The inability of the Ohio State Buckeyes to employ a deep passing game has been talked about at OSU for a couple of years now, and will continue to be talked about until it is no longer an issue.
Much time was spent this spring on making the deep ball a viable part of the Buckeye offense. That work involved pass protection, quarterback accuracy, trust in the receivers, and getting separation. Separation has been seen as a significant issue from the get-go, which made it a very prominent focal point this spring.
What did the receivers work on during spring camp to get the separation the offense needs?
“Transitioning in and out of breaks,” said receiver Terry McLaurin. “It’s like a race to the ball. Once you get to the top of your route, it’s a race beating the DB to the ball. That’s one thing some of the older guys that have come through here, Mike (Thomas) and Noah (Brown), some of those guys were really good coming out of transitions. So just keeping that separation. We’re getting that separation in our stems, but just coming out of the breaks of our routes, we need to keep that separation.”
And did they improve in that area this spring?
“Definitely,” he said. “It comes with timing as well with the quarterbacks. We’re running a lot more routes in practice and individual drills just trying to get that timing right. There’s a clear-cut expectation where we need to be at this particular time and it’s our job to get there using our technique.”
There weren’t many position changes from last season to this season for the Buckeyes, but perhaps the most notable was redshirt sophomore Joshua Alabi moving from defensive tackle to offensive tackle.
Alabi played both sides of the ball in high school, so the offensive line isn’t new to him. Given the depth the Buckeyes had up front, the move made sense. The best news for Ohio State and Alabi through all of this was that he took to his new position quite well, earning raves from teammates on both offense and defense.
One teammate, however, was anything but surprised by Alabi’s productive switch.
“He is doing really good,” running back Mike Weber said this spring. “We watch film and he finishes blocks and is real aggressive. He actually blocked for me in high school and played left tackle. My thing was to have him play o-line the whole time, but he wanted to play defense. He moved to o-line, so I basically tell him I told you so. I felt like he was a better offensive player than defense, but he didn’t want to listen to me.”
Had Weber not injured his knee in fall camp as a true freshman, there was a good possibility that he would have played in 2015. Last year, the Buckeyes had two true freshman running backs play, but neither played when the games were still on the line. Even Ezekiel Elliott only carried the ball 30 times as a freshman.
True freshman J.K. Dobbins has joined the Ohio State running back room this year. The expectation is that he will play in 2017. It has been difficult for true freshmen to get meaningful carries with the Buckeyes. Curtis Samuel is really the only rookie to do so in Urban Meyer’s OSU tenure.
So how does Dobbins change that this coming season?
“Play winning football,” Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said. “Show that you can help us win and help us have success. You have to show that you can help us win games. You have to show that you are going to be competitively excellent in all that you do.”