The Small Change That Brought the OSU Offense To Life

Bench the quarterback! No, it’s the offensive line! Actually, the receivers are to blame! You’re all wrong – it’s just bad playcalling!

Everyone from Youngstown to Portsmouth had a theory about why Ohio State’s offense had been so lethargic in the Buckeyes’ 31-16 loss to Oklahoma.

At that point, the unit had looked somewhere between lethargic and non-existent for 4.5 of its previous five games stretching back to the previous November, and it wasn’t clear if an offseason overhaul of the coaching staff had improved things at all.

Since then, the Buckeyes have topped 500 yards of total offense in five consecutive games, the first time they’ve done that in school history. They have also scored more than 50 points in their last four games.

It’s certainly fair to point to the quality of competition; Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska won’t be confused with Oklahoma, Michigan or Clemson any time soon.

However, the Buckeyes say the biggest change is that they’re keeping things simple.

“We’ve talked about just making sure guys aren’t thinking so much and just go play,” said senior center Billy Price. “Go play fast, put the ball down, snap the ball, let’s go. I think the biggest thing is just as soon as you start thinking and making sure, ‘I have to have this guy’ or ‘I have to have this guy’ or you’re trying to dissect things, that’s when players start to play slow. And that’s what our focus is: don’t play slow.”

For the Buckeyes, keeping things simple means giving everybody fewer decisions to make on every play.

“I think the biggest thing for (OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett) is making it one read, not two or three. Make it one read and say ‘if they do this, this is where the ball goes.’ And that allows us as an offensive line to play really, really aggressive, just start blowing guys off the ball and just moving them, which is fun for us,” said Price.

“As a tackle or a guard or a center, whoever you are, if you’re thinking and making sure that you’re identifying defenses and what that blitz is exactly to make sure you block it perfectly, you’re not coming off as aggressive as you need to be. Playing offensive line is a game of aggression. Go out there, have some fun, get after someone.”

OSU head coach Urban Meyer said he’s seeing the results in every segment of the attack.

OSU RG Demetrius Knox leads the way for J.T. Barrett during the Buckeyes’ win over Nebraska. (Dan Harker/TheOzone)

“I think our quarterback is playing at a very high level. His confidence level is elite right now and we practice that way,” said Meyer. “That’s what I like to see is the tempo in practice. Our quarterback runs the show, but the offensive line, I see them coming on. I see receivers, and that’s a good time to be getting that feeling within the offense.”

Meyer is generally a harsh critic of his own team, and sets very aggressive benchmarks for his offense.  Right now he sees them being met week after week.

“When you look up at the scoreboard and see a very balanced offense, that’s what our goal is,” said Meyer. “Our goal is a 250 (yards rushing) 250 (yards passing) game and we’re getting those kind of performances the last few games. We’re very well aware what’s coming down the pipe here.”

As the Buckeyes and their fans know, Penn State is next on the schedule, and the Nittany Lions’ defense should present the toughest challenge of the year so far for the OSU attack.

As the legal disclaimer on investing ads says, past performance is not a guarantee of future results. The 2016 Ohio State offense hung back-to-back 62-3 beatdowns on Maryland and Nebraska immediately before its ugly stretch to close the year. However, the Buckeyes say the changes they’ve made in the past month are a reason to think that this year’s explosion will last.

“I think the biggest thing is making sure that we’re aggressive, we’re playing fast, and just the philosophies and the ideas that our offensive coaching staff believes in. I think that’s probably the biggest difference,” said Price.

Meyer agrees – not necessarily because of what he sees not on Saturdays, but during the week.

“I feel that we’re a good team because I like our practice habits, I like the clean living that we have, I like the fact that it’s all good guys,” Meyer said. “This is a good football team. How good? We’re going to find out down the stretch run.”

8 Responses

  1. Last year, both Wisc and PSU had us on their field following their bye-week. By contrast, our bye-week came at the begining of the season which did us no good against the better teams later on. Its a different story this year. I think the Buckeyes are peaking at the right time.

  2. Most OSU fans and especially the national media have seen the first verse of this stanza; blows out vs. RUT, MD, NE and then face a real team. Last year it was heart stopping win at WI, this year a PSU team that beat us last year and is the darling of the CFB media universe comes to Columbus. That will be the time when we will see if the OSU O has teeth or only a loud mouth, and the media will be watching the game through a microscope.

  3. NE Pass O came to light late in the 2nd quarter through the first part of the fourth quarter and yes, giving up 200 yards to anyone is a large concern. At least OSU will not be going into the PSU game believing that was solved. On the other hand long does a D keep its teeth out when it has a 35-0 lead and really only given up one first down.

  4. I’m no analyst – but I saw a dominant performance against a B1G team on the road. Had the game been played in the shoe it may have been another 62. I like the simplicity of the offense as suggested by the article – can that simplicity win against a top 10 opponent? I think so – mainly cause the game is at the shoe. I could pick out all of the things that they didn’t do right, though, it won’t be much from my novice eyes. However, I will say that Kendall Sheffiield is a liability – other than that I have not much criticism of the defense. I did expect a bit more pressure on the Nebraska quarterback, that said, it was still interesting that the Bullets had what 3 or 4 consecutive 3 and outs while the offense scored on every drive. No news – you saw it. I just had to say that I’m feeling good about the offense – though I do not expect a 56 point effort against a good team – A great performance against a good team is about 38 points. A good performance is about 28 and a bad performance is about 18. I think this is a 28 point offense.

  5. A fulfillment of what I believed was the difference between yesterday and today. The Buckeye offense dictating to the defense what they can and cannot do against them. The object for an offense is to make the defense uncomfortable and second guessing. Too often before the last couple games has the opponents defense dictated what the Buckeye offense could do. FLIP THE SCRIPT. Go attack the opponents defense and drive them back on their heels. STOP the damned cutesy gimmicks and just get after them. As a wise Jedi Master once said, “There is no try. There is only do, or do not.”

    In the first half the Buckeye defense did exactly the same thing the Buckeye offense was doing. ATTACKING violently. They lined up and basically said, we’re going to have fun because we’re not going to overthink. We’re just going to play fast and, DO. ME vs YOU and we are going to prove that we’re the better player and, because we’re the better player, we’re going to be the better team and force you into doubt and confusion as an offense. We’re going to make YOU react to us and not allow you to dictate a damned thing.

    In the second half the Buckeye defense played like crap. They sat back on their heels and allowed Nebraska’s offense to dictate. Because of that Nebraska was able to play fast and make everything the Buckeyes were doing defensively look slow and indecisive. I don’t care if a lot of younger guys were on the field or not. Go out there and face off against the opponent and refuse to allow them to make you slow and indecisive. I’ve rewatched Spielmans long TD catch and run in the second half. WHY THE HELL were the Buckeyes defense in a soft zone coverage? I came close to vomiting when I started to see the defense in zone coverage.ESPECIALLY seeing that the Buckeye defensive front quit playing the longer the second half went on. If the younger guys want quality reps, then PLAY quality reps when they get the chance. Football isn’t complicated. It’s actually pretty damned simple. This is YOUR assignment, now execute it. Your will OVER your opponents will. You don’t need to win by attrition. You win because you’re better and hungrier than the guy you’re across from. DO or DO NOT. Stop trying to be better and just BE better. DICTATE. All it takes is for 1 or 2 guys to start doubting or playing lazy before the entire unit is getting pushed around. There is no reason or excuse for laziness. That goes right back to, if the younger guys want quality reps, PLAY quality reps when you get a chance. DO or sit your rump on the bench and stop hurting the teams progress.

  6. The offense will probably be ‘okay’ vs. PSU. The worry right now is allowing 303 yards to a nobody QB who wasn’t sacked and not pressured into an INT despite having a true freshman tackle. The long completions don’t bode well when one considers that Nebby was never a threat to run the ball and Saquon Barkley certainly is not only a threat to run it well, but to catch it out of the backfield as well.
    We’ll see if the Buckeyes are ready for prime time but the early returns on the defense aren’t encouraging.

    1. I agree, I think Barkley is going to be a big problem. This defense gives up too many big plays.

    2. I agree with you Andrew. If JT stays on the course he’s currently on and plays like a 5th year senior leader, the offense should be good against PSU. As much as I’d like to say the same thing for the Buckeye defense, it’s just not. Last week against Maryland appears more of an apparition than something real.Nebraska’s offensive line just isn’t very good and they were able to provide Lee time to throw the ball. Disappointed completely in the second half defense. They were lousy. What really sucked is the fact that all 3 of the best receivers Nebraska had were playing banged up throughout the second half and STILL abused the Buckeye secondary. At least in the first half the defensive front was able to keep Lee in a dirty pocket (pressured). That pressure interrupted the route timing and allowed less time the DB’s had to cover. In the second half a weak Nebraska offensive line just kicked the crap out of the Buckeye pass rush. Lee had a little more time and he was able to laugh at the Buckeye DB’s. That doesn’t bode well with Penn State on the horizon. Even though Penn States offensive line isn’t much better than Nebraska’s, they won’t have to be if we see a repeat performance by the defensive line like we saw last night throughout the second half. I already know that the “coaches know better” crowd will boo down that accusation against the defensive coaching and player execution. I just don’t care about those people who look at a final score and pronounce GLORY. They should spend some time inside the numbers and watching the plays. There were a ton of bad mistakes by the Buckeye defense last night as well as head scratching defensive play calls.

      Oh well. 14 days until we learn whether or not the offense is for real and if the defense can figure out their mess and fix what ails them. On the 28th we find out exactly what this team is made of. Will it be smoke and mirrors, or is it the real deal?

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