Should the OSU Offensive Line be PO’d About the RPOs?

Ohio State football offensive line coach Greg Studrawa

Ohio State led the Big Ten in rushing the past three seasons, and even though they finished second in 2014, their 264.5 yards rushing that season were more than any season that followed it. Under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have led the conference in rushing four times and finished second to Wisconsin twice.

This year, however, things are a bit different.

Ohio State is currently seventh in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 185.4 yards rushing per game. That average continues to drop, and the Buckeyes haven’t rushed for 185 yards since the second game of the season.

In Big Ten play, OSU’s numbers drop by almost 40 yards rushing per game.

Despite the troubles running the ball, the Ohio State offense is leading the Big Ten with 556.9 yards per game, which is about 50 more yards per game than the Buckeyes averaged last year. Of course, over their first seven games a year ago, the OSU offense was putting up 577.3 yards of offense per game.

With the weather turning in Ohio, the running game is going to become more important. The Buckeye passing game annually takes a fall this time of year, and if that happens again, Ohio State would be in trouble.

Ironically, one of the ways to make sure the passing game stays effective may also be one of the reasons the running game has been so ineffective at times.

The RPO — or “run-pass option — is an attempt to always give the offense an advantage. It is a play that is called initially as a run for the tailback, but also gives the quarterback the option to read a defensive player and keep the ball himself like a typical read-option. The third option — the ‘P’ in the equation — is that the QB also has the option to throw to an outlet receiver.

If the quarterback chooses to throw the ball, however, he has to do it quickly or else an offensive lineman can be caught run blocking downfield, which happened once to right tackle Isaiah Prince last week.

Following the Minnesota game, Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said the offensive line needs to stay on their blocks longer. When it comes to the RPO game, however, staying on their blocks too long can lead to a penalty.

Asked this week if he hates RPOs as much as defensive coaches, OSU offensive line coach Greg Studrawa plead the fifth.

“I can’t say that. I can’t say that. It’s hard,” he said through a smile.

“You saw Isaiah got called downfield on the one. He’s knocking the three technique eight yards down the field, if you watch the tape. And he’s called because Dwayne [Haskins] pumped it. So yeah, some of those they’re a little bit nervous about being called downfield. He was upset about that penalty. I’m like, ‘Kid, you drove the guy four yards down the field. You’re trying to finish a block. Great job. It’s called an ‘RPO,’ that’s part of what it is.”

This isn’t the first year that the Buckeyes have run RPOs. They did it last year with J.T. Barrett, but the passing option wasn’t as much of an option as it has become this year. Last year, the offensive line knew that a run was likely coming, be it the running back or the quarterback. This year, however, it’s either a hand-off or a throw, which is different than what they’ve had to deal with in the past.

“I think it’s a little bit different because you see what Dwayne’s doing. He’s throwing it more,” Studrawa said. “J.T. was going to run it more – hand it or run it himself. They were concerned about J.T. pulling it, whereas now Dwayne is not a run threat. He’s a threat to throw it. So it’s much different for us in the looks that we’re seeing and how they’re trying to stop the pass game with certain blitzes, it opens up more RPOs than it had before.”

While the running game may be struggling in terms of statistics, the staff considers the success of the RPOs as part of the running game. If a run play was called and it turns into a 14-yard completion to K.J. Hill, that was a good play. It doesn’t help the running game in the box score, but it still keeps a defense busy.

Short-yardage situations have become an issue of late, and the fix for that is the same for the rest of the running game. Wilson said the line needs to stay on their blocks longer. Studrawa agreed and said that linemen can’t worry about being downfield. It’s up to the quarterback to get rid of the ball in time. He just wants his offensive linemen to finish their blocks, regardless of where it takes them.

“That’s just effort and finish,” Studrawa said. “Get in the proper spot and then the effort and finish – you have to finish it and not worry about being downfield. Finish the block. If it happens, it happens, that’s part of what we are in. Just finish your block and stay after people, and that’s effort.”

8 Responses

  1. For crying out loud, the o- line needs to get the initial push up front to begin with. Then, on short yardage, what’s wrong with using a “fullback” to help with blocking for the tailback? I think one of Myers biggest mistakes was letting o-line coach Ed Warinner get away. Now the team up north has him, watch how this comes back to bite the Bucks in the rear. It’s coaching my fellow Buck fans, Fickell gone, linebacker play is weak, Combs is gone, defensive back play is weak, and no one is getting it fixed. Everything seems to revolve around QB Haskins now, but it will take a team effort to get to the top. I will take another National Championship, over a Heisman trophy winner anytime.

  2. Incomprehensible to watch UM continue to waste all of his hard earned recruiting talent with lesser quality position coaches and believe that he actually chose those coaches thinking they were the best. Maybe they are the best at following his directions and telling him that he is right and no change is needed. Maybe someone from the media or the AD should give a personalized copy of the “emperor’s new clothes”. It would seem appropriate for the situation. That is what I liked about Fickell besides his coaching ability was his butting heads with Urban. He wasn’t one of UM buddies and frequently spoke his mind. Confident with our being arrogant. Grinch should do the same. It made everybody better.

    1. Confident without being arrogant – sorry for the typo

  3. I don’t want Haskins to run the ball once.
    Minnesota did not have a running option quarterback
    and they had no trouble running the ball.
    Run Their plays, we have better people.
    OSU Is a magnificent throwing Team.
    Do what you do best.
    Third down and short,
    Keep the Spread and throw it.

  4. RPO is a bunch of bull!Dont get me wrong Haskins is a good throwing QB but sucks at running the ball,and the OL should be better,if the gophers kicked their ass what are they going to do the rest of the year,don’t look good

  5. When you have a position coach watching his unit getting the shit kicked out of them week in and week out actually thinking he’s doing a good job……it’s a problem. It’s a problem in skills development and worse, it’s an issue in attitude/culture. If a position coach doesn’t hold his group accountable, instead making excuses for them, the guy is no leader at all. If week after week those guys take the field and the results are the same, or worsening, a leader has to pull the string and bench the players and put in someone who technically aren’t as sound, but possess a fighter/finishers heart (blocking is 75% attitude), make the damned change.

    Studrawa went on record as blaming the RPO and basically the success of Dwayne Haskins arm for the failures of the Buckeye running game. HOG WASH! The problem is that Gregs charges lack fight. This is THE softest group of offensive linemen since 2004. Maybe even worse than that group. If your charges are tuck tail and running from the fight in the trenches……IT’S A CULTURE PROBLEM WITH-IN THE POSITION ROOM.

    Said at the beginning of the year that it was a mistake moving Michael Jordan to the Center spot, and I continue to believe it was a dumb idea. Having 2 new guys playing the blindside is a recipe’ to create structural integrity issues. Defenses know the weakness on the left side and they are doing simple stunts to exploit the lack of experience which gets the entire line off schedule and out of rhythm.

    Offensive line is certainly one of the toughest job requirement area’s on any football team. Every single play, regardless of whether it’s RPO, ProStyle, straight option, Wing T…..whatever. Defenses have to adjust each play and it appears that they are getting it done, where Studrawa and the offensive line are dialing up excuses for failed assignments and total lack of physicality/attitude.

  6. OK, but that doesn’t explain not getting one yard when you need it. That’s lack of domination, especially against weaker teams.

  7. If you want to have RPO plays, put in Tate Martell. Dwayne is not a runner who can fake out the defense. If Dwayne goes to the NFL at the end of the season, they can go back to rpo with tate.

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