Buckeyes Foresee Offensive Explosion in Gator Bowl
By Brandon Castel
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Anticipation is thick around Ohio State.
Even a postseason ban could not curtail excitement over the future, especially the future on offense.
The Buckeyes did a lot of winning under Jim Tressel, but those wins weren’t always the easiest to watch. That should change under new head coach Urban Meyer, but fans may not have to wait until next year to see an offensive outburst from Ohio State.
“I would not discount an offensive explosion,” fullback Zach Boren after practice Wednesday.
Maybe Boren was confused about which staff would be coaching Ohio State in the Gator Bowl against Florida. Urban Meyer was hired on Nov. 28 to lead the Buckeyes into the future, but he won’t officially take over until Jan. 3, after the bowl game.
We may never know exactly what, if any, input Meyer had on the team’s game plan this December.
“I think you're going to see a bunch of different stuff,” Boren added.
“We're putting a bunch of new stuff in and hopefully that works.”
Hopefully is not a word Meyer has used often—if ever—since taking over in Columbus. It may not even be in his vocabulary, but Meyer won’t be in Jacksonville for the bowl game. He says he may not even watch the game against a Florida program that became near to his heart during his six seasons in Gainesville.
“I may just lay low,” Meyer said earlier this month.
“I love both places, obviously, and I have a lot invested in both places. I have a lot of respect for both places.”
Until then, Luke Fickell will continue to lead this team, and while the offensive coaches have not changed—new offensive coordinator Tom Herman was still working with Iowa State—Fickell believes the Buckeyes are peaking on offense as they head into the postseason.
“I think we’ve steadily gotten better,” he said Wednesday in Jacksonville.
“At full force, with everybody we’ve got, I think we have a chance to be successful.”
The Buckeyes had one of their best offensive performances of the season against Michigan in the season finale. It wasn’t enough to come away with a victory in Ann Arbor, but the offense posted 34 points and it should have been more.
“You gotta have playmakers in order to give yourself some ability,” Fickell said.
“If you just got one, this isn’t basketball. You can’t do it with one, you can’t do it with two. You gotta have a good balance, playmakers in running the ball and throwing the ball. That’s where you’ve seen us steadily get better.”
The return of players like Mike Adams and Boom Herron gave the Buckeyes a boost in the middle of the season, and wide receiver DeVier Posey had a similar effect over the final two games.
He caught a total of seven passes for 124 yards, but Posey gave the Buckeyes a tremendous lift in the passing game with his ability to get off the press and get open down field. Posey was open all afternoon against Michigan and Fickell is hoping that performance will give his team some confidence heading into the Gator Bowl.
“You hope so. They played very well in the Michigan game,” he said.
“The most important thing is you have to outplay their defense. Same thing offensively. We have to outplay their offense. Should we be better? Yeah, we’re better with everyone at full strength. We’re better when a freshman quarterback has played an entire season.”
There is no question Braxton Miller was a significantly different player at the end of the regular season than he was when he stepped into the starting lineup back in week four.
After throwing a game-winning touchdown against Wisconsin in week eight, Miller responded with what should have been another at Purdue in week 10. He had both of his 100-yard passing games in the month of November, including a breakout performance against Michigan.
He could be very, very dangerous in Meyer’s offense next season, but Fickell already likes what he has seen from Miller and the rest of the offense heading into Jan. 2.
“It’s hard to say it’s just him. It’s everyone working together,” Fickell said.
“When you have a DeVier Posey back out there, it gives you some confidence in a guy who can truly make some plays. You have a stable of running backs and then you get healthy up front.”
The Buckeyes have had flashes on offense this season—including the first half at Nebraska—and they could be close to putting it all together. Miller certainly gives them a dangerous threat at the most critical position, but the most critical aspect is this team’s mentality.
“Any time you have confidence in what you’re doing, you have a chance to be more successful,” Fickell added.
They certainly can’t be much worse than they were at points during the regular season.
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