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Skull Session: Michael V. Drake Didn’t Want to Fire Urban Meyer in 2018, Tavien St. Clair Could Become the No. 1 Prospect in 2025 and J.K. Dobbins is “100 Percent Now”

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Ohio State has THE best uniforms in college football.

I may have to write about that tomorrow.

Have a good Wednesday.

 (ALMOST) SIX YEARS LATER. Throughout the Zach Smith Saga of 2018 – one I am sure we all remember well and do not need to rehash on a Wednesday morning –former Ohio State president Michael V. Drake remained silent. He remained silent until after the saga ended.

But this week, Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch interviewed Drake, now the president of the University of California’s 10 campuses, and asked him about Smith’s firing and both Urban Meyer and Gene Smith’s suspensions. Oh, and an Ohio State Board of Trustees meeting where “all hell broke loose,” as former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney once said, but we won’t get into that here.

Drake told Rabinowitz the Saga was “personally painful” and “extraordinarily uncomfortable” because it involved people he admired and worked well with. Because of those feelings, he refrained from making public comments throughout the process. Drake denied speculation that he wanted a harsher penalty for Meyer, perhaps even his firing.

From Rabinowitz’s article:

“Absolutely not,” he said. “Let me say how much not is the case: Absolutely not. Zero. I don’t think that would have been appropriate.”

Drake said the suspensions corresponded to what he thought they should be.

“As an institution, we have to represent our institutional values all the time,” Drake said. “That’s really our bottom line. Sometimes we don’t do that perfectly, and when we don’t, we acknowledge that, correct ourselves and move forward. … We have to be who we say we are, and (Zach Smith) wasn’t a good representation or representative of that in many ways. We had to work through that to get on with the future and be better. … Part of being the best collegiate athletics program in the world is that I don’t think we can call ourselves the best in the world just because of our performance on the field. It has to be about who we are in our community more broadly, and we feel we have to stand up for these values.”

As for Gene Smith’s suspension, Drake said it was unexpected but necessary.

“I believe he fully understood that we had to be responsible as a program,” he said. “When things go well, that’s great for everyone. If there are issues and problems, then everybody has to be responsible for those things as well. You take responsibility, you illustrate the lesson, you move forward and you’re stronger at the end of the day.”

Drake said his relationships with Gene Smith and Meyer were good after the suspensions.

“It was something we had to go through,” Drake said of Smith, “and it was in no way personal.”

Following the “Afternoon with Gene Smith” event on April 19 – 11 days before Rabinowitz’s article was published – Smith was asked about 2018 and whether he and Meyer “took a bullet” for Zach Smith’s actions and their ensuing fallout.

“I never looked at that way,” the Ohio State athletic director said. “At the end of the day, mistakes were made and people needed to be accountable for it. I needed to be accountable. Urban needed to be accountable. … When it happened, sure, I was pissed off. But I don’t stay pissed off long. I move to resolution. It’s just the way I am.” 

All in all, the Saga seems like water under the bridge for Drake, Smith and Meyer.

“We went to the Rose Bowl and had a great season,” Drake said. “We did events together. Urban’s decision to leave was 100% his. … It wasn’t a happy time. I really enjoyed my relationship with Urban before that and respected him and was supportive of him moving forward. The concept that I wanted him to leave … that’s just not true.”

Meyer confirmed that.

“That’s a true statement,” he said. “He tried to talk me into staying.”

Sometimes I wonder, what if Meyer had stayed?

Where would Ohio State be in 2024?

Something to think about.

 FUTUREEEEEEE. According to 247Sports, the top 10 recruits in the 2025 class are quarterback Bryce Underwood (committed to LSU), offensive tackle David Sanders Jr., cornerback Devin Sanchez (Ohio State), wide receiver Dakorien Moore (LSU), cornerback Na’eem Offord (Ohio State), quarterback Tavien St. Clair (Ohio State), defensive lineman Elijah Griffin, cornerback DJ Pickett, linebacker Zayden Walker and quarterback George MacIntyre (Tennessee).

However, after St. Clair shined at the Elite 11 regional and performed well at Overtime’s 7-on-7 competition, Andrew Ivins of 247Sports believes there’s “room for change at the top” as St. Clair continues to challenge Underwood for the title of QB1 in the 2025 class.

“There’s some chatter starting about a potential change at the top with Tavien St. Clair. This is a kid that we really, really like. He’s got a prototypical frame. He is all of 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and he’s got a really loose stroke and can touch all the different corners of the field. I loved him at that Elite 11 regional, and then we see him at this OT7 tournament, I thought there were some encouraging things. He did throw some interceptions, but you have to remember that Tavien St. Clair – because of those Ohio High School Athletic Association rules – he’s never really played 7-on-7 football. He told me this was his first-ever club tournament. He’s only played a few with his high school and those were normally at Ohio State. There were some peaks and some valleys. But overall, it was an encouraging performance. He made some high-level throws. 

“He’s gonna be at the Elite 11 finals this summer. Hopefully, we’re gonna see him and Bryce Underwood go at it there. But yes, I do think that there is potentially room for change at the top. Tavien St. Clair is sitting in the top 10 of the rankings. We are way higher on him than the rest of the industry, and I would not be surprised if other people corrected him and he moved up their board. But in Tavien St. Clair, Ohio State is getting a really, really good quarterback.”

I’ll take things you love to see for 500, Alex.

 SENIOR AND JUNIOR. With all due respect to the coaches Marvin Harrison Jr. will encounter in his NFL career, the toughest coach he will ever have is his Pro Football Hall of Fame father, Marvin Harrison Sr.

Jarrett Bell wrote that lede in a USA TODAY article this week – give or take a few words. The article examined how Harrison Sr. helped his son become one of the most polished and refined NFL draft prospects to come out of the college ranks in a long, long time.

Here are some of the – let’s call them… words of encouragement — Harrison Sr. offered Harrison Jr. over the past 15 years.

“You’re never too good at anything.”

“There’s always something to improve on.”

“Be as complete as you can be.”

“Continue to work hard every day – especially in the offseason.”

Bell then wrote: “Consider this one of the gifts the two-time All-America selection possesses, in addition to explosiveness off the line of scrimmage, sure hands and nerves of steel when scrapping for contested catches. He has the push and wisdom from a man who has been there, done that, at an amazing level.”

What a gift indeed.

As the article continued, Bell titled one of his sections “Dad does know what he’s talking about.” That section, more than the others, explains how Harrison Jr. became the marvelous wide receiver we came to know and love at Ohio State.

From USA TODAY:

As you can imagine, Harrison Sr. beams with pride when talking about his son, who at 6-4, 205 pounds, has been called a bigger version of his dad.

“You’re always going to be more proud of a son, as opposed to when you do something yourself,” said Harrison, who caught 143 passes in 2002, which stood for 17 years as the NFL’s single-season record. “It’s fatherhood, and with the parents involved, you can see the young man he’s become, let alone the football player. That’s more important than anything.”

Harrison was asked when he realized his son demonstrated the special talent that could take him to the NFL. Marvin Jr. was always a competitive kid, father assured.

“It was a little different because I demanded so much from him,” Harrison said. “You know kids – they don’t always understand. It’s, ‘Why is my dad this way?’ The more important question is, when did he realize, ‘Oh, (shoot), he knows what he’s talking about.’ As opposed to him being a special talent, it was when he figured that out.”

Although the elder Harrison remembers a turning point coming when his son was in high school, Harrison Jr. insists he always hung on his dad’s words.

“No matter if he was a good football player or not, I always trusted him, that he was going to point me in the right direction,” Harrison Jr. said.

In any event, this surely played out during the pre-draft process. While he attended the league’s scouting combine, meeting with teams and undergoing physicals, Harrison Jr. didn’t participate in the on-field drills and testing. That’s not unusual for a highly-rated combine prospect such as Harrison Jr., who caught 155 passes for 2,613 yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons at Ohio State.

Yet it wasn’t normal that Harrison Jr. also refused to participate in the on-field work during Ohio State’s pro day, leaving teams without as much as a 40-yard dash time. It was all part of the plan laid out by the Hall of Fame father.

That plan worked out for Harrison Jr., whom the Arizona Cardinals selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft. He was the first non-quarterback taken off the board. 

Harrison will catch passes from 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray in Arizona. The team’s other wide receivers include Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch and Zach Pascal. No disrespect to them (well, kind of), but without recording one snap in the NFL, Harrison will be better than them in 2024 – by leaps and bounds.

And that’s not exactly a hot take.

According to consensus lines from The Action Network, Harrison has the second-best odds to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year next season at +600, ranking behind Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Williams (+210) and ahead of Washington Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels (+900).

This past season, former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for his record-breaking season with the Houston Texans. Stroud beat out Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua for the honor after Nacua recorded 105 receptions (on 160 targets) for 1,486 yards and six touchdowns. 

If Harrison can put up similar or better numbers in 2024 – which is not outside the realm of possibility for someone of his caliber – he could become the seventh Buckeye to win a rookie of the year award since 2016, following in the footsteps of Joey Bosa (2016), Marshon Lattimore (2017), Nick Bosa (2019), Chase Young (2020), Garrett Wilson (2022) and Stroud (2023).

 ALL DAY. In three seasons at Ohio State, J.K Dobbins ran the ball 725 times for 4,459 yards and 38 touchdowns. The three-time All-Big Ten selection and one-time All-American later became the No. 55 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, landing with the Baltimore Ravens.

Dobbins’ NFL career started strong. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound bruiser appeared in 15 games as a backup and collected 134 carries for 805 yards and nine touchdowns. However, Dobbins tore his ACL in Baltimore’s final preseason game and missed all of 2021. The former Buckeye appeared in seven games in 2022 before he tore his Achilles in the Ravens’ 2023 season opener.

Brutal.

Just brutal.

But there is hope for Dobbins yet.

This offseason, he signed a one-year, $1.61 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers (I know, booooooooo, but let me be excited about J.K.! ALL DAY!). In the City of Angels, Dobbins hopes to start fresh and experience a revival of his professional football career.

From NFL.com:

The move was like a breath of fresh ocean air, except for the salt. After recovering from another season-ending injury suffered in 2023 — this time, it was an Achilles — Dobbins feels good and is ready to shake off any negative associations.

“I’m 100 percent now,” Dobbins said Monday of his health status and recovery. “It was like a walk in the park, it was like a sprained ankle. It was very easy, because I had the knee (injury) — the knee was pretty hard. The Achilles was, I would say, easy, just because that’s my mentality. It was pretty easy to me. I’ve had these injuries. … It’s been a storm the past two years, having great games, and then, the next thing you know, hurt. Got the injury-prone (label) out there, but I think that the storm is over with. I think that I’m going to take off now. There will be no setbacks. The injury-prone thing will be gone, out of the window, again.”

For Dobbins’ sake, please, please, please let there be no setbacks.

Provided he remains healthy, Dobbins will share the Chargers’ backfield with his former Ravens teammate, Gus Edwards, who carried the ball 198 times for 810 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Isaiah Spiller and Elijah Dotson will also return to Los Angeles this fall. The former was a fourth-round pick in 2022 and the latter was an undrafted free agent in 2023.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Belong Together” – Mark Ambor.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Ohio company’s sales soar after Taylor Swift seen wearing apparel… The Minnesota Twins are no stranger to unique home-run celebrations…Zebras get loose near highway exit, gallop into Washington community before most are corralled… To fend off tourists, a town in Japan is building a big screen blocking the view of Mount Fuji.