Ohio State football: Offense soaring in Urban Meyer’s 2nd year

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Eamon Queeney | Dispatch
Braxton Miller says he is much more comfortable running the offense this season than last.

This time a year ago, coach Urban Meyer was torn by what he was seeing from his first Ohio State team. Although the Buckeyes were winning, and went on to finish 12-0, the offense looked nothing like what he had envisioned.

Put another way, the offense looked nothing like it does today. Led by junior quarterback Braxton Miller and senior running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State went into the weekend eighth nationally in total offense (530.9-yard average), including seventh in rushing (301.1), 66th in passing (229.8) and sixth in passing efficiency.

The change from one year to the next has been so dramatic that the Buckeyes are averaging 107.1 more yards per game than they were through nine games last season.

The fourth-ranked Buckeyes were off yesterday and play at Illinois next Saturday.

“The second year, you’d expect that,” Meyer said. “I really like what our guys are doing. I really like the development of the quarterback position. That’s the biggest change. (Backup) Kenny Guiton and Braxton have really done a nice job.”

Guiton led the Buckeyes to three wins while Miller was injured, and even that hasn’t hindered the progress from year one to two. At each of his three previous coaching stops, Meyer’s teams have taken similar strides.

“I bet most offenses have.” he said.

At Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, Meyer installed a spread offense. And at Ohio State, he has worked with coordinator Tom Herman to achieve the results.

“You just develop them — especially if you take over from a completely different system, it takes them a while to understand what you’re trying to get done,” Meyer said. “Obviously, there are good players here. It’s Ohio State. But it’s just the knowledge of the offense.

“This time last year, I was convinced our quarterback position really didn’t understand pass protection, mind-boggling when you think about it. Now he knows everything about it.”

Miller didn’t argue that point about last season.

“It’s being comfortable with the offense, just understanding the concept of things, and the defenses, and where to go with the ball — get the ball out of your hand quick,” Miller said. “And it’s guys just growing up, maturing, and just making plays.”

Ohio State is fifth in the nation in scoring average (48.2 points), well ahead of the 37.2 of a year ago at this point, when they were 21st nationally. They are averaging 7.0 yards per play, almost a yard better than in 2012.

“That’s how it should be with this type of offense,” Miller said. “You expect that, not too many three-and-outs, just making exciting plays for that type of offense.”

But last season, “We were a bad offense, certainly, the first half of the year, and the last half, it still wasn’t very good,” Meyer said. “It was a really athletic quarterback that ran fast, and an offensive line that really just started to develop. But we were completely imbalanced (in the running and passing games). This year, we’re 55-45.”

Actually, it’s closer to 60-40, with 420 runs compared with 259 passes, but the point is that he and Herman aren’t afraid to lean on the passing game. They have shown that all season, often passing early to soften defenses that are intent on stopping the run first.

“It means a lot that we can go two-dimensional, that if you want to clog the box inside or run a good scheme to stop the run, we have no problem with throwing it,” senior center Corey Linsley said.

The Buckeyes have topped 600 total yards four times. In the past three games — a 34-24 win over Iowa, a 63-14 win over Penn State and a 56-0 win at Purdue — they have gained 495, 686 and 630 yards in total offense. And in the past two games, the starters have mostly rested in the second half.

Linsley said that he doesn’t think the numbers are inflated just because Ohio State hasn’t played the strongest of schedules.

“I feel that it’s real,” Linsley said. “It could be smoke and mirrors if you only went off the Purdue game, but I feel as long as you run the ball effectively, that’s a good telltale sign that those were quality wins. I think it’s a telltale sign that you played physical and you played hard, that this isn’t smoke and mirrors and fool’s gold.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

 

Getting in gear

How offenses have changed from the first year to the second in Urban Meyer’s coaching career. Ohio State’s 2013 figures are through nine games:

 

Total    offense   Run yards per game Pass yards per game Scoring average Scoring rank
 
Bowling Green
2001 383.1 166.1 217.0 30.3 35th
2002 448.9 219.1 229.8 40.8 3rd
 
Utah
2003 374.5 160.5 214.0 28.7 42nd
2004 499.8 236.1 263.7 45.3 3rd
 
Florida
2005 373.4 146.8 226.7 28.6 49th
2006 396.1 160.0 236.1 29.7 23rd
 
Ohio State
2012 423.8 242.3 181.5 37.2 21st
2013 530.9 301.1 229.8 48.2 5th

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