“In the regulation periods of Ohio State’s past three games against marquee opponents... the Buckeyes have what can be considered 34 full offensive possessions. Over that time, Ohio State can claim just one sustained touchdown drive – a seven-play, 44-yard drive against Oklahoma on Saturday night.”
In sports, the buck, ultimately, always stops at the desk of the head coach; and a good one takes the blame for the shortcomings of his assistants and players even when he’s not at fault. If you have been paying attention since Saturday night, you surely have noticed that there has been plenty of blame to go around, and it has come from all directions; reporters, analysts, fans, social media, and even big-time recruits.
However, in Thamel’s article, placing blame at the feet of Urban Meyer is not a symbolic falling on the sword, but instead is born of opposing coaches ascribing the ultimate fault for Ohio State’s poor offensive performance in the past two-plus seasons to the head coach himself.
Having spoken with coaches who have played against, or prepared to play, OSU in the last season or so, Thamel’s consensus seems to be that J.T. Barrett has the skills to be a productive college quarterback, new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson appears to have his hands tied, and the much maligned #Zone6 receiving corps isn’t the main culprit either.
Instead, Thamel’s sources say that the coach who has gone 62-7 at Ohio State has stunted his offense’s ability to succeed by not evolving, instead relying on the offensive innovations that thrust him to national prominence as the head man in Utah.
Whether the blame should fall squarely on Meyer, Wilson, Barrett, wide receiver coach Zach Smith, or some combination, the fact remains that since the National Championship Game against Oregon in January 2015, the Ohio State offense has been stagnant in nearly every game in which the unit couldn’t overwhelm the defense with talent.
If Meyer and the Buckeyes want to compete for another national title, this year or in the future, they will need to diagnose exactly what is to blame for their offensive problems and address them thoroughly and quickly.
“Because of the increased sense of urgency it takes to combat the triple-option, (Greg) Schiano said Ohio State would resume adjustments in the pass defense on Sunday when the Buckeyes begin UNLV preparation.”
With much of the post-Sooners discussion centering on OSU’s inept offensive performance, defensive coordinator Greg Shiano’s unit has gotten off of the hook a bit for allowing quarterback Baker Mayfield to carve up the defense with impunity.
When talking to the press this week, Schiano admitted that there are corrections that need to be made in his pass defense, but that they wouldn’t be addressed until this coming Sunday, due to the unique challenge presented by this Saturday’s opponent, Army’s—and their triple-option offense.
When Schiano was the head coach at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights played a service academy almost every year, so the D-Cor is familiar with how to get a team prepared to face the unusual defense, and that requires full focus during the week leading up to the game.
Fortunately, with the likes of UNLV and Rutgers on the heels of the matchup with Army, there is time before the Buckeye D has to start facing legitimate offenses again in October. However, when you’ve given up 806 yards of passing in the first two games of a season, any time not spent fixing those specific problems can feel like time wasted.
In his conversation with the Big Ten Network’s Dave Revsine, Columbus Dispatch writer Tim May references Ohio State’s 2014 victory over then-No. 8 Michigan State, 49-37, as an example of what J.T. Barrett can do when he has weapons that are able to get open and catch the ball.
However, when you look at that game, Barrett’s passing numbers, for the most part, are not especially impressive. He went completed 16-of-26 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. So, yes, averaging 18.75 yards per completion is nothing to dismiss, but in fairness, he had one completion that went for 79 yards. Barrett also added 86 yards and two TDs on the ground.
However, this type of revisionist history is part of the reason that so many people are concerned about Barrett’s current lackluster performance. The afterglow of the championship has retroactively colored the performance of Barrett (and to a lesser degree Cardale Jones).
Did they both put up some impressive numbers? Absolutely. But when you remove all of the variables, were they demonstrably better in 2014 than they were in seasons since? Not really?
The difference is that in 2014, they had wide receivers able to course correct enough to turn under-thrown balls (of which there were many) into long completions. Neither QB that year showed a tremendous amount of accuracy, especially down-field, so in subsequent seasons, with lesser talent on the outside, their weaknesses have been amplified.
So, rather than wishing that Barrett was the quarterback that he was in the National Championship season, it might be better the realize that, save a shakier confidence in his receivers, he is exactly the quarterback that he was in 2014, and it is time for the coaching staff to cater the offensive to what Barrett does best, not what they wish he did best.