A New Twist to an Old Cliché
By John Porentas
If you like clichés, the world of sports is for you. There are clichés for everything in the world of sport, and it seems nobody has any shame when it comes to invoking them. You know that "If the shoe fits wear it" thing in regular life? In sports, it could be "If the clichés fits use it." The sporting world loves its clichés and nobody ever seems to get tired of using them or hearing them.
Like everything else, clichés come and go. They have their moment, then get shuffled aside for the newer, trendier model that is coming down the pike.
There's one cliché however that has really had some real staying power.
Usually when someone evokes that particular cliché they are talking about the ability of a player or players to run fast. It's true in football, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, hockey, tennis, rugby, any game in which there is movement of players on the playing surface.
It turns out that there's another kind of speed that can kill, and it's just as deadly as the kind that describes fast players.
It's the ability to play fast, to line up and resume play just as fast as you can once the previous play has been completed. The idea is to not let the opposition have time to regroup and plan on how they are going stop you or substitute players that have a better chance to stop you in the current situation.
It's an offensive style that is exciting and productive, and it's the style that Urban Meyer and his offensive coaching staff want to have on the field for the Buckeyes. After making do with a less-than speedy offense most of the time last season, this season the Buckeyes are poised to play an up tempo style of offense in the hopes that it is deadly for the opposition.
"When you're a tempo football team, which no-huddle spread is supposed to be, you're always hoping to go faster," OSU tight ends coach Tim Hinton explained to the-Ozone.
"We want to play faster, we want to be able to move at a very quick tempo and I think we have the personnel groupings and the people to do it."
Hinton is not talking about players or personnel groupings that are fast. Fast is nice (after all, speed kills) but it turns out that what really makes a tempo offense go is versatility. The players on the field have to be able to execute a variety of plays and packages without the advantage of substitution, and that means players that can wear more than one hat are what matters.
There's been plenty of talk about the importance of the H-back or pivot-position in Urban Meyer's offense, and that is just one example of how versatility can help make an offense up tempo. With the H-back on the field, a hybrid running back/wide receiver, an offense can go from being a one-back offense to a two back offense without a substitution, or can go from a three wide receiver look to four without anyone coming onto or leaving the field.
Another position at which versatility creates tempo offense is the position that Hinton coaches, the tight end.
"When you look at the tight ends we can put on the field with Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman, they're both very talented, they can attach and block people at this level and then they can run out and play wide receiver and do the things they need to do there, so it allows them to be very versatile," said Hinton.
That is a luxury at tight end that OSU did not have last season with Jake Stoneburner.
"Jake didn't attach much. Jake played in space mostly," said Hinton.
Now however, the tight ends have the versatility to assume several roles, and that will make the offense faster.
"We have to have the ability on a daily basis to be versatile in what we do," Hinton said.
"When I say that, what's that old saying, 'You can be a jack of all trades and master of none?' " said Hinton, doing the very sports-world thing of slipping into a cliché just as naturally as fish swims in a pond.
"We've got to be a master of all, so we're going to be very versatile.
"We may only have one tight end on the field, but they've got to be able to attach and be an offensive lineman, they have to be able to attack and be like a wide receiver, and they've got to be able to block in space like wide receivers at 260 pounds."
That's a lot of demands on a player, but they are made for one reason and one reason only, to be able to run an entire offense without substituting, and therefore to be able to run the offense fast.
"We always want to be able to play with great tempo," said Hinton.
"Part of the no-huddle spread deal is don't let them line up. For a defense, it's a little like taking body shots. First quarter you're not tired, second quarter you're starting to fatigue, fourth quarter, whoa, if that tempo is good the whole game, I'm tired.
"In our offense it's so much better to have one tight and three wide receivers in the game because you can continuously go fast and the defense never really knows what you are doing.
"When you start putting personnel groups out there they can substitute, have time to make calls, and we're a tempo offense, so it's better a lot of times to have on personnel grouping on the field and just go.'
The OSU offensive coaching staff believes in those ideas. The OSU defensive staff has seen the truth in them too, and it has them worried, especially this season with a young front seven.
"Every kid, every player, every guy on every play should have a pre-snap process," said OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
"You've got to get lined up, you've got to get the formation, you've got to get this, you've got to get this other thing, then you've got to get the down and distance so you can have some anticipation.
"Well, when they go 30 seconds between each play you can start to build that process. When they go seven seconds between each play, it really makes it difficult to get that process down.
"For young guys, the hardest thing for them is to get that process. They can go in the film room and watch and say 'Ok, this is what I have,' then they go on the field, and if there's 30 seconds between each play you can holler at them and say, 'Hey, you've got two-one, but when it's going fast you can't.
"It makes their clocks really have to speed up."
A sped up defense leads to mistakes by that defense, especially for a young one, and that leads to points on the board for the offense.