On Monday, Urban Meyer, like clockwork, strode to the podium inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center shortly before noon ET to brief the media. The Ohio State Buckeyes are 8-1 and are coming off of a victory over Nebraska. While a win is a win, a five-point win against a then-2-6 program will raise some eyebrows. Especially given the fact that the Scarlet and Gray had a bye week to prepare for the game.
Meyer answered a wide array of questions from the press; ranging from the operation of the offense, to whether or not Brendon White will see more playing time this weekend against Michigan State. It was a relatively short presser from the Buckeyes’ head coach, but he did unveil some gems heading into Week 11.
Let’s take a look at the five biggest takeaways from that press conference, and see what it means for Ohio State moving forward, as they prepare for a road contest in East Lansing, Mich.
1. “He’s certainly going to play. He’s earned that right. He’s practiced...his practices have been very good the last couple of weeks and Coach Grinch made that clear in front of the team after the game”
Brendon White had a spectacular game on Saturday filling in for Jordan Fuller, who was ejected early in the contest for targeting. White was an instant-impact, and, arguably, saved the game with his efforts. He ended up tying Malik Harrison for most tackles in the game at 13, and recorded a couple loss.
At times this season, the defense’s ability to make stops has been nonexistent. Even early in Saturday’s game, the Cornhuskers were able to move the ball seemingly at will. When White stepped into the game, things changed. After a big performance last weekend, surely he has to be part of the big picture this weekend, right?
Meyer wouldn’t say outright if White would be a starter for this weekend’s game at Michigan State, but did mention that the decision would be made in the coming days.
While MSU’s offense may not be at its strongest — they have had a ton of injuries — it would behoove Meyer and staff to get White some quality reps in game. At this point, the preparation has to be geared toward the Nov. 24 match with Michigan. Getting White to consistently collect 10-plus tackles a game heading into the season finale not only gives the defensive back more confidence, but throws a curveball into how the Wolverines will strategize against the Buckeyes defense.
2. “When teams are loading the box on you..a lot of teams are playing down there is called Bear zero, which is just two extra hats wherever you go, so you have to throw it. And we want to run the ball.”
Many times this season, Ohio State has been placed in a jam. When they want to run the ball, the defenses show a run-stopping scheme — leading to Dwayne Haskins putting the ball in the air.
One of the big criticisms through the first eight games of the season was that the run-game wasn’t up to the lofty expectations set by, well, everybody that’s seen a snap of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber in previous seasons. Before the season started, the duo appeared to be the unstoppable force on the ground for OSU. And early this season, Dobbins saw himself on the Heisman odds board by the sportsbook Bovada.
But as the season progressed, the run game drastically regressed. All of it culminating in a deflating sub-100 yard day at Purdue.
However, the performance against Nebraska broke open some sunlight on a wilting run strategy. Dobbins had his best performance of the season in a Big Ten contest, and Weber picked up a handful of chunk rushes that wore down the Husker defense.
Ohio State and Meyer have a tendency to play to Michigan State’s style of football. Rather, it’s more of head coach Mark Dantonio’s style. The Spartans may force quarterback Dwayne Haskins to throw the ball, based on the defensive scheme, and could even disguise what they are doing to lull OSU into a running situation that gets stopped immediately.
Even though the Bucks want to run, they may have to be careful what they wish for. The pass has more or less been what has carried Ohio State this season, especially with the group of wideouts they have. So, what you probably don’t want OSU to do at this juncture is to start forcing rushes that aren’t going to be there, just for the sake of being able to say that you ran the ball.
3. “That was part of the hours and hours and hours of how do we get those two guys involved in the game and let them drop their pads and go do what they do best, and that’s run the ball.”
Speaking of running the ball, Meyer and the staff broke the code on moving away from the run pass option (RPO) to more traditional running.
The bye week gave them time to iron out the problems and draw up re-designed runs, enabling Weber and Dobbins to put the shoulder pads down and run through the defense.
I think this also helped out the offensive line, as instead of playing a 50/50 game of “is this a pass or is this a rush?” they knew from the get-go what the play was going to be. It’s a lot easier knowing that you’re blocking for a run, rather than the run being audibled out at the last second, or decided after the snap.
It’s good that designed rushes worked against Nebraska, however, now Michigan State knows what the design rushes look like. Fixing the problem is both a blessing and a curse, because OSU now thinks it has a better chance of operating with a balanced offense, but the remaining opponents on the schedule will now know what that new balanced offense looks like.
My two cents: I think a team should run the most vanilla offense for a vast majority of the season, only to pull out the special stuff in big games. However, that’s in an ideal situation, and this season has not been ideal for Ohio State.
Let’s see if the newly-found run blocking can keep it up in a road contest against a stingy defense in Sparty.
4. “I’ve been okay with it. I don’t micromanage that too much, but if I have to I’ll get involved in that. But I think a fresh back that goes a good series and then the next guy gets the next series.”
This answer tips off what Meyer thinks about the strategy of having Dobbins and Weber share a relatively equal amount of snaps, especially early in the game. Though Dobbins ended up with more than double the carries of Weber on Saturday, the pair have primarily rotated series throughout the season. The Dobbins-heavy philosophy seemed to work against Nebraska to the tune of 254 yards (Dobbins- 163, Weber- 91).
Even though coach is okay with it, Meyer still believes that there is value to alternating series (e.g. Dobbins gets most of the handles for a series, then Weber gets most of the handles on the next series, etc.).
With the Nebraska performance leading to the best rushing day Ohio State’s had since Week 1, I would keep doing whatever works. But, I see what Meyer is getting at; he wants a fresh back for every series, rather than wearing down one the whole game. In a doomsday scenario, let’s say Dobbins is getting utterly beat up over three quarters against a defense, you’re kind of stuck. At least with alternating rushers, they are both sharing that load; neither one being completely zapped in the fourth quarter.
5. “When you have — missed tackles was the alarming thing this weekend. We’ll put the best players out there that we think can help us win the game.”
If there was something that didn’t work this past week, it’s the defense’s ability to make tackles. The Cornhuskers pulled off a number of big plays with the help of missed tackles along the way.
Meyer has said multiple times that he puts the best guys in the game. After another not so great performance, will we see any changes to the depth chart for Week 11? If so, then this could lean to White being moved into a starting spot, as well as a couple of other shakeups.
On the other side of the ball, if Branden Bowen and Brady Taylor return to injury, could we see them move into starting spots on the offensive line — especially if Meyer thinks the team is better with them in the game?