On One: In Revitalizing Offense, Meyer Should Start with Snap Count
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The snap count.
It sounds simple enough, but if Urban Meyer is looking for a place to begin his overhaul of Ohio State’s offense, he might want to start on something other than one.
Florida defensive tackle Jaye Howard was the latest to proclaim that a knowledge of the Buckeyes’ snap count contributed to their 24-17 victory over Ohio State in the 2012 Gator Bowl.
The Gators defense, which finished with a season-high six sacks and 12 tackles for loss, kept an eye on OSU center Michael Brewster and listed for quarterback Braxton Miller’s first call.
“He was bobbing his head the whole game with the count,” Howard said of Brewster, who was starting his 49th straight game at center.
“We watched film, broke down the Penn State game, and he did it then, too. It helped a lot. You can see what we were able to do. We were able to jump the snap.”
If you don’t believe Howard, go back and watch his sack on third and six from the Florida 19-yard line. Howard was in the backfield before the ball even got to Miller’s hands, and left guard Andrew Norwell had no chance. Miller was slammed to the ground and the Buckeyes had to settle for a 47-yard field goal instead of tying the game at 14.
It was a difference-making play in a game that was ultimately swung on two special teams miscues by Ohio State.
A center bobbing his head slightly just before the snap is not unique to Ohio State, but it is a visual reminder of how simplistic and archaic an offense would have to be in order to tip the snap count as many time as the Buckeyes did over the past five seasons.
“In case the Florida D-line was wondering, the snap count is always on one,” one former OSU offensive lineman Tweeted during the game.
One is the typical snap count for most football teams. That holds true even at the Division I level, but good offenses understand how to mix in a hard count to slow down opposing defenses, especially with an offense as predictable as Ohio State’s.
“How a program like OSU is always going on ‘one’ is beyond comprehension, but it really isn't when you consider the simplistic ‘Flintstone-ish’ offensive scheme,” said one high school coach who has his team vary the snap count even at that level.
“The offense was basic so why would we expect anything but basics in things like snap counts and not detecting ‘tells’ in film study?”
It would appear that these issues have been a problem for years at Ohio State, at least dating back to the 2007 season, after Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith and center Doug Datish anchored one of the best offenses in school history a year earlier.
Starting in ‘07, opposing players began to talk about “tells” on the Ohio State offensive line. It culminated with a 26-18 loss at Purdue in 2009, after which Brewster admitted the very flaw still being discussed today.
“They were running some blitzes and I was trying to make some calls but they were expecting the snap count when I popped my head back up,” Brewster said more than two years ago.
Everyone remembers Terrelle Pryor slamming his helmet on the Turf at Ross-Ade Stadium after one of his four turnovers, but maybe it was just the boiling over of a frustration with what was happening up front.
Pryor was sacked five times by Ryan Kerrigan and the Boilermakers, who practically set up camp in Ohio State’s backfield. When the Buckeyes tried to alter their snap count at Purdue, guys were either jumping early—which became a trend over the past four years—or getting off the ball late.
“That’s a weapon we have to use, the snap count, we have to beat the defense off the ball so we can get to them before they get to us,” former OSU tight end Jake Ballard said after that game.
“When we’re not doing that, that’s definitely in their favor.”
It certainly seemed to favor Jerel Worthy and the Michigan State defense earlier this season. The Spartans had nine sacks in that game by seven different players and eventually forced Ohio State to go back to Joe Bauserman because Miller was having so much trouble with the pressure.
“Yet again, this staff allowed the defense to pin its ears back and go after them and never made them pay for it,” one high school coach said.
“The lack of innovation on (that) staff was unreal for a place like Ohio State.”
Suddenly the Buckeyes will have one of the most innovative offensive coaches in the country. The overhaul will be dramatic. The difference should be remarkable. The only real surprise is that it took this long.
Especially for a team used to going "on one".
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