Skull Session: A Big Ten Coach Calls Ohio State’s Season “National Title or Bust,” No One Recruits or Develops Like the Buckeyes and Joey Bosa Says “It'd Be Cool” to Play With Nick Bosa in the NFL

By Chase Brown on June 14, 2024 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day
Brooke LaValley / USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Ohio State has the best black uniform in college football and the best white uniform in college football.

Have a good Friday.

 THE EXCELLENCE. Expectations for Ohio State's 2024 season are massive. Those expectations exist inside and outside Buckeye Nation. They also exist in the locker rooms of other Big Ten programs.

This week, Athlon Sports contacted coaches across the Big Ten to collect quotes on teams across the conference. Four different coaches – who, of course, remained anonymous – shared their opinion of Ohio State and the Buckeyes' chances to win the 2024 Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff.

"This is maybe the most talented roster Day has had since he took over," Coach 1 said.

But that's half of it, Coach 2 added.

"Ryan Day is a great collaborator; the Chip (Kelly) hire won't be a nuisance or a problem at all," he said. "If you believe what Chip's said – that he wants to focus on ball and not worry with the administrative stuff – he is a fantastic hire for them.”

Those coaches agreed, as did Coach 3, that Ohio State's roster and coaching staff are among the best in America; however, until the Buckeyes can beat “That Team Up North” at the end of November, those developments aren't worth celebrating.

"Nothing really matters until they can get Michigan off their backs in November," Coach 3 explained. "The standards are higher than anywhere else this season. ... It's national title or bust, but it's certainly beat Michigan or bust, and the expectation is always to win the league."

I kind of disagree with the notion of “national title or bust.”

I don't know. I'm not sure.

Ohio State's three goals, year in and year out, are to beat Michigan, win a Big Ten championship and win a national championship. But in 2024, I think the Buckeyes' three goals should be to beat Michigan, beat Michigan and beat Michigan. Once that happens, they can move on to the rest.

 HOLY BUCKEYES! Matt Brown, Jordan Reid and Billy Tucker completed a fun offseason exercise for the Worldwide Leader this week, as the trio ranked “the best active football players at as many ages as possible, spanning the NFL, college and high school... leaning in on how dominant each player is now.”

Brown, Reid and Tucker ranked 27 players from ages 14 to 40.

Buckeyes littered the list.

Surprise, surprise.

Age 18: Jeremiah Smith, WR, Ohio State

Birthday: Nov. 29, 2005

Key stat to know: Smith, the No. 4 prospect in the 2024 recruiting rankings, caught 88 passes for 1,376 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, leading Chaminade-Madonna Prep (Florida) to a third straight state title. He also ran a blazing 22.08-second 200-meter dash and won state in the 110-meter hurdles as a junior.

Why he's the best player at his age: The five-star receiver enrolled early at Ohio State and wowed the Buckeyes' staff this spring with his exceptional hands and route-running skills. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Smith has rare body control for a receiver of his size and consistently comes down with the jump ball, typically in eye-popping fashion. What is uncommon for an 18-year is the polished, smooth route-running skills and the natural movements he showed setting up FBS-level defensive backs. Smith has big-play ball skills but also elite separation speed. He should make an early impact in 2024.

Age 19: Caleb Downs, S, Ohio State

Birthday: Dec. 10, 2004

Key stat to know: Last season, Downs became the first Alabama freshman ever to lead the team in total tackles (107). He transferred to Ohio State in January in the wake of coach Nick Saban's retirement.

Why he's the best at his age: Downs, a five-star recruit in the 2023 class, was named SEC Newcomer of the Year after an outstanding true freshman season. He played 855 defensive snaps, splitting time between safety, cornerback and linebacker. He was consistent against the run -- he had 4.5 tackles for loss -- and also snagged two interceptions and broke up three passes. Downs will now be a crucial part of a loaded defense for the Buckeyes in 2024.

Age 21: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Arizona Cardinals

Birthday: Aug. 11, 2002

Key stat to know: Harrison had 144 catches for 2,474 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns in his final 25 games at Ohio State.

Why he's the best at his age: The No. 4 pick in April's draft became the highest-drafted wide receiver in Ohio State history. He also was the second player in program history to win the Biletnikoff Award (Terry Glenn) as the best wide receiver in the nation. Harrison finished the draft cycle as the No. 1 overall prospect in my rankings, and he'll become Kyler Murray's top target in 2024.

Age 22: C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans

Birthday: Oct. 3, 2001

Key stat to know: Stroud finished his rookie season with 4,108 passing yards, just behind Andrew Luck's 2012 season (4,374) as the most yards for a first-year passer ever. Stroud also led the league in passing yards per game (273.9).

Why he's the best at his age: The No. 2 pick of the 2023 draft started from Week 1 and didn't look back, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and putting up one of the best rookie QB seasons in NFL history. Stroud showed consistent poise and accuracy no matter the situation. He became the youngest signal-caller to ever win a playoff game after Houston's 45-14 victory over Cleveland in January.

Age 26: Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers

Birthday: Oct. 23, 1997

Key stat to know: Bosa's 44.5 sacks over the past three seasons rank third behind T.J. Watt (47) and Myles Garrett (46).

Why he's the best at his age: The NFL's best speed-to-power rusher, Bosa has the ability to uproot offensive tackles at the point of attack, collapsing the edges to create pass-rush production. He had 10.5 sacks (and 56 QB pressures) last season after a league-high 18.5 in 2022. The tape also shows he is a highly skilled technician who attacks the edges of blockers, while using his short-area burst to get home off twists and stunts. Bosa signed a five-year, $170 million extension last year, making him the league's highest-paid defensive player.

Two wide receivers, one quarterback, one defensive end and one defensive back.

No one recruits like Ohio State. No one develops like Ohio State.

No one.

(I think Cameron Heyward deserved at least runner-up recognition at 35. Brown selected San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Trent Williams – which, fair, he is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But then Brown picked New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis for second place, which confused me. What, no love for the 2023 Walton Payton Man of the Year?)

 “IT’D BE COOL.” At some point – whether it's been a Christmas morning, a Fourth of July barbecue or a family vacation – Joey Bosa and Nick Bosa have had conversations about being teammates before their NFL careers end. Joey Bosa revealed as much in a Wednesday press conference, though he admitted the conversations have never been too serious.

"It'd be cool at some point," he told Chargers reporters. "I always thought of myself being somebody that will play here and retire here, which I think not many people do on one team, and I think it would be a cool thing to accomplish, but you never know. I'm going to worry about this year first."

Entering 2024, Bosa had two years remaining on a five-year, $135 million contract extension he signed in 2020. Chargers reporters viewed him as a potential cut or trade candidate this offseason, referencing Bosa's age (28) and the team's massive cap allocations ($243 million). However, Bosa restructured his contract in March to remain with the Bolts. He will earn $8 million guaranteed this season but no guaranteed money in 2025, potentially making this his final year in Los Angeles.

"I want to win. I want to be on this team. I want another shot with the guys in this room, especially Khalil (Mack)," Bosa said. "And winning football games is more important to me right now than making some extra money. ... So I think we have a great opportunity here, and who knows, maybe I'll have a great year and then (the contract situation) changes down the road."

If Bosa does not receive a new contract, a future exists where Big Bear teams up with Smaller Bear in San Francisco. Nick Bosa has been dominant for the 49ers since the team drafted him in 2019. Across five seasons, he has recorded 209 tackles, 53.5 sacks, 72 tackles for loss and 141 quarterback hits, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. Bosa signed a five-year, $170 million contract extension with San Franciso last summer.

Joey Bosa hasn't been quite as dominant as Nick – at least not in recent years. After winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, Bosa has been named to four Pro Bowls in seven seasons; however, he has also dealt with a series of injuries (hamstring, foot, toe, finger) that have forced him to miss 20 games over the past two years.

Despite his ailments, Bosa feels “great” this summer. He hopes to remain 100% throughout the Chargers minicamp and preseason practices.

"My foot's feeling great. Toe's good. The hamstring's good. I mean, there was a list of things last year, my hand, so all those things are good," Bosa said. "It's nice to be feeling better going into Year 9 than you have since five or six years ago. ... I've said I've been feeling great the last couple of years. It's the real deal this time.”

When 100%, Bosa is the real deal.

I hope he succeeds this season... but next season... I hope he leaves Jim Harbaugh and the Chargers for Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers. The football world needs to see the Bosa Brothers on the same team, the same field and the same defensive line. 

It would be electric.

 BUCKEYES AT THE U.S. OPEN. Neal Shipley finished round one of the U.S. Open in the top 25, shooting an even-par 70 at Pinehurst No. 2. The Ohio State graduate bolstered his score with three birdies, including two that required him to sink a putt from about 1,000 feet. His blemishes included a bogey on the front nine and a double bogey on the back.

Shipley's performance drew praise from patrons, television commentators and social media. However, even more than his shots on the course, it was Shipley's Arby’s clubhead cover that received the most attention on Thursday.

I asked former Eleven Warriors Skull Session writer, Kevin Harrish, to share his opinion of the cover. His response?

Remember, dear reader: Eat Arby's.

Maxwell Moldovan also competed at the U.S. Open on Thursday. However, his round went much differently than his former Ohio State teammate. Moldovan shot a 10-over 80 and sits in second-to-last place in the tournament. Unless he shoots like prime Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods on Friday, he will be sent home before the weekend.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Shoot to Thrill” - AC/DC.

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