Meyer's 'Pivot' Players

By Ross Fulton on May 17, 2012 at 10:00a
One of Meyer's Pivot Players

The release of Urban Meyer's first Ohio State depth chart drew lots of attention but unfortunately only tells part of the story.  The chart is simply too static to accurately capture some players' roles for the Buckeyes this fall.  Some coaches emphasize specialization.  Meyer is generally not such a coach.    

Meyer instead utilizes what I will call 'pivot players'--individuals who present a versatile skill set that can be put in a variety of positions to take advantage of their talents, confuse the defense's personnel responses, and allow the offense to present different looks with the same personnel in no-huddle situations.   This is perhaps best exemplified by Percy Harvin at the 'Percy position,' oscillating between the slot and backfield.

Ohio State does not have a generational talent like Harvin (nor do many teams).  Nonetheless, OSU does possess several players whose varied talents allow Meyer & Co. to increase the OSU's offense's versatility.  Assuming the below formation (pre-snap and motion) as OSU's base set, the Buckeyes can feature several players who can fulfill different roles.


  • Jake Stoneburner:  Ever since his arrival on campus Stoneburner has exhibited potential versatility.  A tight end with a wide receiver's skills, Stoneburner will be a key player for OSU in one of two positions.  His primary placement will be as the TE in the 'H' position above in the slot, adjacent to the offensive tackle.  Stoneburner can also flex out, however, playing as the No. 2 WR (inside receiver) in three and four wide sets.  Not only does that allow OSU to feature one of their best receivers on the outside, it allows creates space for another one of OSU's pivot players below.
  • Zach Boren:  Boren inhibits the mirror role of Stoneburner.  Boren will also line up in same the TE slot position instead of Stoneburner.  Often, Boren will be used in this role when Stoneburner is flexed out.  Both Stoneburner or Boren are versatile enough, for example, to be utilized on the triple shovel option.  But while Stoneburner will move outside, Boren will move into the backfield, either as a fullback or halfback.  Indeed, Meyer has recently touted Boren's utility as a ball carrier, telegraphing that Boren will get the ball in a variety of ways this fall.
  • Jordan Hall:  Hall has perhaps gotten the most attention as one for the aforementioned Harvin role.  While it is unfair for Hall (or anyone) to be compared to Harvin, Hall nonetheless will work between the backfield and slot.  While he is the first string tailback and will primarily line up at that spot, Hall will also be utilized in the slot, either coming in motion in the backfield or filling the role as a slot wide receiver.   This allows Hall to be used on wide receiver screens and featured in space.   
  • Corey 'Philly' Brown:  Brown has not been as touted in a multi-faceted role as the three above, but spring practice nonetheless demonstrated that Brown will be utilized in both the backfield and the slot.  Like Stoneburner and Boren, Brown in many ways fills the mirror role of Hall.  Brown's primary position is in the slot.  However, he will often come in the motion demonstrated above, and run the option off of inside run action.  Brown has the speed and lateral quickness to fulfill this edge threat.

Thus, though OSU does not have one player like Harvin, they nonetheless have four players who can fulfill a variety of roles.  This will allow OSU, using the same personnel, to switch between 1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WR to 2 RB, to 5 wide, all while in no-huddle, and thereby stressing the defense. 



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beserkr29's picture

Excellent write up as always, Ross.  It will be very interesting to see just how the various offensive personnel we have on the roster will be utilized this fall.  Watching the spring game brought tears to my eyes.  No more 3 Daves and punt.  Execution can really do wonders (see the Woody years), but dash it all if creativity and variety don't help score more points.  Damn it, I am ready for fall.  Is it September yet?

RBuck's picture

I can't wait to see this offense working to perfection.

Long live the southend.

Doc's picture

I think it is only smart to have some guys on your team that can confuse a defense and be used in multiple roles on the field.  September can not come fast enough for me.

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Boxley's picture

It will be a great deal of fun to watch an offense execute complex plays in the shoe. Especially when they are wearing tOSU uniforms.
I think everyone realizes by now why Simon was held out of spring practice as he would have been way to disruptive. They needed the offense's to have time to execute and develope for the fall. Simon will get his soon enough.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Ross, great job, again.
Although the offense appears to lack any "game breakers," I, too, am exicted about the versatility of the weapons and the schemes. Not just Harvin, but the Florida 2006 and 2008/09 teams had more advanced WRs (Dallas Baker, Riley Cooper) and dynamic hybrid "RBs" (Demps, Rainey) than will the 2012 Buckeyes; however, they didn't have the quality of true RBs; plus, Urbz hasn't had a QB who can throw as well as Braxton Miller since he had A. Smith at Utah (although Leak was decent).  

Earle's picture

This is the future of offensive strategy.  Schemes can be schemed against, but having players that can be threats at multiple positions on the field keeps defenses from substituting based on the personnel package that is in the game.  Being able to either run or pass from any personnel grouping or any offensive formation puts the defense at a distinct disadvantage.  Of course the key is to have players with the skill sets to pull it off, and I'm not convinced the Buckeyes have the elite athletes at the playmaker positions (QB excluded) to pull it off just yet, but I'm really, really looking forward to seeing these guys with the handcuffs off.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

OfficerRabbit's picture

I'm wondering how many games into the season we will be before we see all of Meyer's playbook in action (i'm guessing the fifth vs MSU). I can't see him breaking out all his plays in any of the first 4 games.



Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

I don't think the offense will be more complex. In a sense, it is simpler because you'll see the same players in the game. The difference will be that player sets won't tip the defense to play calls. And I don't think you need elite athletes for this offense to be effective. If OSU's current athletes execute well, most defenses will struggle against them. The question is whether they grasp the offense well enough to execute at a high level.

Can't wait to find out!

Earle's picture

I agree you don't need elite athletes against most defenses.  I think it will be very effective in the B1G, where OSU's talent generally outstrips the competition anyway.  The real test will be against defenses like Alabama or LSU, that can usually just line up and say "we're better than you".  Here's hoping we have those kind of athletes in place by the time we're playing one of those teams after the 2013 season.
We used to be able to do the same thing on offense:  "We're going to run DAVE and you can't stop us", and it worked fine most of the time, except when we ran up against an elite defense.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Maestro's picture

There are weapons to be sure.  Devin Smith is a match up problem because of his speed and leaping ability.  Stoney is a match up problem because of his size and speed.  Hall has fantastic hands and can be moved all over the field.  Hyde is a potential game breaker.  Boren is a fantastic blocker and a reliable receiver.  Philly might just be too fragile to be a game changer, but I am excited to see him used in multiple positions, and finally I think Evan Spencer has a chance to be a Robiskie-type of player.

vacuuming sucks

Maestro's picture

oh, and Miller can move pretty well.

vacuuming sucks

Kurt's picture

You know this just has me thinking that Tress wasn't terribly far off from figuring out a sort of 'Harvin-position' first with his 'Ginn-slot-back' (whatever you call it).  It's too bad that Tress refused to open up his circle of trust enough to go out to get an innovator.

razrback16's picture

We may not execute flawlessly this fall, but you know what, there is something to be said for having an intelligent, competent gameplan and not being predictable so as to make it harder on your offense. These were core issues that we could never count on being corrected under Bollman. I'm so glad Meyer fired him.

ShadyBuckeye's picture

it really gives me chills thinking in a few years when Braxton will be a senior. Spence, washington, bosa and pittman all wrecking havoc on the D-Line, bri'onte maybe giving us glimpses of Beanie Wells. Jalin Marshall exploding for 75 yard touchdowns. man o man if we had gotten Stefon Diggs our offense would be oregon-like. combine that with a ferocious sec comparable defense, electrifying special teams. i know its greedy but how can we not expect a national championship?? then again when we landed Pryor I guaranteed a heisman OR chamionship in the next 4 years. we all know how that prediction worked out.