Diminishing marginal returns.
Ohio State enters into its third game of the season versus the University of California Golden Bears with no losses. Compare this to last season at this time, where Ohio State averted an upset at the hands of the Toledo Rockets in the closing seconds. Most Buckeye fans would agree that they are happy with the direction this season is heading.
If there is anything that is causing Ohio State fans concern on the offensive side of the ledger after two games, many Ohio State fans would cite the high number of carries that QB Braxton Miller has already sustained, and is potentially projected to maintain over the course of the season. After two games, Braxton Miller has carried the ball 44 times for 302 yards, averaging 151 yards a game and 6.9 yards per carry. Impressive results.
Before I offer an alternative solution, please allow me to share a real-life analogy, using my friend Rob as an example. Rob is one of my co-worker friends who is well-respected within my company, and definitely embodies the "work hard, play hard" mentality our company espouses. Along those lines, Rob will periodically go home after a lengthy work day, and enjoy a few cocktails.
Usually when we see Rob the day after he has enjoyed his cocktails, Rob will be back at work, doing his typical great job. If he seems to be moving a little slower than normal, Rob will say the reason why is because he took "too many Miller's to the face.".
Back to the main point of this article. "Too many Miller's to the face.". After two games, one could argue that Ohio State fans have seen "too many Miller's" to the legs, arms, and torso, and worry about where Ohio State will be when the Buckeyes enter into conference play versus September 29th versus the Michigan State Spartans.
One thing I do know is running a quarterback, down after down, in today's demanding college football environment usually leads to the quarterback being injured. Even the sharpest of knives can become dull if overused.
Carlos Hyde will definitely be out for this upcoming game versus California, and probably versus UAB on September 22nd. Jordan Hall is returning from an injury, and may not be ready for too much action whenever he does return, which could be this week against California.
Bri'onte Dunn is a true freshman. Rod Smith has played, but has also demonstrated an alarming tendency to fumble the ball. Zach Boren could play tailback, but is he explosive enough at the position for the offense?
How to avoid taking "too many Miller's"? What are the options for Ohio State with their rushing offense heading into this contest?
One option Coach Meyer mentioned in his post-game press conference is to use Corey "Philly" Brown more out of the backfield. While I see the explosive speed Brown possesses, like Braxton Miller, I believe caution needs to be exercised here. Listed at 6 feet and 186 pounds, Brown cannot be expected to carry the ball extensively without threat of injury. Five times, on reverses or option pitches to the outside, I can see. "Philly" Brown carrying the ball up the middle could result in arguably Ohio State's most explosive offensive weapon, besides Braxton Miller, being injured.
Another option is to cut down on designed Braxton Miller runs. I believe Braxton Miller is often most dangerous off scrambles. Rolling Braxton Miller to the perimeter on passes, allowing him to gain five or six yards if no receiver is open downfield, will keep drives alive and keep Miller healthy.
Lastly, and this is more of an old Bill Walsh West Coast offense principle, is to use the pass to set up the pass. What does that mean?
Back in his early tenure as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Coach Walsh did not have a strong running game. In order to compensate for his lack of a strong running game, the running backs were often used as extra receivers out of the backfield for short gains. This allowed a young Joe Montana to keep the offense on the field, without allowing the offense to be put into long yardage situations.
How would I incorporate this with Ohio State? Zach Boren is a very effective receiver out of the backfield. Would it really matter if Braxton Miller threw the ball to Boren for a five or seven yard gain, versus Boren running out of the backfield for the same yardage? This would keep the offense on the field, control the clock, and be playing to Boren's natural strengths.
Will Ohio State incorporate any of these ideas versus California and beyond? We will have to wait and see, and hope the upcoming contests for the Buckeyes do not involve "too Many Miller's".