Three and Out from Inside the WHAC
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The first week of the Urban Meyer Era is in the books. The Buckeye coach had a lot of questions about how his first game would go, and now many of those answers have simply led to wondering how the second game will go.
It was a week of firsts for this new brand of Buckeye football. New coaches experiencing their first game in the Horseshoe, new players in new roles for the first time (and old players too), and a brand new offense being seen by millions of people for the very first time.
It was a brand new day in all facets, even for the veterans. The key now will be to make the new things old, and the old things a distant memory.
For more than the last decade, the process of an offensive play being called seemingly consisted of Jim Tressel looking at a play sheet for 10-15 seconds and then making a decision.
Yes, that is a gross generalization, but the actual process was never really discussed. With a new offensive system now at Ohio State, and a no huddle one at that, how plays get implemented has finally become an interesting topic.
To hear it described, it sounds like a well-organized Chinese fire drill.
"When the defense is on the field, that's when I'll ask, 'Give me the script for the next series,' Meyer said on Monday. "'What are the next five plays and what are we thinking?'"
So the conversation is give me the personnel grouping and the play, and then I'm really the only one talking to Tom [Herman] saying, 'Run the counter, run the power, run the three level pass, take the shot,' those type of things. So that is the communication, but it's really fast. It's as fast as I've ever been a part of."
Not only do the coaches have to be ready, but obviously so do the players. They can't stray too far from their units because they could be called upon at any time, and if they are, they have to hit the field on the double.
"You never know when they're going to call your number," said tight end Nick Vannett. You've always got to be alert."
Like the players, the other offensive coaches have to be alert as well. They are all providing input in order to give their coordinator the best chance to succeed.
"The one thing that you can sense when you're really in a situation where you're a no huddle spread, is the play-caller has got to be really sharp on the next call as soon as he makes the first call," said assistant coach Tim Hinton.
"We're trying to identify the defense and see what the front is and coverage, but he's [Tom Herman] already thinking of that next call so that it gets in and it's rolling. It's amazing because it isn't a slowed down, 'look at my call sheet, here's my best third and one call.' It's a pattern in which you call. I thought Tom did a phenomenal job."
Amazingly last week, everybody was on the same page the very first time out. It only looked like chaos.
Everybody remembers their first time, and so will a few of the members of this new coaching staff.
Experiencing a game day in Ohio Stadium is a special thing. If it wasn't, you wouldn't keep going. But experiencing your first game day as a Buckeye coach is an entirely different thing altogether.
“I talked to one of our strength coaches and they were all taken aback by that," Reid Fragel said of the pregame Skull Session in St. John Arena.
"He said he was almost brought to tears about it because he wasn't expecting that many people to be in there, and to have that kind of ceremony. It's really cool to hear stuff like that from first time guys."
To be a part of tradition is one of the many reasons people come to Ohio State, and those same people come to discover memories that they never would have expected.
“You know, I'm telling you right now, when I walked into the Skull Session, I had water in my eyes," said Hinton.
"I'm not afraid to say, it was emotional. When I entered the stadium with the team coming out of the Skull Session, and the scoreboard is going on, that's big time stuff. It's exciting to be here."
That's a long-time high school and college coach talking about a tradition that isn't even that old, but I guess when you're in the middle of it, it feels timeless.
And Hinton clearly has the proper perspective about this sort of thing.
"And the one thing after years and years of doing this, we work really hard and we put a lot of hours in, you better enjoy the simple things of life," he said.
"Just walking into a stadium that's empty, you better enjoy that simple pleasure because there aren't a lot of those.”
One of the more talked about firsts on Saturday was the first rushing touchdown in senior fullback Zach Boren's career.
The coaches have said for months that Boren would be a playmaker in this offense, and so far he isn't proving them to be liars.
However, despite tripling his career rushes, and scoring his first rushing touchdown, Boren was more interested in what he could do better, instead of what he had already done well.
So interested, in fact, that he sent his position coach a text Saturday night detailing what he could do better next time out.
"This game is very important to Zach," said Hinton.
"He loves Ohio State University, he loves football. It's a very important thing. He truly sent me a long text and told me the things that he did wrong and the things he needs to improve on and the things that he appreciated about the game.
"I'm a new position coach on game day for him. That's something that he hasn't had to change in his career. So what he thought of the communication and those things, I was obviously very appreciative. I texted him right back congratulating on his win, his first senior win, and now let's go get another."
Could these types of texts get old for Hinton? And might he someday say, 'Leave me alone, I'm at dinner with my wife?'
"No, not for our players," he answered. "I'll stop all things for our players. Ask my wife, unfortunately."
You probably didn't know this, but the last three times Tim Hinton was coaching in Ohio Stadium prior to last Saturday, his teams lost.
The first came in 1986 to, as Hinton put it, "that team up north", in his last game as a Buckeye graduate assistant. And then his next two came as a Bearcat assistant in 2004 and 2006.
"It was awesome," Hinton said of his first win in Ohio Stadium in over a quarter of a century.
"It was one of those things where, 'Hey, I'm ready to win a game in this stadium.' So it was really nice to do that."
I told him that had the Buckeyes lost on Saturday, he might have been considered a jinx.
"No, I wouldn't have let that happen," he laughed.
"You know I didn't talk about it a lot before, but I'll guarantee you I kept it in the back of my mind, and then I talked about it after."
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