It is not easy to grade an offense during a spring game, but Ohio State did show a couple of new wrinkles in theirs, which only confirms its evolution from 2015 to 2016.
No longer do they have NFL-ready wide receivers, the most complete running back in the nation or one of the best left tackles in the nation. However, they have an abundance of young talent that is ready to explode. The Buckeye offense is going to beat opposing defenses with tempo, speed and making defenders miss after the catch.
Let's take a look at the tape.
The 6'4, 205 lb former quarterback, turned wideout, finished with a solid statline of six receptions for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Words to describe Gibson's performance on Saturday would be inconsistent, raw and potential. His intermediate route running was raw and his hands were inconsistent, yet he flashed with the ball in his hands and he unconventionally made plays. Gibson has the skillset to eventually become great at Ohio State, but let him grow as a pure receiver before crowning him the next great perimeter playmaker.
Barrett said it best when describing the Florida native, "TG has hot and cold days. Some days he's hot and catching everything, other days he can't catch a cold. ... That's the thing, at Ohio State, you can't be on and off. If you're on and off you're not gonna play. You have to be on all the time."
Exhibit A: Gibson is at the top of the screen. His opposing cornerback is coming on a corner blitz and now
Gibson is the "hot" receiver, meaning quarterback Joe Burrow will be looking his way quickly, as he will be open until the safety replaces the corner.
Below, this is an extremely lazy 5-yard hitch. Gibson is uncovered, with the safety roughly 7-yards away. Rather than making a sharp cut towards the ball, Gibson rounded off the route and does not have his hands ready for Burrow's strike.
Because Gibson did not attack the football with his hands away from his body to secure the catch, the ball fell incomplete. If Gibson ran a crisp route, got his hands out in front of him and made the easy catch, he would have had a chance at making the oncoming defender miss to make a huge play. The defensive coaching staff put Gibson in a place to succeed, but his lack of concentration and attention to detail failed him.
Exhibit B: Burrow connected with Gibson on a fade ball from 18 yards out. Burrow lofted a perfect pass to the corner of the endzone, where Gibson displayed nice concentration and caught the ball over his shoulder for the score. However, the Plantation (FL) American Heritage product needed to do a better job of utilizing his 6'4" frame and his 35-inch vertical jump to go up and high point the football. If he were going up against a more physical, veteran cornerback with better ball skills, the ball would have most likely been contested and fallen to the turf.
Instead of getting his hands up to high point the football, Gibson allowed the ball to fall into his torso to make the catch. Cornerback Joshua Norwood was right there, but he does not have the field awareness, nor the ball skills to chop down on Gibson's arms to make a play. You want to see a player of Gibson's size and leaping ability to find the ball and use his wingspan to attack the football.
Coach Meyer sees the potential, but he knows how raw Gibson truly is, "(He's) got a long way to go," Coach Meyer said of Gibson. "He's a freak. But he's gotta go get the ball. He's 6-foot-4, whatever he is, and he's got a 35-inch vertical jump, and we're going to teach him how to use that thing. He's a very good young man."
Weber entered the spring game neck-and-neck with senior Bri'onte Dunn and he took advantage of Dunn's absence by showing off his elite attributes and more. Weber was known as a smaller, muscle-bound power runner, but he showed quickness, power and hands out of the backfield. Weber did not win the job on Saturday, but he showed a bunch of positives that will only help him in the long run.
Exhibit A: The Detroit native is more of a complete back than most thought. Here is his first catch as a Buckeye, and it is not an easy one. Weber is running a swing pattern, looking back at the quarterback and snags the ball over his head with defenders making a beeline for him. If Weber can make a catch like this on a consistent basis, he will become a three-down running back.
Exhibit B: Weber's most impressive run on the day showed a great blend of balance, strength and quickness. He bounced outside, broke a Chris Worley tackle, cut back off-balanced and made a nice gain on the play.
Other offensive notes
- With the loss of numerous offensive stars and a few key linemen, tempo and playcalling will be key to the success of this offense. They no longer have a veteran running back, such as Carlos Hyde or Ezekiel Elliott to lean on. The tempo was impressive and it will be vital to keep the opponent on their heels and tire them out, rather than the ground-and-pound of 2013-2015.
- By now, everyone knows the story of Marcus Baugh and it looks like he will now be able to shine as the number one tight end, after playing very well as the number two blocking tight end last season. Baugh looks slimmer this season and got open on a couple of 5-yard outs and hitches. For the first time in his career, he was used in the slot and out wide, rather than just as an inline tight end. With the young, inexperienced perimeter playmakers, this could be the season where the tight end is spotlighted in the offense. It would not surprise me if Baugh finished top two on the team in receptions.
- One player I mentioned before the game was true freshman Austin Mack, who has already gotten his black stripe removed. He had a drop on a catchable deep ball but he made two nice catches in traffic, with a cornerback glued to his hip no less. One has to love his natural ability and fluid route running though.
- As I mentioned earlier, Burrow showed great touch on his deep balls. He had the touchdown to Gibson, where he dropped it in the bucket, and he had another beauty to Terry McLaurin. Burrow is only one hit away from seeing the field, but after his performance on Saturday, Burrow should have injected some confidence into Buckeye fans, if his number were to be called.
- McLaurin displayed his speed, as he got behind the defense with ease. Parris Campbell also got behind the defense and showed the ability to make defenders miss. These two are key players who have been in the offense longer than the majority of the young wideouts and both will be expected to contribute early-on.