Ohio State’s first season in Urban Meyer’s spread offense was a big success by most measures, but the head coach and his offensive coordinator want much more in year two. We examine how they can improve and take a look at a past example of an OSU offense going from good to great in its second season with a new attack – Scout.com: Buckeyes Want To Add Read, Speed in 2013
Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook after another week on the Ohio State football beat. This week the surprising health of Braxton Miller and the Penn State program given recent hits both took dominated conversation.
Ohio State’s head coach noted the football team is 8-0 despite doing a pretty poor job of meeting his four points in the plan to win.
They weren’t great on defense against Purdue, but they were better. The offense continues to sputter at times, and the kicking game has had a lot of breakdowns that have hurt. They also lost the turnover battle.
He noted that looking at the list of champions from week to week is an obvious sign of the inconsistency of the team. This week it was all defensive players after none made it the week before when the offense carried the team at Indiana.
Meyer recalled coaching against current Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin in the Outback Bowl. He is much improved from then (when he threw five interceptions), and the guys around him are better. The defense is good as always there.
He called PSU tackle Jordan Hill and linebacker Mike Mauti great players. He recruited Mauti very hard when he was at Florida, but Mauti was a legacy recruit for the Nittany Lions.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is a real competitor. They have to coach him to get out of bounds a little more when he has the opportunity, but he is trying to make plays when things aren’t going well. They want to limit his hits, but they have to use him to move the ball often.
This is still a group of Buckeyes (mostly) that lost seven games last season and was reeling when he took over, so they are sure to appreciate the wins they get now.
The roster continues to be very thin with only about 60 guys really available, and some of them are not doing much to be contributors.
Asked to assess his coaching staff’s performance so far this season, he said they are doing pretty well at dealing with everything that comes with the transition and leading a team. He wouldn’t give them an A+. They have to get the team healthy, develop it and go recruit some more guys. He wants to enhance what is in place.
Some guys, such as the defensive linemen, are playing too many snaps, but they haven’t developed as much depth as he wants to prevent that from happening.
Asked if his season passed before his eyes when he saw Miller go down, Meyer replied, “Sure.” Then the first question was if Miller was OK. Then attention turned to adjusting for what Kenny Guiton can do.
The plans change with Guiton in the game, but he has been fairly successful.
They will use noise at practice to prepare for the environment at Beaver Stadium, which his assistants told him is the loudest place in the Big Ten. Being a no-huddle offense helps them deal with that, but they’ll have to get rid of some motions and shifts because they won’t be able to hear.
Someone asked if night games are crazier because fans have more time to “fuel up” and he grinned and said he wanted to give a politically correct answer.
He was previously known to have met with Bill Belichick to talk strategy, but he had no contact with Bill O’Brien at that time. He was there to talk defense. Josh McDaniels was the offensive coordinator at that time, anyway.
Meyer has great admiration for Penn State and always has. It’s a strong school academically, and don’t forget the Lions were undefeated for a good while last season. That means they have very good football players.
Penn State got off to a poor start this season, but they are still Penn State right now because the sanctions haven’t started to really kick in yet. This is a well-coached team of good players. John Cooper told Meyer it will be a very good draft day for Penn State, meaning there are plenty of NFL-caliber players in Happy Valley.
He could have a long discussion about how to motivate 18-year-olds, but that is part of his job. Self-motivated players at that age are very rare. He likes to think this staff is great at pulling guys out of a spiral if it comes to that. Guiton is a poster child for that. He really turned things around since December. Meyer made sure he watched himself on the final drive during the team’s meal Sunday.
Someone asked if we could see more of Guiton in the game even with Miller healthy, and he said he wasn’t sure. He joked that Kenny could throw it harder next time and later dismissed the idea of using Kenny as a runner because that’s not a strength of his.
Devan Bogard is out for the year, but Meyer loves him. If he could recruit 100 of him, life would be good.
He is putting a lot of pressure on guys who aren’t playing in games, pushing them harder in practice.
They can’t coach Miller to be much different as far as running because they aren’t an efficient enough team for him to just be a dropback passer.
The biggest thing now is they need some guys to step up, not just show up at the games to sing the fight song afterward.
Good news: backup offensive linemen Chase Farris and Taylor Decker have had a good couple of weeks of practice and are closer to being able to help.
Chris Fields has been “active” at wide receiver for two weeks, including last week when he caught the game-tying touchdown and had another long catch that set up a touchdown run.
That gives them another receiver to count on, but they are still slim at linebacker.
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said he carries with him a lucky rock his daughter gave him, but he knows the success of the final drive led by Guiton when the team was facing dire straits was a product or hard work and practice.
He agreed with Meyer that the playcalling won’t change as a result of Miller going out of the game last week. They have to do what they can do to win.
Regarding game planning, he said they are 0-8 in terms of planning for what they see from a defense. There is some stuff that they do that is designed to be independent of the type of defense they see, too. Oh, and that stuff usually involves Miller.
Penn State is playing really well on defense. Hill is very good. This will be the best defense Ohio State has seen this season. He’s read the environment is tough as well.
Ohio State’s offensive players are a bit fragile from the struggles of last season, so the staff has to be part psychologist, too. He could see them gaining more confidence with the success they had last Saturday without Miller.
After beating Purdue, he told the offense congratulations on the win but they played badly. That includes him not coaching well enough. He said some guys were called out individually, too, but didn’t name those guys. The whole world knows the offense was bad against Purdue, so it’s up to the coaching staff to figure out why and fix it.
In going back over the conversation with Meyer about what to call on the two-point conversion play, Herman said he has to pick his battles against the head coach. Herman wanted to run the tight end throwback, but Meyer was on the sideline hearing from the offensive linemen about wanting to ram the ball in. Herman was steadfast in his belief the pass was a better option, and he won the debate. He said that’s why he likes being in the booth. The sterile environment helps him stick with the plan as opposed to getting washed away in the emotion of the moment. It’s important to remember why they made those plans and to keep faith in them.
Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers agreed the defense has been running on fumes, and some guys need to step up. They have the guys, now they’ll find out if any of them can play. Sometimes guys are different on the playing field as opposed to the practice field (in a good way).
Safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett probably had their best week of practice last week. He had challenged them after their play against Indiana the week before.
The staff felt like it had a good handle on what Purdue would do offensively. They had practiced against the first play of the game, but someone froze and didn’t make the play, leading to an 83-yard touchdown.
Withers hopes having success on defense last week will breed some confidence. The rest of the game, he thinks we saw them play more confidently thanks to preparation.
Barnett is experienced. He has played in some big games, and he understands the scheme. They can make adjustments on the sideline with him because he gets it. Mentally he needed some time to get back into it when he faced Indiana in his first game back from an ankle injury.
McGloin will be the most efficient passer they have seen. He knows where to go with the ball. He will hit his third read, which isn’t something they have seen much this year. He can move around to avoid the rush. Withers agreed being coached by a guy like O’Brien would be a boost.
He was able to stay above the emotion of the game last week because all the while they were mounting the comeback, the coaches were preparing for overtime. They felt the momentum swing with the conversion of the two-pointer. That gave them a feeling they would win at that point. He was excited for the kids. They stayed calm and played through adversity.
The coaches have gotten some guys to step up who hadn’t performed previously. That’s part of the program, where there is constant pressure to be the best in everything. That helps some guys. You can see it daily.
Quarterback Braxton Miller said he knew he was OK last Saturday night when he had passed all of the medical tests at the hospital.
Asked if his neck was sore, he said, “Just a little bit,” but declared himself “just about full-go.”
He wasn’t sure what had happened to him when he went down. He felt dizzy, and they took him to the hospital because of the uncertainty.
He isn’t worried about getting hurt again and figures he will be the same guy now as before he went down.
That was the first time he has landed on his head, shoulder and neck all at once like that, so he was nervous about it at first.
He called the hit the type that makes you flinch when you see it, but he’s not feeling it anymore.
He asked the nurse for updates while he was at the hospital, but she said she didn’t have any because she was busy tending to him.
Wide receiver Jake Stoneburner said the Nittany Lions have a typical Penn State defense with really good linebacker and a physical, tough defensive line.
Asked about how to deal with a terrible offseason like Penn State did, Stoneburner said the key is just forgetting it. That is easier to do once the season starts. He is impressed with them. They’ll be a great program again. Bill O’Brien is doing a great job, and the players have risen to the occasion.
Miller seems just fine, the same old Braxton. He was sore on Sunday and Monday but got most of that out through running and practice.
He remembers Beaver Stadium as a huge place with a crazy crowd, although it wasn’t in full force the last time they were there in ’09. He’s heard it can be louder.
Stoneburner has been scared by a hit before when he ended up cross-eyed, but it goes away.
Someone asked about the offense seeing a lot of defenses it wasn’t expecting, he said it’s crazy how they have an answer for everything anyway. They can put a whole new game plan in very quickly during a game, and it is always based off of stuff they repped at some point earlier in the season even if they didn’t work on it that week.
Wide receiver Chris Fields said the band started playing the “Buckeye Swag” song. They players like to just act silly and have fun when it comes on.
He got a confidence boost from his performance last week’s success. Receivers coach Zach Smith said to keep working hard, and Smith definitely feels like he is doing more to earn the trust of the staff.
He got a lot of texts and tweets Saturday after the game-tying TD catch.
Penn State is really physical, and the Buckeyes will have to bring their A game.
They pumped a lot of loud noise into practice, and the speakers are so loud nothing could be any more intense. He hasn’t been to Penn State before. They try to feed off the energy of the visiting crowd when they go on the road.
He loves road games and beating teams in their place.
You probably thought I was going to go with some kind of dramatic, over-the-top reference to the exciting finish of the Buckeyes’ win over Purdue, right? Well, I thought of that then decided to go a different direction. Can’t go wrong with a Garth Brooks song, anyway…
What we learned last week: Never say never? I don’t know…
I often say to myself I don’t know where to begin when I sit down to write one of these, but I’m truly feeling that way this week. Perhaps this time it’s for real.
It’s just that I have never seen anything like what happened at Ohio Stadium last Saturday. I am not afraid to admit I was one of those who had written the obituary for Ohio State undefeated football season of 2012. I hadn’t seen enough from the available parts to think they had a comeback in them.
I’m not the only one who felt that way because quite honestly the odds were against them.
After the game, Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman didn’t say he doubted the Buckeyes’ ability to come from behind, but he intimated he realized how difficult it was going to be. It was interesting to see his response, with him being a new guy on the block.
Obviously the rest of us have seen a lot of these stories unfold over the years, and aside from 2002, they tended to have an unhappy ending. Herman was coming at it from a different perspective, one I couldn’t pretend to fully understand without asking him more about it. But working with those guys every day, he’s going to have a different perspective on what those guys can do. And yet he probably didn’t know they could drive 61 yards in 47 seconds either until it happened.
Herman strikes me as a pragmatic person, so he certainly would have been acknowledging, at least subconsciously, the odds all along we’re not with him regardless of how much hope he might have had as he called the plays in the waning seconds.
So maybe the lesson is just to remember this whole season is about re-adjusting expectations on a personal if not program level.
This 2012 season is all about a fresh start. Parts of it we have seen before, but much of it is new. And even some of the familiar with things are going to be re-imagined.
Last year we saw them get over the hump of the fourth-quarter collapse. At least that’s what we thought after they beat Wisconsin. They suffered the letdown of the giving up a lead late, but they changed the narrative by coming up with their own late score.
Of course, even with that exciting new twist to the season, they couldn’t finish. The bullets they fired against Wisconsin were their last. The 2011 Buckeyes were really never the same after that.
I suppose that makes a fitting bridge from the Jim Tressel era to the present day. I hate to make too many Tressel comparisons, but we are just going to have to get a few more of those out-of-the-way. That was obviously a significant time in the program’s history, so it’s inevitably going to keep coming back, at least for a while.
And for whatever reason – maybe there wasn’t one – those teams just had a hard time with certain things. Maybe they used up all their mojo early on, but then again there were almost as many bad breaks in the 2001 season as there were good in 2002, so I guess you just never know.
These Buckeyes are still learning to live again, and in some ways it may be killing them. There’s no doubt that right or wrong, them mindset is being re-programmed. Some have already left, and many are not the same players they were before.
I think instead of slow and steady wins the race, the message now is to go out and take what is theirs. That is going to fit better with some players than others.
Sometimes you’re just not good enough, and that’s why even Urban Meyer teams lose games. He is an interesting guy to follow because he seems to have a constant struggle between his pragmatic side and his passionate side. Both mean well, but they can’t always have their way. Ideally, they’ll work together to keep him aggressive but sane and he’ll be able to pass that on accordingly, but who knows.
I imagine we all know what it’s like to ache for the best in life while realizing there are steps that must be taken to reach them. There are going to be plenty of small victories along the way that must be celebrated in their own right, ultimate goals be damned.
Expectations are key for excellence, but understanding is necessary for sanity.
Games like last Saturday’s will drive you crazy, but they are often necessary to achieve true excellence.
That is where the Buckeyes stand 3/4 of the way through Meyer’s first season.
What can we expect to learn this week: Who is the best banned Big Ten team? Doesn’t get much more simple than that.
This Ohio State team is in the odd situation of being able to win all its game but not play for all the marbles, and that is not an entirely bad thing. They get 12 games to work out the kinks in a new system but still have the chance to make their own bit of history depending how these last four games pan out. Given their schedule and the state of the Big Ten, the Buckeyes might have been left of the penultimate BCS title game anyway. Anything can happen in one game, but I’m not sure this team is really ready to take on the nation’s best this season, either.
Nothing is usual about this season, and this Saturday’s game at Penn State might be the strangest of them all.
Two proud programs will get together with nothing but pride for which to play despite their respective records and the good vibes from new coaches.
What Bill O’Brien has done within any Nitany Lions in the past month or so cannot be ignored. I definitely did not think they had it in them, but they are playing well on both sides of the ball. This is a big showcase for two old programs going in new directions, and it should tell us a lot about both.
O’Brien’s time in the NFL seems to have taught him a few things about matching up with a team’s weaknesses, something that might not bode well for an Ohio State defense that still has plenty of those.
Purdue is a strange team that seems to be worse than the sum of its parts. Penn State may be just the opposite. The Lions have a senior quarterback playing better than he ever has, a patchwork backfield that’s still been productive, a better-than-expected offensive line and a wide receiving corps that has produced a new star. Defensively, they are familiar in that they play tough up front, but I’m not sure the secondary has been tested yet. That may or may not change this week given the state of the aphid State passing game.
Whatever happens, it’s another and new experience for these young Buckeyes, another chance for this coaching staff to get to know its players better. That figures to be valuable but now and even more so in the future, not to mention fun to watch.
In hindsight, he liked that the Buckeyes’ 35-28 win over California last week was of the come-from-behind variety.
(See BuckeyeSports.com for word on team awards and injuries.)
Jordan Hall looked really rusty, but they are glad to have him back. He told Meyer he saw about 70 yards he left on the field when he went back and watched the film.
Meyer called the penalties committed by the offense very alarming and something he must get fixed as the head coach. They were bad and often ignorant penalties.
Defensively, they have to stop allowing big plays. The offense had too many three-and-outs, and it has not produced as many explosive plays as Meyer wants to see from the running game (aside from Braxton Miller).
They want highlight-reel plays from someone besides Miller and Devin Smith. Hall could be a big-play guy, as could Carlos Hyde. Hall needed to pick up his feet a few times as he was going through the line Saturday and he could have made a few more big gains, but in general they just need to break more tackles and make people miss more often. That’s what is happening to his defense, by the way.
He wondered if perhaps the tackling had suffered because of how much of an emphasis the coaches put on forcing turnovers in the spring and preseason. There were times they went for a strip instead of securing the tackle first. They normally only tackle once a week in practice but could go to twice (More on defensive struggles).
Someone asked about the “pop pass” Miller threw to Jake Stoneburner on Saturday and Meyer explained it came from his days at Utah when he started using a tight end as another direct-snap running threat because Alex Smith wasn’t a great runner. Eventually they added a pass to the package, and Tim Tebow later made this famous.
Left tackle Jack Mewhort has been a model student in his time at Ohio State other than his public urination/fleeing police episode during the summer. That was a stupid mistake, but Meyer liked how he responded and liked how his father responded, which was “not pleasant.” Mewhort has probably been their best offensive lineman so far.
As he has said before, Meyer said the team is average right now. They play fairly well at times but make mistakes others. He is ready for some “non-adversity games” but doesn’t expect any of those the rest of the way with the Big Ten coming up. He likes his team and the way the guys approach getting ready for games, noting he saw a bunch of them loading up iPads with scouting reports Monday on their day off.
The offense needs to take some more shots down the field, but there is risk reward. He wants to maintain a passing percentage of 70 percent and stay on schedule, something that doesn’t happen if you go deep on first down and don’t hit it.
The best thing about the first three weeks on offense is Smith has emerged as a “go get it guy.”
Meyer gets more involved in the play calls late in close games, particularly on offense. The defense is doing fine schematically but needs to play better. One problem teams are giving the Buckeyes is how they attack the OSU defense in the boundary.
He can’t remember being around a defense that has given up so many big plays. The need to be more sound in the boundary.
All three teams they have prepared for so far have come out defensively in something other than they had showed before or last season. That is frustrating, but it probably won’t be true anymore after this week.
He watched some of the Michigan State-Notre Dame game on Saturday night and believes the Spartans have a top-5 or so defense and have for a few years.
The Buckeyes struggled in the third quarter Saturday because of penalties at the wrong time and lack of execution. Those led to a lot of very challenging down and distance situations (third and long).
He has talked to Miller about just playing and not overthinking amid all the talk about his running too much. He doesn’t want him to get in his own head. Going forward he expect teams to defend Ohio State in a way that he has the ball in his hands less. (That could lead to more designed runs for Miller if teams consistently give him a “give” look on the zone read/inverted veer.)
Meyer is impressed with Miller’s progress since last year. A lot of times freak athletes have just been getting by on their athleticism so long they don’t know how to work hard to prepare, but he has made great strides in that regard. He practices better than he did even in the spring. He made two grown-man throws to Smith on Saturday.
He saw in Miller’s eyes after he threw the fourth-quarter interception that he wanted the game in his hands with a chance to atone. Some would shrink from that opportunity.
The game-winning touchdown pass came on a play where Philly Brown was the intended receiver on a short pattern but the defense doubled him and Smith was left wide open deep after Miller broke from the pocket.
Asked about Christian Bryant and his tendency to make both big plays and big mistakes, Meyer said as guys develop as players, they start to see the big picture more and develop a sense of when to go for it and when to be safe. Bryant is a “rock-star type” of player who wants to make things happen, and Meyer has had conversations about that with him. He has been great in those talks about staying within himself and the defense.
He said if the time comes for Miller to be touted as a real Heisman candidate, that could be fun. He liked it in the past with players such as Tebow, but Miller isn’t playing well enough for that talk yet.
Someone asked about facing John Peterson, the former tight ends coach who is now on staff at UAB, and Meyer said he is a great guy who was here as a player when Meyer was a graduate assistant in the mid-80s. He did not retain Peterson because he wanted to have guys familiar with his style of offense so they could be on the same page when drawing things up.
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said the staff had to adjust on the fly in the first half when Cal came out in a four-man front instead of the “Bear” defense they prepared for. Then they needed time in the third to get switched back to dealing with the Bear, although he said what they were doing in particular was not something he had seen.
Asked what has been good about the offense so far, he said the effort, especially on the offensive line. He is pleased with the growth of the wide receivers. They are not where they need to be but are improving.
When they’re good, they’re really good. Now they need to continue to be good more often. Consistency is key.
Someone asked about the pop pass Miller threw Saturday but I didn’t write down the answer because I thought it was a stupid question.
Asked about going deep, he said they need to analyze when to do it both based on risk/reward and down and distance. How the defense is playing matters, too.
He has seen a mind-boggling variety of defensive responses to Miller’s talents. In general people are trying to come up with different ways to keep 8 and 9 in the box while remaining sound.
He tries to see the game as the quarterback is seeing it, but that is difficult. The challenge every week is to give him only what he can handle. Miller is seeing the field better, and he comes over with a better explanation of what he is seeing when they talk on the sideline and adjustments need to be made. Now Miller can tell him what the problems are, which allows them to figure out how to react.
Herman gets a great vibe from how Miller has responded to learning this offense.
There are no issues with Miller’s upper body mechanics as a passer. He has a strong arm and a smooth delivery. He is still working on keeping his feet calm and getting the timing down with his upper and lower body. He throws better on the run because it is easier to keep all that stuff in balance without thinking about it too much.
He’s good in practice at keeping his feet settled down. Now he has to work on taking that into games more consistently.
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said the defense wants to be sound. That is their No. 1 stress.
They have to keep leverage on the ball. He laid awake at night after watching the film but could not pinpoint one thing. There is no lack of effort. They have to make sure as coaches they stress to the guys what they are supposed to do.
Sometimes they might stress going from Point A to Point B quickly so much that fundamentals suffer. They have to recognize where point B is.
Storm Klein played about eight snaps on defense and Curtis Grant was in for about 12 at middle linebacker.
They need to be aggressive, and they opened some things up last week with some blitzes. That gives the offense more to worry about rather than just setting up for the same thing every play.
He joked that he missed the best part of being a head coach because that comes in the offseason when they get to relax a little and go on sponsored trips and things like that. It was a great experience he will use when he gets another chance. You find out who has your back when you’re in charge like that.
Defensive lineman Nathan Williams pointed out that almost all of the live reps he is getting are in the games, so he has a lot of catching up to do with guys who have been practicing since the beginning of August. He feels he is getting better every day. He practices against the scout team and in drills but not when the first teams go against each other.
His recovery time has been amazing so far. He entered the year thinking he would only play half of the season.
He did not feel he played too many plays against Cal and said people don’t need to worry about that. He was frustrated because the Bears usually ran away from him last week and he didn’t get many chances to be in the thick of things. He was just chasing the ball all day. He is up every morning at 4:30 to get ready to work out and continue to rehab.
Mike Vrabel has a different philosophy than former defensive line coach Jim Heacock, who was a big believer in playing a lot of guys. Vrabel brings a mentality from the NFL in which the best guys play.
His penalty last week (offsetting personal fouls when he got tangled up with a Cal running back) was in the heat of the moment, but he needs to keep his cool.
Those freshmen defensive linemen are behind in most areas, but they are getting better.
Offensive lineman Marcus Hall said line coach Ed Warinner is a high-energy guy who makes sure everyone is pumped up around him.
He feels like he is getting better every game but needs to eliminate mistakes such as missed assignments.
He is playing at about 15 pounds lighter than last year and feels much different.
There was a period of time he was worried if he would be able to continue his Ohio State career as he was sitting out a redshirt for academic reasons two years ago. He had to get back in the classroom and get focused. He would tell a high school recruit to think about more than just football. Getting an education is a serious deal.
He is not a new man, per se, but he has his priorities straight now. He appreciates everything much more after having to sit out that year.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier said UAB likes to take shots downfield and run to the boundary (short side of the field). The latter is something they have seen a lot and struggled with against Cal. As a result, they have moved around and changed some alignments with the defensive line and the linebackers. They are doing something to get the safety to help, too.
It is fun when they play an aggressive style. He wants to see the quarterback rattled.
The Buckeyes have a good mindset and won’t overlook UAB.
They can work on tackling without being truly full-go. They can hit and wrap without going to the ground. They did take guys to the ground a little more this week than usual during the season, though.
He should have wrapped up Bigelow on the 81-yard run, and he slipped and was out of position on the 59-yard run. The coaches said he had a good game, but he feels those things wiped it out.
Linebacker Etienne Sabino said he doesn’t mind the grueling “Bloody Tuesday” practices. That is football. It’s fun to hit. They’re sore from the game but get out there and get going anyway.
The team gets to split its Fridays with being focused and having fun now. They play games like home run derby, hot potato and shoot the football in a basket at the WHAC then go to the OSU Golf Course for their evening meal. It lightens the mood, then they go back to work (team meetings).
Saturday they get up around 7, go to walkthrough then have position meetings and it is time to go.
(Meyer said he picked this up from Sonny Lubick, head coach at Colorado State. He taught him the guys need to get some rest and can’t be too fired up. They call it “the best Friday in football”. He started it at Bowling Green. He wants practice to be terrible during the week then Friday and Saturday are “pay day”. He talks to each guy before they go to bed on Friday night.)
Running back Jordan Hall said he didn’t know he was going to carry it 17 times last week, but he had no problem with it. He felt like he left yards on the field when he tripped over linemen because he wasn’t picking up his feet.
I asked him if getting back a guy like Carlos could give him more chances to get out on the edge and operate in space, and he said it might surprise people but he likes to run between the tackles and being physical. He hopes getting some more reps will make it easier for him to see holes develop and what he needs to do with the ball when he gets it. He feels better with some more practice under his belt.
Wide receiver Devin Smith said the offense needs to be efficient. He didn’t have much reaction when asked if they feel any pressure being 38-point favorites.
UAB looks kind of like UCF on film. The Blazers have some talented guys.
The key to avoiding all the penalties that have held them back is staying focused. That is the message from Meyer. That is what they have been doing in practice. The staff has trained them to play with passion and play their hearts out.
(Observations from watching the Buckeyes and RedHawks a second time.)
One of the side benefits of getting into sportswriting was avoiding math for the most part. That might not be true anymore now that Urban Meyer and Tom Herman are in town.
They stressed several times during the offseason that a major aspect of their offense is getting the right numbers to work against, and they certainly proved it in the season-opening win against Miami University.
As Meyer referenced in his postgame remarks, Miami came out with a plan to stop the Ohio State running game from its basic three-wide receiver, shotgun set. While a couple of missed reads by quarterback Braxton Miller on the zone read/inverted veer helped the RedHawks’ rate of success, they certainly had a good idea of what they wanted to do early. I wondered before the game how teams would treat Jake Stoneburner in their assessment of Ohio State personnel groupings, and the answer would seem to be as a tight end because Miami was keeping seven in the box when he was in the slot and Zach Boren was the H-back/tight end along with Carlos Hyde at running back.
That did not make it impossible for Ohio State to move the ball, but it put more of a premium on executing because everything was fitted up pretty well from a defensive perspective.
The Buckeyes’ response was to lighten up on the personnel and shift those numbers from side to side. They replaced Boren with a wide receiver and moved Stoneburner back toward the line of scrimmage, but they used a trips set to put the RedHawks in a bind. This was evident on the first touchdown drive as it opened things up for Hyde on the inside power run (a great block by Andrew Norwell helped, too) on first down that really got things rolling. It opened up the roll out for Miller, who hit Philly Brown on a play-action pass to finally get the Buckeyes into Miami territory.
Herman played the numbers game again on the first touchdown, going back to his bigger personnel to get Miami thinking run. That gave Devin Smith a one-on-one opportunity on the outside, and he took advantage with his spectacular one-handed catch.
Getting first downs gave Ohio State a chance to turn up the tempo, and they were often able to keep the RedHawks on their toes after that.
They were also able to play around with personnel sometimes by splitting the running back out but leaving Boren in as a wing or H-back then running the quarterback off tackle or around end. It was really heady stuff, but that shouldn’t come as much surprise.
Miller definitely had his ups and downs. He misread some zone reads and did not see some open receivers. He still got a little jittery in the pocket at times and floated passes, but he obviously has all the ability he needs to make this offense hum. He made three big split decisions on his 65-yard touchdown run, first to pull it on the option, then to keep it on the edge and of course his stutter step to keep the pursuing defender from getting the angle on him. When he can play on instincts, he is tough to stop because he seems to have a great sense for the game as long as he isn’t overthinking it.
Hyde made some nice runs, showing more wiggle than last year and very good acceleration with power through the hole. Arm tackles aren’t going to do it with him.
The interior line looked good as both guards were able to move and pick people off on the power plays, although Norwell seemed to be the culprit on the failed run at the goal line on the final play of the second quarter. That was a version of the infamous “Dave” play as the front side blocked down and he came around end but tripped, leaving a defender a lean shot at Hyde, who then exacerbated the problem by leaving his feet for some reason. He might have made the guy miss or fallen off him into the end zone if he had kept his feet. Before you get too down on the play, though, the exact same thing worked on an earlier drive down there with Norwell making the key block and Hyde cutting off it nicely.
They added a wrinkle by using an unbalanced line, something Miami recognized the second time and called timeout to make sure it got lined up correctly. Also keep in mind they use a very similar blocking scheme regularly on their runs out of the shotgun.
Miami’s ends gave the OSU tackles some troubles in pass protection and the running game, so it will be interesting to see how both units go for the rest of the season.
As for the defense, the film did not have a lot of new lessons from the first watching.
A lot of Miami’s success moving the ball had to do with quarterback Zach Dysert knowing what he is doing within that offense and finding the soft spots that inevitably are going to occur with any scheme. The big plays were a result of miscommunications. Tough to find any times anyone from Ohio State lost a physical battle. This has obviously got to be shored up as it was a problem throughout last season, but it’s also a better predicament to be in than needing to make up for a lack of ability.
The numbers game applies to the defense in the sense that the choice was generally to drop eight, probably a nod to Dysert’s ability to read and react on the fly and an acknowledgment that bringing down most of the Miami guys after they made a catch was not a terribly tall task.
Tackling seemed to be for the most part better in game one that it was last season, although C.J. Barnett threw himself at a wide receiver on a post pattern and missed, leading to one of the RedHawks’ explosive plays.
New nickel back (“Star”) Corey Brown got toasted on a touchdown pass (tough to know if he was expecting help over the top), but he was impressive the rest of the time. I liked how he came up and filled against the run and screen passes.
Nathan Williams looked very good as he played a surprisingly large number of snaps. It was interesting that he played so much because they were more comfortable with him in space than youngster Noah Spence. I would have expected the first thing Williams would bring was going from point A to point B with speed and playing in space on his surgically repaired knee would have come later. Of particular note was a very nice open-field tackle on a third-and-short where he closed on a receiver in the flat and brought him down short of the line to gain.
Speaking of Spence, he really looked good for a debut. He can get to the edge with quickness but has the strength to dip his shoulder and not get knocked off his route. That is the No. 1 thing you want in an edge rusher. He even rocked left tackle Zach Lewis out of his base once, so there is more to his game than pure speed. Lewis, by the way, held up very well against Ohio State’s edge rushers.
Spence wasn’t the only young defensive lineman to look good. Adolphus Washington not only has a lot of agility for a guy his size, he has long arms to disengage blockers. I was also impressed with Tommy Schutt, who made contact and picked through the trash for a tackle on more than one occasion.