COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a few notable exceptions a season ago, when the Buckeye offense needed a key few yards, they gave the ball to Carlos Hyde and then watched as success was violently attained.
Change is Coming to the Ohio State Offense, But How Much?
By Tony Gerdeman
With Hyde now off to the NFL, however, the operation of the Ohio State offense is going to change a bit. No, they will not go away from the inside power running that Urban Meyer has seen work so well in his two seasons, but the players doing that inside running -- and blocking for it -- will be decidedly different.
There will also be a learning curve as to who can be relied upon, and who best answers the call. Last year's offense had two seasons of proof that Hyde would deliver. This year's offense is still trying to figure out what they have.
There will be some changes moving forward, but the basics will remain absolutely the same.
"Every year kind of has its own personality, so certainly we'll be different," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
"I remember having this same conversation last year saying that we'll never leave our core values, core tenets, what we believe in offensively, which is to spread the field horizontally and vertically. To be in the shotgun, to have the quarterback as part of our running game, and to have that dimension. Be a downhill, A-gap, tight zone, vertical, power run team and play-action pass off of it. What does that evolve to, I don't know."
While defenses may win championships, a dominating running game is a defense's best friend. A running game that can keep its own offense on the field and the opponent's offense off the field is the only sure way of shutting an opponent out.
For the Buckeyes, any help they can get for their defense is a plus, and even though they have a senior quarterback whom they trust, the running game is always going to be of the utmost importance.
"We're gonna take natural strides, but if it's not broke, don't fix it," said receivers coach Zach Smith.
"We obviously were successful on the field last year. We could've done better at times and there's things we need to get better at. There's natural enhancements to the offense, but we're just going to keep coaching hard, developing our guys, and our units are going to have to go perform at a really high level."
Those natural strides will come with the emergence of younger players who had to wait their turn as seniors like Hyde and Philly Brown commanded the football at such a high percentage a year ago. Since Meyer's arrival he has focused on increasing the speed on offense through recruiting, which will then complement the inside running game that his offense is now known for.
For Meyer, he's happy with the way that process has progressed, but it is now time for those players to step up and pick up the slack that has been left behind with the departure of Hyde and one of the best offensive lines in school history.
"Well, that's where the Dontres and Jalin Marshalls and the little bubble screens, we're gonna have to take the pressure off," he said.
"As bad as we want an offensive line like we had last year, it's going to take a while to develop that. I think at some point because we recruited well and our line coach, that will happen. But it's going to be different. We're going to have to lean on perimeter ways of getting first downs, whereas last year was rushing for 300+ yards a game, it's because that offensive line was so good. But we have other weapons. It will be a different little taste to it than we had last year though."
Exactly what the Ohio State offense will look like will depend on what the coaches see in their evaluation. The running game will always be there, but the look of what surrounds it is yet to be determined.
The one thing that can be expected, however, is that Herman and Meyer won't ask their players to do something that they aren't capable of doing. They will find out what the offense does best, and then find a way to maximize and enhance those skills.
"When people ask me what I'm maybe most proud of the first couple of years here, especially that first year here, is that we didn't fit a square peg into a round hole," Herman said.
"I think it's hard to say or not say this is our system, this is what we do, so we're gonna do it because that's what we know how to do. You've got to figure out what everybody can do, what they do well, and try to mask their deficiencies while you're improving them, and play to your strengths. Where that's headed, I have no idea. But it will be different."
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