Skull Session: ESPN Ranks Ohio State’s “Newcomer Class” No. 2 Behind Texas, and Ohio State Responds to the EA Sports College Football 25 Trailer’s Unflattering Buckeye Moments

By Chase Brown on May 24, 2024 at 5:00 am
Caleb Downs

Welcome to the Skull Session.

There are 99 days until Ohio State football returns.

Have a good Friday.

 NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK. This week, Craig Haubert and Billy Tucker of ESPN revealed their “Newcomer Class” rankings for the 2024 offseason. The duo claimed Texas made the best additions since the end of 2023, followed by Ohio State, Ole Miss, Miami and Oregon. Alabama, Texas A&M, Colorado, Oklahoma and Auburn rounded out the top 10.

Here is what Haubert and Tucker wrote about Texas and Ohio State’s classes:

No. 1 - Texas

Recruits: WR Ryan Wingo, DE Colin Simmons

Texas' No. 5 recruiting class includes impact freshmen on both sides of the ball. Wingo is receiving coaching reviews similar to those of five-star WR Jeremiah Smith of Ohio State. Wingo's size, speed and natural pass-catching skills are already elite. Simmons may have a harder time getting meaningful reps given the talent around him, but he's being compared to Anthony Hill Jr. as a pass-rusher because of his speed, bend and power. Both are mature and explosive true freshman playmakers.

Transfers: WR Isaiah Bond (Alabama), WR Matthew Golden (Houston), WR Silas Bolden (Oregon State), TE Amari Niblack (Alabama), DL Trey Moore (UTSA), DL Tiaoalii Savea (Arizona), S Andrew Mukuba (Clemson), CB Jay'Vion Cole (San Jose State), DT Bill Norton (Arizona), DL Jermayne Lole (Louisville)

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, a one-time Alabama assistant, benefitted from the coaching change in Tuscaloosa. Texas landed receiver Bond, who led Alabama with 48 catches, and tight end Niblack, who was among the Tide's leaders in receptions and touchdowns. Bringing in Golden from in-state Houston was another coup. The four-star 2022 recruit was an immediate contributor for the Cougars and should replace lost production in both the passing and return games. Bolden is coming off his most productive season at Oregon State with 54 catches in 2023, doubling his output from the first three years. Defensively, the Longhorns stacked the trenches with run-stuffers. After adding Norton and Savea from Arizona, Lole was a recent flip from Oklahoma. Texas addressed the void at defensive tackle after losing Byron Murphy and T'Vondre Sweat to the NFL.

No. 2 - Ohio State

Recruits: WR Jeremiah Smith,QB Julian Sayin, DE Eddrick Houston

Ohio State's recruiting class finished third and included Smith, one of the premier receivers in the country. The No. 4 overall recruit in the 2024 class wowed the Buckeyes' staff this spring with his exceptional hands and route-running skills. Houston showed flashes at edge this spring. The No. 8 ESPN 300 defensive end will likely work into the rotation to rest guys such as JT Tuimoloau. Sayin is technically a transfer after originally signing with Alabama but will be a true freshman this fall from the 2024 recruiting class. We expect him to push Will Howard and become a formidable backup.

Transfers: QB Will Howard (Kansas State), S Caleb Downs (Alabama), RB Quinshon Judkins (Ole Miss), C Seth McLaughlin (Alabama)

The Buckeyes capitalized more in the winter portal than spring. They went for quality over quantity and landed two of the best players available in Downs and Judkins. Downs, the top-ranked player in the winter portal, went from five-star recruit to the leading tackler in Tuscaloosa as a true freshman with no physical flaws to his game. Judkins, one of the top prospects available in the winter portal, will team up with TreVeyon Henderson and provide new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly with an explosive power runner and a great complement to Henderson's speed. The duo should take pressure off Howard, another key addition from the winter portal. He provides a more dynamic option for Kelly as compared to last year's starter, Kyle McCord, and is a slight upgrade at the position. The most undervalued pickup in the portal may be McLaughlin at center. The Buckeyes' offensive line will have to outperform what it did last year, particularly protecting a new quarterback in a new system.

My initial reaction to seeing Ohio State ranked behind Texas was, “What? Ohio State had the best offseason in college football. How on earth could the Buckeyes be ranked second?”

Then I remembered what made Ohio State’s offseason so great was that 11 NFL-caliber players – TreVeyon Henderson, Emeka Egbuka, Donovan Jackson, JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton, Cody Simon, Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock and Lathan Ransom – returned for another season. Since none of them are considered newcomers, it makes sense that Haubert and Tucker would consider the Longhorns' No. 6-ranked recruiting class and 10 transfers more valuable than the Buckeyes’ No. 5-ranked recruiting class and five transfers (six, if we include Julian Sayin).

Still, I will contend that Ohio State landing Smith in the 2024 high school class is more impactful than any of the prospects Texas signed. I will also contend that the Buckeyes securing Downs and Judkins from the portal is more impactful than any of the transfers the Longhorns brought to Austin.

But I digress... I digress!

 THE GET BACK. Last week, EA Sports revealed its trailer for EA Sports College Football 25. Some people noticed unflattering (insulting?) references to Ohio State in the trailer: Michigan running back Donovan Edwards stiff-arming Lathan Ransom, Kyle McCord handing the ball off in a Syracuse uniform and – perhaps worst of all – Illinois hoisting the Illibuck, which the Berts haven’t done since 2007.

Well, I think we can add Ohio State’s media team to the list of people who feel EA Sports wronged the Buckeyes in its trailer. On Wednesday, the creatives posted a 36-second, video-game-themed video that featured the Jim Tressel quote, “I can’t believe… God gave me a chance to be a Buckeye,” and clips of Emeka Egbuka, Denzel Burke, Carnell Tate, Jack Sawyer, Gee Scott Jr., Cody Simon, Brandon Inniss and more.

Well done, Ohio State creatives. Well done.

This is now THE EA Sports College Football 25 trailer – forget the official one.

 “I AM FORTUNATE AND BLESSED.” On April 23, Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan fractured his femur and tibia, shattered his kneecap and tore his rotator cuff in a car accident on his commute to the Jennings Wrestling Facility.

After 22 hours of anesthesia and procedures, 12 days in the hospital and a rehabilitation process that continues a month later, Ryan told ABC6 he’s gained a new perspective on life.

“I have a strong faith and belief that there are other elements at work,” Ryan said. “I am just really fortunate.”

Ryan then shared his perspective of what occurred the morning of the crash.

“I leave the house at about 5:30,” he recalled. “I plugged my phone in (to the car’s aux port) – I use Pandora – and I was listening to Elevation Worship. That’s my jam. I was drinking my morning drink. … At about 5:55 in the morning, I hit a tractor-trailer that was on the side of the road. I don’t remember anything other than them cutting me out of the vehicle. I remember the sound of steel bending, and I remember asking them what happened. They said, ‘You were in a car accident.’”

Ryan doesn’t remember much after that. He said that’s for the best.

Ohio State’s head coach since the 2006-07 season, Ryan said the first week or two of his recovery was difficult – not because of the pain (though he experienced a great deal of it), but because he had to spend time apart from his wrestlers. When Ryan returned to the Jennings in May, All-American Nick Feldman said the longing to be together was mutual.

“Having one of the biggest members of our family gone has been hard for us,” Feldman told ABC6. “It was nice for him to see us, see his buddies and see his friends there. It was good for us to see him the same way.”

Ryan and his wrestlers have shared another emotion throughout this process: Thankfulness.

“I know this is an incredible place, Ohio State,” Ryan said. “The prayers matter. You feel them. I am fortunate and blessed.”

Keep getting better, Tom.

The Eleven Warriors community is with you.

 THIS AND THAT. Another Skull Session, another This and That.

You know the drill.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has several bonuses attached to his million-dollar contract with the Buckeyes, including one attached to the football team’s academic performance during the school year. According to Day’s contract, the head coach will receive a $50,000 bonus this offseason because his players achieved a collective 3.24 GPA in 2023-24.

Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields felt “relief” when the Chicago Bears traded him to the Pittsburgh Steelers in March.

“We (the Bears) were in the same situation last year with having the No. 1 pick,” Fields told reporters on Tuesday. “It was just a little bit different this year. I’m not naive to the fact that — I can read body language and stuff like that. It wasn’t really a shock to where it’s like, ‘Oh, I got traded.’ I knew that it would happen beforehand. I’m just glad I got traded to the spot that I wanted to be at.”

Fields said his agent and Bears GM Ryan Poles had conversations where Fields’ camp expressed interest in being traded to the Steelers. Fields thanked Poles for honoring his request.

“Shoutout to Poles. We communicated to him through my agent, and I told him where I wanted to be and this was a place I wanted to be,” Fields said. “He honored that, and I appreciate him for that and glad he was able to put me in a spot where I wanted to be at.”

What is Ohio State’s best uniform?

The answer: Traditional home uniform with scarlet jerseys and gray pants, BUT the scarlet uniforms have gray on the sleeves.

That’s all, folks.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me?” - Lawrence.

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