A Spring Glimpse into the Urban Meyer Offense and Personnel

By Ross Fulton on April 19, 2012 at 9:00a
My Way.

Ohio State's spring football is providing the first glimpses at the Urban Meyer Ohio State offense.  The upshot?  It looks very much like Urban Meyer's offense at the end of his Florida tenure.  Indeed, much of the terminology dates to Meyer's Utah days.  The Ohio State offense clearly reflects Meyer's offensive tenets; namely a one-back power run and play-action game from the shotgun, sprinkled with reads and option football.  (Disclaimer:  As I only saw one scrimmage, the offensive staff may have featured certain concepts as a means to work on them while de-emphasizing others).

Formation and Alignment

The OSU offense was nearly entirely no-huddle.  They were also almost entirely in shotgun.  The only time OSU huddled was in short yardage and goal line situations.  They would do a quick huddle, sprint to the line in an offset-I and quick snap to run power.  Otherwise it was all no-huddle and shotgun.  Similar to as described here, four different individuals were charged with providing the no-huddle hand signals. The Buckeyes primarily used '11' personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE).  The H-Back would line up in a 'hip' position splitting the tackle's outside leg.  The most frequent look was what Smart Football's Chris Brown diagrammed below (absent the pre-snap motion).   


The Buckeye receivers were either in doubles or tight trips.  Generally, the halfback lined up opposite the tight end.  OSU also showed a look where the tailback would start in the pistol position, then on the QB's clap he would move to a halfback position and chop his feet until the snap. 

The Run and Play-Action Game

The majority of scrimmage was focused upon the run and play-action game.  The run game looked similar to Meyer's late Florida offense.  Indeed, the video clips from Florida's 2008 team below looks like much of what Ohio State's 2012 squad displayed.  The primary difference is that OSU is (obviously) not going to run Braxton Miller inside like Tim Tebow.  Instead, OSU's tailbacks are charged with running between the tackles, with Miller attacking the edges with option off the inside run action.

OSU featured inside zone read, counter trey, power, and speed option.  The inside zone looks exactly as diagrammed from the 2008 Florida spring clinic.  The halfback attacks the center's back leg, making it look more like a dive than zone run. (:31 second mark).

At times, the slot receiver would come in motion in the backfield and run a pitch option off the zone. (2:21 mark).  

Counter trey was the most frequently run play.  Meyer being Meyer, OSU used numerous looks to achieve the same blocking scheme.  The Buckeyes would run it away from the halfback, with the back following the pulling guards (5:12 above). They would also run it towards the halfback's side, with the halfback taking a counter step and then coming back to the play (as diagrammed above).  Finally, OSU would run counter trey action away from the back and towards the QB, but hand-off on the read away from counter action (3:47 mark).  As with zone, the Buckeyesalso  ran option off the counter-trey fake.  (4:19).  The same principle applies with power.  (3:39).  OSU also sprinkled in outside zone and inverted veer.  These six plays form the basis for Ohio State's run game.     

The name of the game for Meyer is constraint.  The base plays are typical of a pro-style run game, but the shotgun and option provides ways to constrain the unblocked backside defenders and not let the defense key.  The QB read is one way to do this, as is the backside option off the initial inside run fake.  So is running counter trey both to and away from the HB, as well as running it away from the trey action as a false key.  Meyer is constantly searching for ways to prevent a defense to get a pre-snap read and cheat against his bread and butter plays.  

 Perhaps the best example was the constraint for speed option.  Speed option is an inexpensive way to attack the perimeter, but the action indicates to the defense where the play is going.  OSU therefore ran a reverse off that action, where the slot receiver cut between the option relationship and received the pitch from the QB.  Meyer is therefore always looking for ways to keep the defense honest for the base inside power game.  

Play Action

Meyer's constraint focus is also evident in the play action philosophy.  As Meyer announced at the 2008 Florida Spring Clinic, every run play must have a complimentary pass play.  

The most prevalent play-action look was the waggle diagrammed here.  The backside guard would pull away from run action and allow the QB to set in the pocket.  OSU also ran a naked rollout backside away from the counter-trey action.  These plays would be combined with a mixture of flood and/or pivot routes.  The Buckeyes also displayed quick stick routes off inside zone action to the H-Back. 

Finally, OSU features trademarks of Meyer and Tom Herman, respectively.  For Meyer, it was the inside shovel pass off option action.  For Herman, it is the flash screen (known as "Lexus").  OSU demonstrated plenty of the latter, showing this will be an important constraint play for OSU this season.  

The OSU run and play-action game was prototypical Meyer.  The system's base is the inside power run game.  But the shotgun QB run  and option threat provides the offense opportunities to constrain the defense and attack the perimeter.  Every base play has a read, a counter, and perhaps a counter to that counter.  This fits well with OSU's personnel, which features tough inside running tailbacks, and a quarterback that is dynamic when he gets outside.  In part II I will focus on pass game concepts.

Bonus:  Bank and Boulder on OSU's Personnel

I was fortunate to get the opportunity to take in practice with Scout.com's Bill Greene.  Below, Bill and I offer our takes on Ohio State's personnel following spring practice.



carence's picture

Ross, you have done it again! Great article. I love breaking down plays! You are now in my top 5 of favorite writers. It is a coveted position shared only by (in no specific order):

Chris Lauderback 

Jason Priestas

Alex G


*Vacant* for the next 3 years due to NCAA sanctions


Good work! 

pcon258's picture

fantastic article ross. thanks for this. as someone with absolutely no knowledge of x's and o's, this really helps me pretend to understand. i've also got a question for you, how exactly do you know all this? Are you a coach at some level? because if not, you should be. this type of knowledge doesnt come from just watching the game, you clearly took time to study film and it shows. thanks alot man. 

Doc's picture

Ross, yet another very informative article.  My question to you is this:  What happens IF this offense doesn't work in the B1G?  Not just this year, but three or four seasons down the road.  Would Meyer go back to more of a traditional offense?  Someone posted in the Skully today that we obliterated Oregon's no huddle offense a few years back in the Rose Bowl.  What will keep MSU or Wisky from doing the same things to us?  Not seeing the offense in front of my own naked steaming eyes and ears I guess I'm a little skeptical.  Please ease my anxiety.

p.s.  Why will the spread work for us and it didn't work for AACC?  They too went for a "leaner meaner" football player.  We know what happened up there.

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

argyle182021's picture

Those AACC teams put up a ton of points.  Unfortunately for them, they couldn't stop anyone from scoring.

Doc's picture

You're right.  I tend to forget that.  I'm getting anxious for the spring game and I always get a little worried when a new coach takes over.  Even though Urban has a very proven track record.  I'm sure he will kick names and take ass, but I need to see them in a game situation.  I'll be a little more comfortable three or four games into the season, especially if we are blowing teams out.

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

Milk Steak To Go's picture

Not Ross, but I think your concerns regarding the offense are misplaced.  OSU isn't going to be running the Oregon offense, they're trying to match the Oregon offense's tempo.  The tempo allows for more plays, more plays allow for more scoring opportunities.

The term "spread" is a broad definition of offenses.  Some teams spread to throw (Mike Leach, Purdue under Tiller), others spread to run (UFM).  Rich Rod had other issues with smurf receivers, no running back and poor defense.  I wouldn't worry too  much about Rich Rod's failures.

Doc's picture

Thanks Milk.  I love football, but know next to nothing about it scheme wise.  I trust Meyer, but I fall under the Ronald Reagan flag of "Trust, but verify."  Like I said above, I need a few blow out victories to sooth my stomach.

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

Ross Fulton's picture

Exactly, I agree with this.  Check out my posts here and here where I speak pretty directly to this point.  Long story short Rodriguez failed at Michigan because he had horrific defense and special teams.  Meyer and he's offenses are also different.

There is nothing inherently different about the Big Ten that would prevent a certain offense from working.  The arithmetic and geometry of football remain the same.  The only difference between the Big Ten and SEC is that the overall caliber of players in the latter is better. 

Doc's picture

Ross, thank you for your reply.  Every once in a while I need to be talked off the edge.

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

Ross Fulton's picture

Haha no problem.


And by the way, the defense definitely will not be the problem for OSU this year.  The cupboard is pretty full...

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

Bielema had his chance to beat the Ducks in the Rose Bowl and he couldn't. He didn't bother to watch the tape of Tressel beating Oregon or didn't want to, I guess. That was the blueprint for stopping Kelly's high-power offense. But what else should I and all Buckeyes fans have expected from that classless jerk?

RedStorm45's picture

To be fair, Masoli and Thomas are/were different QBs.

Milk Steak To Go's picture

Teams that beat Oregon have generally had great defensive lines.  See, OSU, Auburn and LSU.  Wisky has not had a great Dline.  They've had good players (JJ Watt), but not enough to overwhelm the Oregon Oline.  Moreover, their LB's may be good a filling holes, but they are slow sideline-to-sideline.

Hasbro's picture

At one point, the weather forecast for Saturday was pretty bleak. In a future piece, can you address how the offense responds with bad weather (heavy rain or snow) situations? Obviously, any offense would have limitations, but would our inexperience with "slogging it out" potentially shut down the offense entirely? What have other schools experienced in the past?


RBuck's picture

Speaking of the weather:

Saturday: Showers likely, mainly before noon. Cloudy, with a high near 55. North wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

 Fill 'er up.

Long live the southend.

faux_maestro's picture

It can't get any worse than DAVE (1st and 10) DAVE (2nd and 13) PLAY ACTION/DAVE (3rd and 10 chuck it deep) PUNT.

Your mom told me she wants a Dicken Cidar.

Red Shirt Ensign's picture

Never been so excited to watch Florida plays before :-)   Go bucks!


"Captain, over here, I've found someth... AHHHH!!!!!!"


BritishBuckeye's picture

nice work Ross. The videos are awesome.

RecruitBuck's picture

Power offense with Oregon speed. Love it!

Maestro's picture

Can you imaging how lost Joe Bauserman would have been in this offense?  Best of luck to Joe in all that he does in the future.

Very excited to review the game film from Saturday and then wait for Ross to explain to me what I saw so that I can act like I know what I am talking about.

vacuuming sucks

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Nah - he would have just had more throws into the 5th row

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

nickma71's picture

6 running plays instead of 1. Not bad.

Seth4Bucks's picture

Thank you Ross for the article and the videos, glad to hear the D's looking sharp and I get a little woody when I hear people mention how disruptive Simon is to the point of taking him out just so the offense can get some reps in!

Maestro's picture

Seth, I am not a big fan of this phrase, but TMI. Go Bucks !!!

vacuuming sucks

SilverBulletInCincy's picture

I just dont understand why anybody would question whether or not this offense will be effective.  I was at BG when Urban was hired and have watched him for years now and this offense has worked everywhere he has gone.  Do we possibly need to add more playmakers to this team, yes.  But we have enough guys right now to make this work now, yes.  It will take some time for them to get the timing and everything down that is required to run this up-tempo offense but you just simply cannot compare this of Dick Rod at Michigan.  As other people have pointed out it was his stupid 3-3-5 defensive scheme that was the issue in Ann Arbor.  They switched back to a 4-3 this year and what do you know, they were respectable this past year.  The no-huddle up-tempo offense we are about to watch on Saturday will be refreshing to say the least.  People need to quit worrying about whether this offense will work or not.  This is a proven offensive system and will continue to be.

Maestro's picture

Well said

vacuuming sucks

buckeye76BHop's picture

Great article as well as YouTube clips with BG.  I couldn't agree with your blogs above more.  So many ppl on blogs are commenting about how Rich Rod failed and say Meyer will too but don't see the differences right in their faces on how the B1G ten style has little to do with anything.  Not to mention how Meyer and his staff as well as players are way different than what Rich Rod inherited.  Great Job Ross with this article...probably my favorite by far.  I can't wait till Saturday to see this new team live and in person:-)

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

I'm not even worried like some are with how Dick Shred's defense was horrid at Michigan and that we'll have the same problem. I think it comes down to the coach. Meyer, unlike Dick Shred Rod will adjust accordingly if he has to. If Meyer goes up against an I-formation power team like Wisky, he'll make the adjustments to stop that. If he goes up against a spread team that's pass happy, he'll adjust. If he goes up against a team like Oregon, he'll adjust. In the end, Meyer will adjust while Dick was stubborn and slept with his 3-5-3.

buckeyedude's picture

This really makes the Old Regime and it's play calling look primitive. Exciting time to be a Buckeye!