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Spring Game Film Breakdown: McCord’s day as a passer, the offensive line performance and the run game

Ohio State’s offense was far from perfect on Saturday, but the performance showed the potential of an elite offense.

Ohio State Spring Football Game Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

Team Scarlet represented the offense in the Spring Game and did not have a perfect performance, losing to the Gray team 40-31. The inexperience at quarterback and offensive line created a stagnant start to the day, but as the game progressed the ones and twos began to find some rhythm.

There were moments of explosiveness, but those moments could be defined more as individual excellence over offensive team success. Chip Trayanum opened the offensive scoring with a long touchdown run for the Buckeyes, showing his combination of size and speed. Then at the end of the third quarter Ohio State found success with a touchdown throw to freshman receiver Carnell Tate, and continued this with an extraordinary individual effort from fellow freshman receiver Noah Rogers.

These plays were the highlights, but there is a lot more to get into. The offense did not look like what Ohio State fans have grown accustomed to. Part of that was lead back Miyan Williams being down at the touch. The other part of the equation is the inexperience on the offensive line. Looking back at previous Spring Game performances though should remind us that Justin Fields, Dwayne Haskins, and C.J. Stroud all didn’t look the sharpest.

There is a long way to go until the regular season, but we can start to decipher the goals of the offseason and what the offensive plan might be in 2023.

Passing Game

Diving into the game without Devin Brown available, Kyle McCord had the spotlight on him with the ones offense for Team Scarlet. McCord was working with a variety of receivers with two starters being out and the first team offensive line being an unfinished product. The offensive line definitely struggled against the starting defensive line, looking overmatched against stunts and on the edge, but they got comfortable giving McCord more time to throw as the game progressed.

In the first play, Ohio State’s is in the second series on offense, and they were making a statement to get the ball out quickly. McCord makes a quick read. The offense runs a spot concept to create a rub between the outside receiver and safety. McCord is able to read this pre-snap due to the two high look from the corners. This means the safety has the out route and if he over commits, McCord would have just taken the spot route.

Later in the drive, McCord was dealing with pressure, after extending a play to keep the drive alive the offensive staff drew up a play-action pass to garner up a chunk play. McCord shows a hard play-action fake to give the receivers time to develop their routes down the field. Fryar is left on the top side one-on-one against Tuimoloau and McCord understands he will have no back side protection. This means his clock has to move, and once Harrison Jr. clears the linebackers McCord releases the ball quickly for a big gain.

McCord was starting to build some confidence with the offensive line holding up well. After the big gain, the offense ran four verticals with a little tempo. Stover takes an inside release with the safety stepped down on him. As he gets up field, the safety shades over and McCord places the throw to the backside shoulder. This is exactly where the ball needs to be and this might have been McCord’s best throw/decision on the day.

Unfortunately for McCord, Stover was unable to haul in the throw and the Buckeyes were forced to settle for a field goal.

The last play to look at was kind of a synopsis for how the rest of the day went for McCord. When he had time he was mostly sharp, when he was under pressure he definitely felt it for the majority of the day. In other cases the coverage was either good or the balls were coming out just a little late.

On this final play, McCord is reading the corner back, the corner gains more depth, so the only option is the out route to Kaleb Brown. McCord releases the ball late, Brown drifts up field, and C.J. Hicks makes a quick break on the ball. This ball needs to be thrown further towards the sideline, and Brown needs to work back to the ball based on the coverage.

Overall, this is the timing stuff that will be worked out with more work, and for McCord the best option here might have been to throw the ball away.

Run Game

As stated previously, evaluating the offensive run game with Williams on the field is unfair due to him being down at touch. Looking back at the game, there were definitely some plays that looked like they were going to be much larger gains then they were given credit for. Trayanum will definitely be vying for an expanded role come this fall if he continues to show the same explosive ability. And overall the takeaway from this is Ohio State has four capable running backs who deserve carries and a fifth talented back who can add to this mix.

The offensive line struggled early from a rhythm stand point, but they created a few big plays as the day progressed. They kept it simple scheme wise keeping in character with a lot of wide zone and split zone actions. Ohio State’s second team offense started the day on the wrong foot with Dallan Hayden getting met in the backfield. Reid Carrico at linebacker on the weak side sees the split action and knows the play is coming his way. Josh Fryar needs to cut off the backer, instead Carrico shoots inside and blows up the play.

The offensive line improved throughout the day though, and really excelled in the stretch and wide zone looks that Ohio State loves to run. In the play below, Ohio State runs stretch to the boundary which was a play that quite a few people do not like. The reason this play fails sometimes is the lack of patience from the running back to let the offensive line get outside and get up to the second level.

The goal of this play is to widen the defense to create vertical seams for the running back to get through. Trayanum stays horizontal long enough to allow one of these seams to open, and when it does, he hits it for a 65-yard touchdown run to get the offense on the board. This play was blocked perfectly and Trayanum read/felt the run lane perfectly.

As the day continued, the offense was able to lean on the defense a little bit especially in the second half. The offensive staff showed a lot of confidence in getting their offensive line out in space which is a point of emphasis.

In this next play, the Buckeyes run their pin-and-pull concept. If the offensive linemen has a player in the gap to the right they will pin them away from the play side. The players who don’t pull across the formation and lead through the edge of the line. Hayden sees the lane immediately and hits the hole for a nice gain.

This is the basis of a solid run game, and the foundation for the Buckeyes from the Spring Game is Ohio State wants to get wide, get their linemen moving, and get their linemen up to the second level. As the day went on they showed that they are able to do that.

The last play might end up being a tease for the fan base, but with a first year quarterback in combination with the inexperienced offensive line, this concept might be a necessity. Ohio State runs a basic zone read on their outside zone look, the defensive end crashes hard making this a pull read. McCord shows enough athleticism to get outside and gain a few yards off the zone read.

This is important because it equates numbers in the box, and if successful, can keep the defensive end out of the play.

The offense felt a lot more stagnant watching the game live, but part of that is the general tempo of the Spring Game. Not included in this were the two long touchdown passes to Carnell Tate and Noah Rogers, but they were examples of the apparent explosiveness Ohio State’s offense still has. Adding those plays to the day Chip Traynum had running the football, and the solid stretches of McCord throwing downfield, gives reason to believe that the Buckeyes can figure this out before the season starts.

We all know Ohio State has talented receivers and running backs, with Day’s history in developing quarterbacks there is little worry there. Where this all starts and stops is the offensive line. If this group can not put it together, and find more consistency, the offense will suffer. We saw stretches on Saturday of McCord being uncomfortable in the pocket, and it took a few series for them to find their footing in the run game.

When the offensive line was able to put it together the offense was pretty explosive. The Buckeyes will be able to mask this through the first three games, and hopefully grow the confidence of the offensive line and quarterback before the Notre Dame game. There are 20 practices in Fall, and there are few questions outside the offensive line.

The offense was sharp at times, but the final result showed there is a long way to go for the Buckeyes as they head into the Summer.