Come to Pass

By Chris Lauderback on August 7, 2011 at 6:00a
Will Miller show he's ready to be the guy by week 3?

An offseason like no other in OSU history has nearly come and gone and left in its wake is the realization that the identities of the offense, Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel, are no longer in the fold and there's just fall camp to determine who fills those shoes, and how.

It looks as if Jim Bollman will be the last word on most offensive play calls which is a bit of an unknown in and of itself, an unknown that is further muddied by the lack of a clear cut starting quarterback. 

Because the quarterbacks have such varied styles, whoever wins the job will also impact playcalling and considering the inexperience level of the candidates, the run/pass balance Bollman is able to achieve.

Throw in the fact that we've got no idea as to which receivers will emerge on the outside and just how often Drayton's influence might lead to passes to the stable of running backs complemented by using our depth at tight end and it leaves you wondering, what the heck is the passing attack going to look like? 

My brain refuses to process anything other than Braxton Miller playing well enough to earn either the starting job or at least significant playing time in the event the coaches think it's a good idea to play two QB's for an extended period which obviously it's not. I guess even if Miller were to falter, the offense still projects to be a run heavy outfit with safer passes such as screens to backs, shorter looks to the tight ends and bubbles / quick hitters to the WR's as the preferred tosses of choice. 

Thinking of Miller's skill set and inexperience, I was curious to see how the offensive balance stacked up in 2008, when a similarly inexperienced dual threat QB took the reins basically in the 3rd game before making his first start the following week. Of course, Miller is ahead of Pryor's passing curve at this stage with TP being superior physically. Additionally, I was interested in seeing how prominent the RB's were in the passing game knowing we have at least six (Boom, Berry, Hall, Smith, Boren, Homan) that can be focal points or safety valves when Miller looks to throw the football.

As you'd expect, the 2008 offense was a run-first unit with 540 rushes out of 807 total plays, leaving just 33% of the plays to result in passing attempts. When healthy, Tressel opted to lean on Beanie and Pryor was more likely to make plays with his feet than his arm. By comparison, the 2009 offense attempted passes 36% of the time while the 2010 offense pushed that total to 39%. Surely, Pryor's seasoning led to more passing attemps as he got more comfortable actually throwing on pass plays coupled with the likelihood more were called as Tressel gained confidence in Pryor's passing abilities. 

In the '08 offense, the running backs were not featured prominently through the air:

Name rec yards avg rec rank
Beanie Wells 8 47 5.9 9th
Maurice Wells 6 42 7.0 10th
Brandon Saine 3 37 12.3 11th
Boom Herron 6 29 4.8 12th
Lamaar Thomas 4 29 7.3 13th

The group combined to represent 17% of the overall receptions and just 9% of the total passing yards. The screen game was clumsy, under utilized and TP was far from delicate with his placement. The result was a paltry 6.8 yards per completion. 

Pryor's '09 sophomore campaign saw pass attempts increase to being 36% of the plays called, the running backs caught more balls and did more with the opportunities:

Name Rec yards avg rec rank
Brandon Saine 17 224 13.2 3rd
Boom Herron 11 66 6.0 7th
Zach Boren 4 23 5.8 9th
Lamaar Thomas 1 10 10.0 10th
Jordan Hall 1 5 5.0 10th

Tressel lined up Saine at numerous spots on the field and as Pryor scrambled with the intent to buy time instead of tucking and running at a what felt like a higher frequency, Boom and Zoom combined for 24 catches compared to just 14 for the top two backs the previous year in addtion to producing 201 more yards (290-89) and three more TD (3-0).

Then 2010 came along and Pryor dialed back his rushing attempts by nearly 30 while Tressel grew increasingly comfortable with using RB's as receivers, leading to a huge jump in their production:

name rec yards avg rec rank
Brandon Saine 23 195 8.5 4th
Boom Herron 19 180 9.5 5th
Zach Boren 10 68 6.8 6th
Jordan Hall 8 83 10.4 8th
Adam Homan 3 18 6.0 12th

Overall, the backs accounted forr 28% of the total completions, a big step up from the 20% in '09, pushed their percentage of total passing yards from 14% to 18% and upped their TD catches from four to six. The backs were part of Pryor/Tressel's continued efforts to be more balanced as pass plays made up 39% of the total plays. 

All of this brings us back to 2011 and the wonder of just how often OSU will throw the ball and to whom. On one hand, you can argue the offense will revert back to the run dominated attack we saw in '08 as the QB struggles to thrive in the passing game causing Fickell to rely heavily on the defense to win games. The integrity of the blocking up front and green receivers could also play a role in a buttoned down approach. 

On the other, Fickell could instruct Bollman to be more aggressive with his calls, Miller could show an ability to at least handle the intermediate stuff and Drayton's influence on the playbook could create plenty of diverse ways to exploit the talent at running back and might actually lead to OSU building on the RB REC numbers from a year ago. Boom has proven what he can do as a receiver and with Jordan Hall expected to line up all over the field they should be the top two receivers out of the backfield with Berry, Smith and Boren providing support production. 

Already having Stoneburner and Fragel as solid tight ends with Stoney even capable of splitting out wide, the Buckeyes just need at least one of the group made up of Philly, Fields, Williams, Reed, Spencer, and Smith to emerge and eventually partner with Posey giving the chosen QB a myriad of options. 

When it's all said and done on the '11 campaign, my gut says Miller shows tremendous growth as the season wears on allowing the staff to go from a more conservative approach early to an increasingly aggressive tack that coincides with the return of Adams, Boom and Posey. Only 27 more days until we can start to find out. 


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Buckeyejason's picture

Good stuff


buckeyedude's picture

I really expect to see a lot of Jordan Hall playing the "Brando Saine," deja Vu'. At least until an All State sure-hands guy emerges to fill Dane's shoes. If that's possible.

Much of Ohio State's success this year is going to depend on the O-line's ability to protect a first year starter, whomever that may be. (I'm pulling for Miller).



Buckeye06's picture

I expect a lot of TE sets with Fragel to help the O-line, maybe mixing in some quick hits to them a la the Sugar Bowl.  I think Stoneburner will do a lot more catching this year as the #1 option early in the year with Posey coming back later.  I really feel good about everything except for the O-line and am looking forward to shocking the CFB world.


Anyone else notice that when ESPN did their impact freshman piece Miller wasn't even mentioned although he's fighting for a starting spot on one of the top 10 programs of all time

Paul's picture

I hope coach Drayton can install a successful execution of the screen play. I was watching the 06 Fiesta bowl(suck it Notre Dame) and we got blown up on every screen play we ran. Everyone notes the woes of the offensive line in the Tressel era but go back to the MNC against Cryami and I don’t remember ever seeing us execute the screen with regularity! With an athletic QB and a stable of quick athletic RB's AND a coach who is accustomed to the scheme this is what I'm interested to see the most!

SIDE NOTE: If you want a good laugh, eSECpn is running a "Blue Ribbon" panel to change College Football. On the panel is of course Nick Saban. Funny they didn't mention OVERSIGNING as a possible concern that needs to be changed! HMMMMMM!!!!!!:):):):)

There are winners and there are losers, and then there are "THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY"


Bucksfan's picture

Anyone see the ESPiN Outside the Lines about OSU on Friday?!  They will not let this story die.

Bucks's picture

Didn't see it no. Haven't watched alot of their programming for a while now. This upcoming week (circling around the hearing) will probably treated as if it is a breaking story. Oh well.

anchorman's picture

What did they report now?

Bucksfan's picture

Nothing new in a 10 min expose, but they interviewed AJ Hawk about how much money he made right AFTER he graduated per hour on autographs.  They also suggested this whole mess originated when Ohio State won the national title back in 2002...which to me could be taken as "Ohio State winning = NCAA violations."  They also highlighted sanctioned autograph sessions at Ohio Stadium itself as a possible cause, despite the fact that this is something that is common at every single school...which they don't mention, of course.

They again mentioned that kid that came out saying Pryor took tens of thousands of dollars from that one guy, and they showed pictures of that guy on the sidelines at Ohio Stadium taking pictures...despite the fact that it was a high school game featuring UA and Aquinus (FL), not at an Ohio State game - they did not clarify this.

So, it is more witch-hunting, more propaganda that could be construed as Ohio State breeding a culture of corruption. 

Bucks's picture

^ THAT. While we all dislike hearing negatives about a program & university we love, selectively implying or omitting details pisses me off to no end. See it so often though, I can't just put all the blame on Espin. In this regard though, they are certainly matching their Worldwide Leader title.

bucknut24's picture

Good article Chris.  I think we will see a similar "Tress" style in the beginning but as BM gets more comfortable I think you will see them throw more because he is clearly a better passer than TP was ever going to be.  I see a dink and dunk offense in the beginning but that will evolve because of teams playing 8 guys in the box.  Once BM gets going I think we will see a high powered offense with an aggressive defense and things will be fine.  The only two games I am concerned about are Nebraska and Wisconsin because those are fundamentally sound teams and will be hard to beat with any type of conservative offense but hopefully things will be rolling by then.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Any word on James Louis?

Luke's picture

Failed to check in and not expected this Fall.

Matt's picture

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the primary WR set (before Posey returns) will be Philly and Stoney, with Fragel becoming the true TE for the team.  Fragel is absolutely massive (at least before his staph infection) and he blocks better than Stoney, which should give more protection for the green QB; Fragel also showed in the [BOWL REDACTED] game that he moves well in the open field for someone his size, which still allows him to be a safety valve over the middle for the rookie QB.  

anchorman's picture

jordan hall has been moved to WR. Drayton said he reminds him of Percy Harvin and has brought a couple of plays to tOSU!

Bucks43201's picture

okay --- so when ESPN comes to town, (thinking definitely the night game against Wisky on 10/29), there's a chance Game Day will be there, (but I wouldn't be suprised if they don't show) ... anyways ---- I think there should be some kind of anti-ESPN sign campaign. I'm sure there will be a lot of signs like that to begin with ... but aside from "ESPiN", AND "eSECpn", any other good ideas? maybe something like "Mark May + George Dorhrmann ='s Bruce Hooley's ugly love child" ....

We know their cameras will try to avoid the signs as best they can --- but, if thousands of OSU fans have signs like this -- it will be impossible for them to avoid getting some egg on their face on national television.

We deserve to give them a big backlash, they've earned it !!!

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

Bucks's picture

If Gameday comes to Columbus, I will be astonished if they choose to be out where they have tended to be. Will not surprise me to see them in the stadium itself somehow. The only person on the crew right now with any form of safety is Lee while Desmond & Kirk cannot even want to show up.

anchorman's picture

As tOSU fans, we should not even go to Gameday. Totally ignore them!

btalbert25's picture

I say don't do signs, that just looks like sour grapes to the rest of the nation.  I would even stay away from obnoxious chants and vulgarity.  I say get anything possible that can make noise. Cowbells, bull horns, fog horns from a boat, beating pots and pans, yell as loud as you can, anything possible.  Make it where Herbie, Fowler, and company literally have to scream into their mics.  Create an absolutely miserable atmosphere for those guys so that they don't want to come back, and do it by just making noise nothing more or less.

O-H Kee Pa's picture

+1. For fanbases, there's a fine line between making a point and coming across as classless.

jfunk's picture

Or you can go the exact opposite route and everyone shows up but doesn't make a sound. Even better would be to have this huge crowd of people surrounding the Game Day set with everyone's backs to the camera and an atmosphere so quiet you can actually hear the little hamster wheel in Desmond Howard's brain squeaking away. Turn our backs on them the way they've turned their backs on us.

Scotch: It may be too early to drink it, yes; but people it is never to early to think about it.

Bucks43201's picture

I love it --- give them the "cold back" (kinda like the "cold shoulder")

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

Bucksfan's picture

I actually like both ideas.  Shall we take a vote?

jfunk's picture

If ESPiN does decide to show up (and I think that's the worst idea since Greedo shooting first or letting Desmond-F'ing-Howard befoul our stadium by singing that god-awful fight song inside it), whatever we do we can't give ESPiN more fodder to demonize us with. You know and I know and the old lady down the street knows that if people are out there screaming at the top of their lungs the whole time it's eventually going to get out of hand and just reinforce the negative perception of the Buckeye fan base. Believe me, I'd love to boo and be completely obnoxious the first time old Frosty says something but again that's just going to lend creedence to all the B.S. ole Herbie put out there about the fans driving him out of Columbus.

I say take the high road and just turn our backs on them. Don't give them another story. What's the worst they can say if we just sit there like statues for all of Gameday? Or if we really want to show who we're displeased with you can cheer as much as you want when Corso is doing his thing (I don't think there are too many fans who have anything against Lee) but the second he's done clam up again.

It's all probably moot anyway since it would be nearly impossible to get people to go along with whatever gets planned.

Scotch: It may be too early to drink it, yes; but people it is never to early to think about it.

smk6086's picture

This is my first post here, but this topic is very charged for me.  I agree with any poster here who says we should ignore them.  It reminds me of when the KKK came to Cincinnati every Christmas to put up their display in Fountain Square.  All kinds of people went down to protest and cause problems, which is what they wanted.  They wanted attention.  Once it became a non-story, they went away.

I say we do the same.  If GD comes to Columbus, make it a better story by having a big party for fans outside of the camera shot, maybe 100 yards away.  Have nobody show up in the shot, but you can tell the party is going.  It specifically states "We don't care about you" and would really cause problems for camera crews filming the show.

You also want to hit ESPiN the hardest, change the channel.  Have a GD boycott.  The Buckeye Nation alone can change the TV ratings easily.  Shop at Lowes instead of Home Depot (if they are still sponsoring them), hit them where it hurts - their wallet. 

That's all.

Bucks's picture

Side note but ahhh the Beanie Hop you listed on 11W Twitter. Miss him :)

The Buck Guy's picture

Chris, why the man-crush over a cherry frosh?  Yes, Miller is a talented kid with a lot of up side after he matures. But get real. He is an inexperienced frosh. No chance this kid starts in 2011. And he shouldn't.

I think you, like many, are over looking the fact that this Buckeyes team has real depth at the QB position. We've never had this level of talented QBs, one from each class, ever. Just because none have been the starter means nothing. Every team has to start new QBs every few years; but not every team has the talent stacked up as the Buckeyes do.

Bauserman has built a lot of knowledge and experience.  Just not as a starter.  He can play when given the opportunity.  Behind him, Graham is a natural.  He is the best pure passer we've had at tOSU since Schlichter.  Guiton is accident proned, but he is a scrambler and can make things happen.  All three of these QB prospects have time learning the program and have become comfortable with balancing their sport with their academics.  Miller has not shown himself as the best option on the practice field, and thus will not start just because of his future potential.  He needs time to learn, to fit-in with the team, and to become comfortable as a student athlete before taking the helm.  The others deserve their time to compete.

I also disagree with you about using dual QBs. To believe in the nonsense that having more than one QB means you have none is to be obtuse.  Football is a team sport in which all players must be replaceable by skilled back-ups.  When a LB rotates out, does that damage the defense?  Does using a stable of RBs in rotation rather than using one hurt the offense?  Not at tOSU it doesn't.  The same is true of QBs.  The leadership on the offense is already established, and it's not any of the QBs.  So no problem rotating Bauserman, Graham, and Guiton.  (It worked darned well with Germaine and Jackson if you remember).

Get over your man-crush with Miller.  Save it for after he's developed into a true Buckeyes level QB in 2013.

~ The Buck Guy
Go Bucks!!!!

JakeBuckeye's picture

I love it when Buckeye fans act like we have something to lose this season. If there was/is/ever will be a season for Ohio State to start an "inexperienced frosh" at QB. I am 100% certain this is the one.

"Bauserman has built a lot of knowledge and experience.  Just not as a starter.  He can play when given the opportunity."

Uhm, Illinois 2010. And every other time Bauserman has thrown the ball in a real game.

Behind him, Graham is a natural.  He is the best pure passer we've had at tOSU since Schlichter.

You must have a lot of inside info. Either that or you're a coach on the team. How can you make a statement based on the little we've seen from Graham? We've seen less of Graham than probably any of the other QB's.

Regardless of who ends up starting we're going to be a run-heavy team this year. So I say fuck not starting somebody just becuase they're not experienced. If he's going to make more plays than the next guy get him the hell out there. Your attitude is going to hold us back if the coaches take the same approach. Nothing to lose. Shock the world.

William's picture

When has Miller not shown himself as the best option? If the Spring Game is an indication of the Spring Camp, then Miller is far and away the best option we have. To say that he doesn't comprehend the playbook well either is ridiculous as well. When did Bauserman ever demonstrate he understood the playbook? Last time I checked he's had two completed passes as a QB in a pressure situation(@Illinois), one was to Boren for a one yard gain on third and nine, and the other was to an Illini DB. Miller is a better passer than Pryor was coming in as a freshman, and that team still managed to make a BCS bowl. Miller should start, he gives the team the best chance to win. Also the student athlete argument doesn't make much sense either, as I believe he enrolled for the Winter quarter, so at the very least he has two quarters of school under his belt already without any trouble.