson told Will Compton and Taylor Lewan on a recent episode of Bussin’ With the Boys. “(I committed to Ohio State) because there were people and players in my ear telling me, ‘You should go here. We’re gonna build a dynasty here. You’re gonna be amazing.’ Which, that could have been true. But I knew I could go to Texas for a 40-year decision – not just football, but I could become someone here, come back here and feel like this was the place for me. That was the main decision. But (I was committed) for a week, man, and I told the coaches that was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.

“I committed on Monday, and now it’s Saturday. I called them, and I was like, ‘This isn’t the place for me.’ Having to say that to a grown man and be like, ‘What are you talking about? I sent all my other running backs away. You were the only one I was getting.’ Man, it was crazy. … It was tough to have that conversation as a 17-year-old kid. I was with my family, and they were like, ‘It’s OK. It’s OK.’”

In August 2019, Robinson committed to Texas, where he would play for former Ohio State offensive coordinator and then Longhorns head coach Tom Herman. His running backs coach would be Stan Drayton, who coached the same position at Ohio State from 2012-14 and developed Ezekiel Elliott, one of the greatest running backs in the school’s history.

Robinson said Drayton was the main reason he ended up with the Longhorns.

“It was the position coach. You’re gonna be with him the whole time,” Robinson said. “I talked to other running backs before I got (to Texas). Like Reggie Bush, his position coach in college was his guy. He said, ‘The position coach is what’s most important. … He’s the most important person for yourself.’ After hearing that,  I was like, ‘Let me build a relationship.’”

Across three seasons at Texas, Robinson made 31 appearances and carried the ball 539 times for 3,410 yards and 33 scores. He also collected 60 receptions for 805 yards and eight scores. Robinson was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection (2021, 2022), a unanimous All-American (2022) and a Doak Walker Award winner (2022) before he became the Atlanta Falcons’ No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

Alford’s replacement for Robinson, Miyan Williams, also appeared in 31 games during his collegiate career. The three-star prospect from Cincinnati – who was committed to Iowa State before Ohio State flipped him – carried the ball 258 times for 1,555 yards and 20 scores across four seasons. Williams went undrafted in 2024 and has yet to receive a UDFA deal as he recovers from a knee surgery.

While I am a well-documented fan of CHOP, hearing that Alford (and Ohio State) fumbled the bag on Robinson is devastating – even more so when you remember the Buckeyes could have paired him with C.J. Stroud, Paris Johnson Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the 2020 class, not to mention TreVeyon Henderson in the 2021 class.

Man, that’s brutal.

Just brutal.

 “HE’S GONNA HAVE A MONSTER YEAR.” As Ohio State enters the summer, the Buckeyes still have a quarterback competition between Will Howard, Devin Brown, Lincoln Kienholz, Julian Sayin and Air Noland on their hands. However, a couple of anonymous college coaches and recruiting staff members still believe Howard will be Ohio State’s QB1 this fall. Once he earns the title, the coach and staff member think the 6-foot-4, 242-pound signal caller will have a “monster year” for the Buckeyes.

From Bruce Feldman of The Athletic:

The 6-4, 242-pound 22-year-old has prototypical size and has played a lot of football. He led Kansas State to the Big 12 title two years ago. In 2023, he completed 61 percent of his passes and threw 24 TDs and 10 INTs and ran for nine more touchdowns with relatively modest skill talent around him. Assuming he wins the job, he will have much better talent around him than he’s ever had before.

“I think he’s gonna have a monster year,” said a Big 12 defensive coach. “All of a sudden, he’s going to have this great supporting cast around here. For a big guy, he is pretty athletic and can run. I don’t think he has a crazy, strong arm, but he is very accurate and very smart.”

“I think he processes the game very well,” said a Big Ten recruiting coordinator. “I can see him being a very good fit there for what they’re looking for.”

I mean, one can hope, right?

Yet, for Ohio State to accomplish its goals this season, the Buckeyes won’t necessarily need a “monster year” from their quarterback. Instead, they will need their quarterback to, as Ryan Day would describe it, take care of the football and make the routine plays routinely. The sixth-year head coach said as much on “Bishop and Friends” on Wednesday.

“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 will be. We know how important the quarterback play will be,” Day said. “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.”

So whether it's Howard, Brown, Kienholz, Sayin or Noland, I don’t care. I just want to see a quarterback keep the offense on schedule and move the chains. Is that too much to ask?

 ANOTHER ONE. Ryan Day made several media appearances this week at WBNS –first on 97.1 The Fan’s “Morning Juice” and “Bishop and Friends,” then on 10TV’s “Wall to Wall Sports.” Since I’ve already covered the radio interviews in detail, I figured, What the heck? Let’s go for the triple, the hat trick, the trifecta!

Here’s Day’s interview with Adam King of 10TV and a transcript of their conversation:

On the month of May for Ohio State football

“Well, the guys got done with their finals. We finished up the semester with a 3.275 GPA cumulative for 120 players on the team, which is a great sign of the maturity of our team. Then guys get away for a couple of weeks but are getting back into it now as summer classes start. We get into workout drills really soon. Assistant coaches are on the road recruiting, and they are out for the whole month of May, getting out to different parts of the country. … We got some renovations going on (at the Woody), which is great. There are a bunch of new things going on. In June, we do a lot of recruiting visits. In May, our guys are on the road recruiting, but in June, they come to see us. That’s a good time. Everyone is out of there for a couple of weeks and we get a bunch of things changed, fixed up and cleaned up. Everyone is getting back in there now.”

On renovations to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center

“Our guys love being there. When you look at Marvin Harrison (Jr.) and the whole offseason, he spent the whole time in the Woody. Our guys like being there. That’s their home. That’s their sanctuary. They deserve the best in the country. We have great plans to make sure it is the best in the country.”

On the team’s goals this summer

“This summer is where you build the identity of the team. During the spring, you are working on individuals, getting better at their techniques and the fundamentals — and that won’t stop. But more importantly, in the summer is when a team comes together because we’ve cleared the last (transfer) portal (window), and we made add a piece or two here down the stretch, but that’s our roster for the entire year. So we come together as a team and build chemistry on both sides of the ball.”

On Ohio State’s quarterback competition

“The team knows. You have to do right by the team. We know that the quarterback position will be big for us this year. But we will need the entire room. I think that’s one of the things the guys in the room understand. Even if someone is named a starter, we will need all of them. The last time we won a national championship, we needed three. That’s been consistent when you look at all the different runs a team has made — there have been a lot of times when they’ve needed the second or third-team guy. We’ll let them compete here in August, but we’ll need to make a decision.”

On all five scholarship quarterbacks staying at Ohio State

“Being here five years now and going on year six, it’s so important as the head coach to make sure that our guys understand the culture here. I ask the assistant coaches to identify the right talent and fit at Ohio State, but ultimately I have to make sure it’s the right culture fit and they understand what Ohio State is. Ohio State is not for everybody. You have to be really competitive. You have to want to be around guys who are competitive. You will walk into a room like Marvin Harrison (Jr.) did with four five-star guys. You think about our D-line room and how competitive that is — our secondary and how competitive that is. Our running back room. Our guys like being around each other. They have a common purpose. They know what the goals are. I think guys think they are getting developed at a high level. They believe that. That’s important. When guys are walking into the Woody and believe they are becoming a better football player, they are more likely to be engaged.”

On Jeremiah Smith

“Emeka Egbuka, when we talked about him coming back, one of the things he shared with me was that he wants to help mentor some of the younger guys, and Jeremiah in particular. That room over the years has really built a great camaraderie. There’s been great leadership there. There’s a standard that’s been set. They kind of help each other along. That will be more important than anything, having a senior guy in there like Emeka who can help with Carnell (Tate) and Jeremiah and Brandon Inniss. But we also have veteran guys on the offensive side of the ball. It’s not the first time we’ve had a high-profile freshman, but Jeremiah has done a nice job so far making sure he’s focused on football and pushing distractions to the side.”

While all the quotes have value, I am drawn to Day’s comments – albeit brief comments – about renovations at the Woody. Last month, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the renovations will be like “lipstick” on the building. Yet, Day said the Buckeyes are hopeful the work will make Woody “the best in the country.”

Sounds like some darn good lipstick.

Jokes aside, I am excited to see what the Woody will look like after the renovations are completed. What areas will be updated? What new features will be added? How will the coaches and players feel about the changes?

 THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME. Make it back-to-back weeks with Jesse Owens #content in the Skull Session.

On Thursday, HISTORY announced it will release a film called “Triumph” that documents Owens’ incredible achievements at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. With LeBron James and Maverick Carter as executive producers, Andre Gaines as director and actor Don Cheadle as narrator, the film will premiere on the HISTORY Channel and HISTORY app on June 19 at 8 p.m.

Here is how HISTORY describes “Triumph” on its website:

“Triumph: Jesse Owens and the Berlin Olympics” is executive produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s award-winning athlete storytelling brand UNINTERRUPTED and Cinemation Studios in association with GroupM Motion Entertainment. It explores the dramatic tale of Owen’s athletic dedication, perseverance, and triumph over Hitler’s Aryan supremacy agenda and his resilience against racism both abroad and at home in the U.S. The documentary also features archival Olympic footage and interviews from Owens, smartly executed animation and first-hand interviews from family members, journalists, historians, and reputable athletes including 9x Olympic Gold Medalist Carl Lewis, and Owen’s daughters Marlene and Beverly Owens, among others.

Set during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, and just three years before the start of WWII, African American track and field athlete Jesse Owens took the world stage and launched into international fame by making Olympic history after winning four gold medals in the 100-meter dash, long jump, 200-meter dash and 4×100-meter dash. This feat made him arguably one of the greatest and most impactful athletes of all time.

I mean, yeah, I’m sold.

*adds premiere to calendar*

Expect a Skull Session Film Review™ that week, folks.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Sun is Shining” - Bob Marley.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Stolen antique weathervane recovered 40 years later and returned to Vermont... Simone Biles is stepping into the Olympic spotlight again. She is better prepared for the pressure... Atlanta Dream moving two games vs Caitlin Clark-led Fever to NBA arena... From child star to 'Abbott,' Tyler James Williams pays it forward to the kids on set... Indiana judge rules tacos and burritos are, in fact, sandwiches.

View 64 Comments