From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about what we would do if we were in charge of our favorite position group, team, conference, or sport. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”If I Was in Charge” articles here.
Only the most spoiled and/or curmudgeonly folks should realistically be grumbling about Ohio State’s offense under Ryan Day — either as an offensive coordinator or a head coach. The Buckeyes routinely eclipse 500 total yards and the OSU record book’s quarterback and receiving leaders include a lot of recent Buckeyes.
While piling up statistically impressive careers, several OSU greats have gone to the NFL without winning a national championship in recent years, so that means things can get better. I’m kicking off our “If I Was in Charge” theme week with three things I’d tweak to hopefully unlock a secret (and even more potent) level of the OSU offense.
Split the Difference
Under former OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman, the quarterback run was a big weapon in the Buckeyes’ arsenal. Since Ryan Day’s arrival, quarterbacks are more likely to stay in the pocket and make plays with their arms. Part of that might be C.J. Stroud’s belief in his arm and his receivers over the past couple of seasons, but with all the times he was outside the pocket with room in front of him, and instead threw incomplete, it sure felt like there were invisible shackles attached to Stroud, preventing him from making something out of nothing plays.
Stroud showed what he could do with his legs in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve, and he was a missed field goal from playing for a national championship. Under Herman, the quarterbacks ran a lot, and the tighter the game was, the more likely it was that the quarterback would run the ball much more often.
The Buckeyes need to split the difference with regard to the quarterback run. There’s no need to return to the days of frequent J.T. Barrett keepers, nor is there a good reason for Ohio State’s quarterback to treat the line of scrimmage like it’s on fire and crossing it would engulf the QB in flames. A mixture of designed quarterback runs and some run-pass option plays would make an already powerful offense even more potent.
Additionally, having a quarterback with the green light to scramble — regardless of how good his receivers are — would also add some yards and some first downs to the OSU attack.
Make Year of the Tight End Happen
We’ve been talking and joking about this for several years but it’s time to make it happen. Sure, it’s tempting to hold the ball and wait for one of those five-star wide receivers to break free, as they inevitably do. But, especially with this year’s offensive line, it would be better to get the ball out more quickly and hit the tight ends with some underneath routes. Then, when you hit a few of those, the tight end can break down the seam for a big play.
It’s tempting to just keep trying to feed those excellent wide receivers. When any play can be a touchdown, it seems like a good idea to just keep throwing to the game breakers. But variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Weaponizing the OSU tight ends will not only keep more drives alive, but it can also prevent teams from committing extra numbers against the wideouts, leading to more big plays in the passing game.
More Options, More Deception
One thing that some of us old-school football watchers (like me) sometimes miss is a disparate array of running backs lined up in the backfield. When I started watching football, many teams had three running backs lined up behind the quarterback. That morphed into a fullback and tailback for most teams. Today, there are teams that don’t have fullbacks and rarely have more than the quarterback and one tailback in the backfield at the snap.
I’d like to see Ohio State sometimes use a fullback and tailback together and sometimes go to a full-house backfield. The Buckeyes have talented players of all sizes and there are lots of formations and plays that can be run when there are different players in the backfield. The Buckeyes have a variety of body types in the running backs room, and putting them on the field at the same time would allow a lot of flexibility in play calling — both run and pass — that could keep opponents even more off balance then they already are against the Buckeyes.
That’s what I would do with the offense if I was in charge. I would also run a lot more trick plays, because that’s just how I roll. What changes would you make? Let us know in the comments section.