Meyer Plans to Add NFL Wrinkles to Offense
By Brandon Castel
Urban Meyer has a lot of time on his hands. More than he would like, in fact. That doesn’t mean Ohio State’s head football coach is not a busy man. Quite the contrary. The Buckeyes are trying to close out yet another monumental recruiting class under Meyer, who is still working diligently on a few big names in the class of 2013.
Head Coach Urban Meyer
Photo by Jim Davidson
When he’s not making phone calls, however, Meyer has had a lot of time to think about some things he might want to do differently next year.
“Because we’re not in a bowl game we have all kinds of time,” Meyer said Thursday morning during his appearance on The Dan Patrick radio show.
“We took the first three days of last week, I had the offensive staff, we put together – I haven’t watched much pro football – and I saw some highlights that looked exactly like the stuff we run.”
Specifically, Meyer and his offensive coaches – Tom Herman, Stan Drayton, Zach Smith, Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton – were watching some of the new collegiate-style offenses that have suddenly emerged in the NFL as a way to utilize talented running quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
“It’s phenomenal,” Meyer said, “it’s pure spread offense. That means you’re reading one defender, and the quarterback is, in essence, a ball-carrier if the defender reacts a certain way.”
Meyer has always been a student of the game, dating back to his earliest days as a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce. He used to scribble down notes during meetings, just in case the boss called on him. Eventually those notes evolved into a running tally of all the things Meyer had learned during his time as an assistant coach, first at OSU but then at Illinois State, Colorado State and eventually Notre Dame.
“When I was an assistant at Notre Dame and went down to Louisville and started studying a guy named Scott Linehan,” Meyer told DP on Thursday.
“I started asking about certain blitzes, like a safety blitz that was a problem. He looked at me and said we haven’t had a safety blitz in four years. I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’ ”
Meyer and Dan Mullen, a young graduate assistant who would become his offensive coordinator at Bowling Green, spent four days at Louisville learning offense from Linehan, now the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.
“We bought a toothbrush and just kept filling up books with ideas and concepts,” Meyer said.
“That’s when I knew that was the offense I was going to run. We put it in at Bowling Green and had great success with a guy named Josh Harris. Then at Utah we had Alex (Smith).
“He was different, he wasn’t as good of a runner, so we had to be spread-option. We also had the read game, so instead of running it, he would pitch it off the next defender. That shocked a lot of people because no one was doing the spread-option part of it.”
In two seasons under Meyer, Smith threw for nearly 5,200 yards and ran for more than 1,000. He tossed 47 touchdown passes, including 32 during Utah’s undefeated season in 2004, and threw only seven interceptions during that span.
He wasn’t the typical read-option quarterback we think of with Harris or Tim Tebow or even Braxton Miller at Ohio State. With Miller heading into his junior season with the Buckeyes – his second under Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman – the coaches are tinkering with some fresh ideas.
“The San Francisco team was the one that really (jumped out at me),” Meyer said.
“I just sat there, because they actually do something we don’t do. I can assure you we’re going to do it next year. That’s how good they were. Give credit to coach (Jim) Harbaugh.”
Another scheme that jumped out at Meyer last week was the one they are running for Griffin over in Washington D.C.
“Mike Shanahan is a guy who is really appealing to me as a coach,” Meyer said.
“I remember when he took a year off from coaching and came down to Florida. He has friends down there and asked if he could come stay two days. He sat in the film room for two straight days watching film and asking questions. To see him doing it now with RG3, that’s a brilliant coach.”
Meyer is still hoping someone will develop a similar system for Tebow at the next level.
“He’s not a traditional quarterback, but the good thing is there are some people who are showing they want to move the ball in a variety of different ways,” Meyer added.
“For him, it’s just about getting in the right system; the right environment and right situation.”
Everything that’s currently happening at the NFL level should give a lot of hope for Braxton Miller, that he can make it as an NFL quarterback in a similar situation to RG3 or Russell Wilson in Seattle.
The question that remains unanswered is how long these new systems will work in the NFL before defenses either catch up to what they are doing or, more likely, catch up to these quarterbacks before they can get down or get out of bounds.
“That’s the million dollar question. You have these franchise type players and they’re taking big time hits in the NFL,” Meyer said.
“A lot of them teach them to get down, but those are the questions that can’t be answered because no one’s done it long enough. Joe Namath used to be a great scrambler, but he got older and got hit and it took a toll on his body.
“How long can you go taking shots like that? That will be the question with how long you can use that style offense.”
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