If there’s one thing coaches have it’s goals. One of the Vest’s offensive creeds is to throw for 250 yards, rush for another 200 and score at least 40 points. It has either long been forgotten by many or ignored by most because, the fact of the matter is, the trifecta is rarely achieved, perhaps only a handful of times since in his tenure.
But, how it can be best accomplished has been a bone of contention seemingly each season with some fans desirous of a rushing attack that grinds meat and other longing for the staff to ‘open it up’ and let playmakers showcase their skills.
Those who want more passing may be getting their wish. As we know, Jim Tressel set scribe’s pens afire last week with the unleashing of a new intention - passing the ball 25 to 35 times per game. This may just be another far fetched goal but it’s notable for many reasons not the least of which is how it signals a shift in offensive playcalling. Johnny did a nice job earlier in the week dissecting what this means in terms of balance but what has caused the change for Tressel to publically announce the intention? For me, it breaks down to three main reasons.
Any avid football fan can appreciate a rushing attack that chews clock but low risk offenses have a greater tendency to produce high risk situations, particularly near the end of the game. Our near cardiac arrests have borne this out over the years when the team begins playing the clock and not the opponent.
This appears to be changing and we first saw it emerge against Oregon. The 37 passes were unusual but it was the gameplan philosophy that carried the most intrugue. The attack featured a short passing game that still controlled clock but it stemmed from the inside running game or quick boots by Terrelle Pryor. Buckeye Football Analysis talked about it in depth but also saw the lingering effects during our spring game:
The offense is largely building upon what they did against Oregon. It is a really nice package built around several series from both the shotgun and I that have the common theme of being built around the inside running threat and outside run/pass threat of Pryor
The staff is trying to bottle the lightning they found against Oregon and carry it onward this season. That doesn’t necessarily mean the gameplan will be the same every week but the overall philosophy may harmonize around more passing.
Relieve Defensive Pressure
The staff has been blessed with great defenses which, frankly, they rode to victories. This year’s silver bullets are likely going to be very good but perhaps, much like 2004, not until later in the season. With no lock down corner, newer safeties and some fresh faces in the defensive line rotation, the need may arise where the offense will need to score more than usual to win.
The alternative has been costly for the Buckeyes. When so much pressure is put on your defense, there will be times breakdowns happen. Chris Gamble is often brought up for biting on the double move of Wisconsin's Lee Evans. The touchdown earned the Badgers the victory and Gamble his share of ridicule. But, the problem wasn't Gamble or the defense. It was the fact the offense managed to score a grand total of 10 points versus a then unranked Badger team.
Since 2006, the offense has lost almost a touchdown on average per game. A more aggressive approach would mean more attention to the arial attack. Brief moments in past years have actually shown glimpses, especially when you think about how Ohio State playcalled in overtime where scoring is of the utmost importance. NC State, in 2003 for example, comes to mind immediately where shotgun was the norm with only a single rush from scrimmage. Ohio State scored a touchdown in every possession.
Perhaps the most important of all the reasons is Pryor now has the trust of Tressel. Parallels can be and will be drawn to Troy Smith and how he wasn’t given full control until his senior year. Terrelle is a bit ahead in the timeline but it’s interesting how Pryor has gone from a player who lacked experience and full command of the offense to a quarterback who spends too much time in the film room, according to Tressel.
Providing more freedom and responsibility is part of Tressel's plan. It’s akin to a jockey masterfully holding back their horse until rounding the final turn at which point the reigns are loosened. For Tressel’s, he’s letting Pryor go signaling full confidence and trust to run the offense.
All this is to say, you first must believe the change is coming. Admittingly, the thought of seeing a signifcant amount of passing takes some time to buy into but what strikes me is Tressel offering so freely his expectation to pass more. That kind of candor breaks the mold and only makes me think there is some weight behind the words. Even still, the offense has undergone a reformation of sorts since the mastless ship was mercilessly sunk during the middle of the year. Now nearly a year later, only Tressel knows what will really happen and watching it unfold - or not - will be most interesting.