Skull Session: Ryan Day Appears on Jim Tressel’s Podcast, Wrigley Field Joins a Decorated List of Road Game Venues for Ohio State and Paris Johnson Jr. Will Play Left Tackle This Year

By Chase Brown on May 22, 2024 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day

Welcome to the Skull Session.


Have a good Wednesday.

 RYAN DAY *HANDSHAKE* JIM TRESSEL. Three weeks ago, former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel started a podcast called “It’s All About the Team.” In episodes one and two, Tressel welcomed author John Maxwell and former Buckeye linebacker A.J. Hawk on the podcast. For episode three, current Ohio State head coach Ryan Day had a conversation with The Senator.

While the entire 50-minute podcast has lots to offer, three sections will catch an Ohio State fan’s attention: Championship teams come together for a common purpose (10:18), what led Day to become a football coach (11:33) and focusing on the process, not the result (43:10).

For concision’s sake in the Eleven Warriors Morning Constitutional, I will explain the “common purpose” section below. (Please refer to the video below for the other areas of interest).

Championship teams come together for a common purpose

To introduce this section, Tressel reflected on events that occurred after he led Youngstown State to the 1991 NCAA Division I-AA national championship, the first of four titles Tressel won with the Penguins.

The 1991 championship came in Tressel’s fourth season as head coach at Youngstown State. In the first three seasons of Tressel’s tenure, the Penguins went a combined 24-12, reaching the postseason twice (1989 and 1990) but losing in the second and first rounds. But then, in 1991, Tressel said his team “came to the conclusion that it was bigger than us,” and from that point forward, it all changed for Youngstown State.

“We were so focused on Youngstown State. It was, ‘We are Youngstown State. We want to be national champions. We want to win it all.’ But somehow, we found out it was even more than that,” Tressel said.

He explained that Youngstown, Ohio, had lost the steel industry in the late 1980s and that the town suffered “hard times” as a result. When the Penguins started having success on the football field, the team “could see the pride that was permeating well outside the locker room.” Tressel said that drove Youngstown State to win the national championship in 1991 — and three of the next six titles after that.

Moved with Tressel’s words, Day said the Buckeyes have had one mind this offseason. Every coach and player wants to beat Michigan and win the College Football Playoff, and they all want to do it for the state of Ohio.


“The teams that win the championship are teams that come together for a common purpose,” Day added after Tressel’s comments. “We’ve talked about that with our team this year. We need to have that vision and purpose. It allows you to wake up with two feet on the ground every morning, and you know that there is a purpose bigger than you. I think that’s important for us. That’s important for us this year. 

“To have guys who decided to come back and have a few other guys come into the program, you can feel that right now. When they wake up in the morning, they’re not just waking up because they have to be there at 7:15 (a.m.) — they’re waking up because they want to beat the ‘Team Up North’ and win a national championship. Everyone on the team can tell you that. They’re coming together for a common purpose. That’s what we hope, in the end, allows us to raise the trophy.”

Man, that fires me up on a Wednesday.

How long until football is back?

As I mentioned above, all 50 minutes of this episode are well worth the listen or watch. If I had to recommend a couple of other sections, it would be the ones about Day becoming a football coach (11:33) and focusing on the process and not the result (43:10)! Both were great — but then again, all of it was. And that’s about what I would expect from a Jim Tressel and Ryan Day podcast.

 RANKING WRIGLEY. In a recent article for The Columbus Dispatch, columnist Rob Oller ranked the top 10 all-time road game stadiums and venues for Ohio State football. He published the article soon after Northwestern announced it would host the Buckeyes at Wrigley Field this fall while the school builds its new $800 million stadium.

Here is how Oller ranked the road game stadiums and a look at his top 10:

I gave extra credit for postcard settings, the strength of stadium tradition and site oddity. In addition, frequency matters. The Big House and Camp Randall are classics, but Ohio State plays at Michigan and Wisconsin enough to render the stadiums rather ho-hum compared to places like Notre Dame and the Rose Bowl. Finally, my picks do not consider the fervor of the game-day environment, which is a separate list. For example, Penn State’s Beaver Stadium would rank high in fan atmosphere, but the venue itself is nothing special.

  1. Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
  2. Notre Dame Stadium (South Bend, Indiana)
  3. Husky Stadium (Seattle, Washington)
  4. Folsom Field (Boulder, Colorado)
  5. Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)
  6. Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
  7. The Polo Grounds (New York City)
  8. California Memorial Stadium (Berkeley, California)
  9. Los Angeles Coliseum (Los Angeles)
  10. Cleveland Municipal Stadium (Cleveland, Ohio)

I must commend Oller for two reasons. One, because this article is excellent offseason #content. And two, because he made a good list. Still, the list could be great with a couple of minor changes. 

First, I mean no offense to the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, but I also mean complete offense to the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium when I call it a dump. I’ll admit that I never attended a game there — the city demolished it two years before I was born — but the accounts of several older and wiser Browns and Indians fans tell me that was the case. So, instead of Cleveland Municipal Stadium, I feel like Oller’s list needed Beaver Stadium. I know the stadium itself is meh, but the fans transform the hunk of concrete and metal into one of the best environments in college football, and I think that has to mean something.

Second, I’ve been to South Bend, Indiana, and I’ve seen the inside of Notre Dame Stadium. It’s a beautiful venue, to be sure, but the second-best road game stadium Ohio State has ever played in? Something about that feels off to me. Therefore, I would knock it down a few spots.

Outside of those changes, I think Oller has a good list.

Still, a question remains: Where would Wrigley Field rank among these venues?

 THE BLINDSIDE. ​Former Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. will protect Kyler Murray’s blindside for the Arizona Cardinals this fall.

After Johnson spent his rookie season at right tackle, Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon announced Monday that the 6-foot-6, 313-pound Mountain of a Man will move to left tackle in 2024. The move comes after Arizona signed former Alabama and Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Jonah Williams to a two-year contract in March.

“Jonah’s gonna go right. Paris is gonna go left. We’ll see how that looks,” Gannon said.

In an interview with Arizona Sports’ “Wolf and Luke,” Johnson said the move will have both pros and cons — at least, at the start of his transition.

“I think it’s kind of a mix of both,” Johnson said. “One, it takes time to switch. At the same time, I’ve already done it at a high level. I haven’t done it at the pro level yet, but I’ve taken a lot of reps at a high level at left tackle. … I think it will be about getting back into that routine because the techniques and the fundamentals we learn here in our offensive line room, it works left or right. It doesn’t change at all. It’s more about feet and balance. Which foot are you trying to dig in the ground a little bit more now? That’s really just the reps.”

Johnson’s high-level reps at left tackle came during his three seasons with the Buckeyes. After spending his freshman season as Ohio State’s sixth offensive lineman in 2020, Johnson started every game at right guard as a sophomore in 2021. In 2022, his final season with the Buckeyes, Johnson started all 13 games at left tackle and received first-team All-Big Ten and consensus All-American honors.

According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson recorded 827 snaps in his final collegiate season, including 449 as a pass blocker and 378 as a run blocker. His overall grade of 83 included a 77.8 mark in the former category and an 80.9 in the latter.

Johnson took tremendous pride in those PFF scores coming out of college, and he wants them to improve as he develops in the NFL.

“I love pass protection. My favorite thing in the whole world is to hear a pass play called. I love it,” Johnson said. “But I want to take the same demeanor I have toward pass protection into the run game as well. I want to be seen as a powerful run blocker as well — to be consistent play after play. I feel like, for me, that’s going to be a huge emphasis this season.”

Cardinals offensive coordinator Drew Petznig told “Wolf and Luke” he looks forward to seeing Johnson make those strides in 2024 and beyond.

“Knowing that he’s already (played left tackle), my guess is that he’s not even gonna blink,” he said.

 BLAST FROM THE PAST. Amadeo Della Valle. Remember him?

From 2012-14, Della Valle appeared in 48 games across two seasons for Ohio State men’s basketball. The 6-foot-5, 198-pound shooting guard and Alba, Italy, native averaged 3.6 points on 38% shooting from the field and 34% shooting from behind the 3-point line. Those numbers came in 7.2 minutes per game as a freshman and 11.9 minutes per game as a sophomore.

While Della Valle’s numbers as a Buckeye weren’t great, he declared for the NBA draft after his second college season. After going undrafted, Della Valle returned to Italy to begin a professional career that has lasted nine years, including multiple seasons with Reggiana, Olimpia Milano, Gran Canaria, Buducnost and Brescia.

A four-time champion (2015, 2018, 2021 and 2023) and LBA MVP (2022), Della Valle’s accolades in Italy are impressive. He added to them this week when he became Brescia’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 112. Della Valle reached that mark in his third season with the organization. In that time, he has averaged 16 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 43.9% from the floor and 39.6% from deep.

Here’s how I reacted to that news:

Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye.

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