From 2006-2010, new Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. During that time period at Oklahoma he orchestrated one of the most explosive offenses in the country, including the 2008 team that scored over 48 points 10 times and put up over 60 points in succession over their final five regular season games. With an uptempo spread offense, Wilson knows how to put points on the scoreboard.
When watching the 2010 Red River Shootout between Wilson’s Sooners and the Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma’s opening drive was a scripted thing of beauty. He put the quarterback under center, in shotgun and the Pistol formation, and kept his foot on the pedal throughout the drive, which kept the Longhorn defense on their heels.
Here are the multiple wrinkles on the 13 play, 83-yard drive that took only 4:09 off the clock before Demarco Murray reached the end zone. Tempo. Tempo. Tempo.
Quarterback under center
With the Sooners’ coming up short on second down, they came out under center in 22 personnel (2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR) and handed the ball off to the fullback on a dive to move the chains. With the fullback position basically extinct in college football, this would be unlikely to see — especially at Ohio State — but it shows that Wilson is not against playing under center in short yardage situations. It gets the snap to the quarterback much quicker and the ball carrier gets going downhill. They could utilize a tight end such as AJ Alexander at fullback and have him lead the way for Mike Weber in short yardage situations.
After picking up the first down on the play above, the offense hurried up to the line of scrimmage — in only 12 seconds from when the fullback handed the ball to the referee — and hiked the ball. Landry Jones (quarterback) was still under center and ran play action to Murray -- completely fooling the defense — which got the inside linebacker on Murray in man coverage. Murray feasted on this mismatch to move the chains on back-to-back plays. It was an easy throw for Landry, which would be a high-percentage throw for J.T. Barrett.
Make things simpler for Barrett
Speaking of Barrett, here’s an example of Wilson making things easy for his quarterback. First, the motion from the tailback holds the backside coverage guys, which limits the defense from flowing towards the quarterback’s eyes. Second, the route concept on the right side forces the zone defender into making a decision: does he sit down in the zone and play the running back who’s coming at him? Or does he fall further into the zone and play the receiver? The corner chooses the running back, which leaves the receiver on the hitch pattern for a nice gain on first down. This is an easy read and throw for Barrett to make on a consistent basis.
Here’s a play that Ohio State fans have been looking for since Tom Herman left the team: the wide receiver screen. Wilson made a living off of perimeter screens at Oklahoma, most notably to Ryan Broyles — who shattered the FBS career reception record. Under Wilson from 2008 to 2010, Broyles secured 266 receptions for 3,429 yards and 35 touchdowns. With the abundance of quick receivers who may not be the best or most precise route runners, expect screens on the perimeter to be back under Kevin Wilson.
Here’ the Oklahoma offense in the Pistol formation with a second back flanked to the right of Jones. Wilson is a huge proponent of the Diamond formation (which we will eventually introduce) and this version of the Pistol is very similar. Out of the Pistol and the Diamond formations, the possibilities are endless. In fact, one would recognize the Pistol as a common formation that the Buckeyes run a good amount of their offense out of. With this wrinkle, Wilson can get Weber and Demario McCall in the backfield at the same time, giving the defense multiple options respect, along with one of the backs likely blocking for the ball carrier. The possibilities are endless here.
Even with the variety of formations and play calls throughout the 13 plays on the opening drive, the tempo that the offense played with is the best sign for the future of the Ohio State offense. Wilson was able to confuse the defense and get the ball to multiple players, all while keeping the pedal down. After the run out of Pistol, Jones got the offense on the ball and the ball hiked with the play clock still at 27 seconds. Murray got to the edge and the Sooners were up 6-0 at the end of the 13-play, 4:09 drive that drove 83-yards down the field. Wilson was able to wear down the defense by throwing the kitchen sink at them on the first possession and they were able to take home the Red River Shootout.
“There’s just things that we have to work on and [Wilson's] the perfect guy, him and Ryan Day and our offense staff to get them fixed.” Urban Meyer knows he picked the right guy to fix the offense, almost the same offense that was shutout by Clemson on New Year’s Eve.
With an experienced quarterback behind center and an array of elite skill players for Wilson put in a place to succeed, expect the Ohio State offense to look like a well-oiled machine in 2017 — something they hasn’t been seen since Tom Herman was sitting in the coaches booth.