Ohio State has made some wholesale staff changes to start the 2022 college football offseason, and one of note is the addition of former UCLA offensive line coach, Justin Frye. Frye comes to the Buckeyes with experience working for Ryan Day, Chip Kelly, and a reputation for improving stagnant run games. The Buckeyes the last two seasons have relied on basic zone schemes and every so often mixing in some gap run schemes.
The hope — with the addition of Justin Frye — is to bring some new dimensions to a run game that needs a face lift. Frye has coached a 2000 yard rusher in Andre Williams at Boston College and helped improve UCLA’s rush yards per game from 154.8 yards in 2018 to 219.7 yards in 2021. By utilizing a balance run scheme and creating winnable match ups in the box, UCLA has built a reputation over the last two seasons of s power run team.
Today we’re going to take a look at why Frye was called upon to help fix the run game, and we’re going to see the physicality and schemes his teams have utilized.
Ohio State rarely ventured into the use of misdirection run plays in 2022, combine that with the formation tells that have been mentioned in these previously, and you have a bad combination. Under Frye, UCLA has been utilizing multiple gap schemes with the main one being “Power” both of which are valuable run plays in any power running game.
In the play below, we’re going to take a look at “Power” — the G represents a pulling guard, counter is the play type — this is important to distinguish. UCLA is in 11-personnel in this play with the tight end to the boundary side. The play starts with UCLA’s running back (No. 28) takes a step to the left. This gives the offensive line the opportunity to take their initial steps, The left guard (No. 62) is the puller, he starts with a bucket step to open up towards the play and his job is to clean up in the hole. In this scenario, he finishes the kick out with the tackle to creat the cutback lane. By him staying on his tracks, this allows the running back to break off a decent gain. The discipline shown by the offensive line here is a huge part of what Justin Frye is bringing to the table.
Ohio State rarely ventured into the use of misdirection run plays in 2022, combine that with the formation tells that have been mentioned in these previously, and you have a bad combination. Under Frye, UCLA has been utilizing multiple gap schemes with two of the main ones being “G Counter,” “GC Counter,” and “GT Counter,” all of which are valuable run plays in any power running game.
A staple in UCLA’s run game was the play “GC Counter Bash RB Lead,” which means the quarterback is the ball carrier. In this play, the guard opposite of where the play is going and center both pull. The quarterback for UCLA does a fake step to the right, the running back follows the two pullers through the hole serving as the lead blocker. For Ohio State purposes the running back would be the ball carrier, but in this case he is the lead blocker. The Center for UCLA kicks out the defensive end for LSU, this is the first block to open up the running lane. The running back leading through the hole gets the first danger player which ends up being the outside linebacker, and the guard takes whichever player in the inside is closest to the play which ends up being the inside backer. The quarterback has a running lane and is able to get the first down.
The staple of the run game of any spread offense is “Inside Zone” and in Ohio State’s case the play they run almost every time they hand the ball off. Every team has their go to run play, and this being Ohio State’s, many teams keyed in on this play netting successful short yardage stops. With Coach Frye in the fold expect a new level of physicality to be brought to this run concept.
The situation in the play below is 2nd-and-2 and UCLA is imposing their will on the Hawaii defense with a mix of counter and inside zone. Just the mix of two plays has the Hawaii defense on their heels. Now the UCLA offensive line runs their zone tracks, and none of the players do anything special here. The two things to notice in this play are the physicality at the contact point and the discipline to stay in their lanes to find work. This gives the running back a clear running lane and an easy decision to make because the hole opens up immediately. With this discipline from the offensive line there should be no hesitation from the backs and fans should begin to feel confident in short yardage run situations again.
In Ohio State’s zone run scheme they mix in “Split-Zone” and “Outside Zone,” but usually get away from those when the offensive line struggles. The Buckeyes will need to get comfortable in these looks again to keep defenses off balance in short yardage situations. Once again in the next play we see a different level of discipline and physicality in the zone run game from this Frye unit at UCLA.
In the final play we’re going to look at, UCLA runs the “Outside Zone” concept. The goal of this play is for the back to read the blocks and he has three potential options: stay outside to the play side, run up the middle, or cutback off the blocks. In this example we are going to see the play run to perfection with the running back cutting back off the blocks. To start, the offensive line takes their outside zone steps which widens the defense, Hawaii’s defenders commit to the side the offensive line steps. The UCLA offensive line gets in their tracks and finds work going to the left side of the formation taking whichever defender steps into their area. UCLA’s offensive line is able to push the entire Hawaii front seven out of the way opening up a cut back for the running back who goes untouched for the score. Once again we see great discipline in player responsibility and the offensive line gets another great push at the line of scrimmage.
The Buckeyes are getting a a phenomenal coach in Justin Frye, as we’ve seen today his offensive line unit is versatile, physical, and disciplined. For UCLA, they were able to establish a physical presence on the ground and their identity as an offense was based on this key factor. Ryan Day’s most successful team offensively in my eyes was the 2019 team with Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins in the backfield because they were a balanced attack that featured an extremely physical ground attack.
If Ohio State wants to be a national championship team it starts with rejuvenating the run game and implementing some of these power run schemes. With additional concepts in the playbook, the Buckeyes will be able to attack defenses in even more ways. Even with the additional schemes though, the most important aspect is finding that physicality again. Frye has brought that edge to every offensive line he has coached.
Everyone can look at the defensive staff hires and say Ryan Day isn’t messing around, but bringing in Frye shows that he has an expectation for his offense that wasn’t being met. Time will tell how much Day is willing to change, but bringing in a young coach like Frye seems to be a significant first step in a revitalized ground game.