Seven Things Every OSU Fan Needs to Know About Urban Meyer's Offense

By Ross Fulton on August 9, 2012 at 1:00p
Anyone else ready for football???

Pin these to your wall, impress your friends at tailgates, and keep them handy this fall, because the season is about to begin:

'power football from a spread set.' 

  • Meyer's offense is not spreading to run 'basketball on grass,' to throw the football 40+ times a game, or to get "one-on-one matchups in space."  
  • Instead, Meyer's goals are to run one-back, power football, but to do so from shotgun-spread formations that force the defense to account for the quarterback, thus creating a better arithmetic equation for the inside run game.   

The Ohio State Power Football Game Remains.

  • As such, Ohio State's running game is based around the same downhill, pro-style run plays that Ohio State fans are long familiar with.
  • The difference is that Meyer runs these plays in multiple directions from the spread, with quarterback reads and options built in.  Therefore, all 11 defenders remain threatened even when they see initial run action.

No-Huddle to Dictate Tempo.

  • Ohio State will be nearly all no-huddle this year, following a trend in college football.  The reason that Meyer (and others) have decided to go to no-huddle is to take advantage of the offense's ability to control the pace of play, forcing a defense to match an offense's tempo—which is generally fast.  
  • The no-huddle also limits the defense's ability to use specialists to match an offense's formations by down and distance.  Ohio State will exploit 'pivot players' like Jake Stoneburner who can fluidly move between multiple positions, such as being the H-Back one play and and split out the next.  Therefore to match Ohio State's personnel, a defense has to fit against this base formation below but also be able to adjust to OSU moving anywhere from 2-tight end to four-wide without the benefit of substitution. 

Tom Herman's Biggest Impact Will Be Felt in the Passing Game.

  • As discussed above, the running game will largely reflect Meyer's persona and background. But Tom Herman's impact as offensive coordinator will certainly be noticeable in the passing game. It will particularly be felt in two ways: with the horizontal screen game and with combining concepts in the drop back pass game.
  • Herman's offenses have always been based around attacking defenses with a combination of the inside run game changed up with quick wide receiver screens.  As with the QB read and option, this prevents a defense's backside defenders from involving themselves in the run game.  As such, either the offense will have a numbers advantage for their base run plays or—if the defense cheats—easy yards on the outside with bubble or flash screens.  
  • Herman's impact will also be felt with tweaks to Meyer's base passing game.  Specifically, Herman has 'combined concepts' together for the Buckeye passing game.  The basic premise is to put different route combinations to each side of the field that attack different coverage schemes, thus providing the quarterback options depending upon what coverage the defense shows.  Meyer and Herman smartly do so by mixing an outside route combination with a middle crossing route, thereby preventing the defense from having unoccupied roving pass defenders.


Look for Some 'Oregon' in THE Option Football.

  • As noted, the bread and butter for Meyer's offense is and will be the inside power run game. But the bells and whistles off that run game are often what people notice.  And one of those is option football.  This is particularly dangerous when Meyer has athletes such as Braxton Miller that can make plays on the edge.   

  • In this respect, Meyer spent his off-year wisely.  He camped with Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks, learning the intricacies of how they run the inside and outside zone read (and midline read) and speed option off those plays.  As such, expect the Ohio State option game to reflect many of the attack angles and twists employed by the Ducks.

Meyer's 'Hybrid Player' is Overrated—But Getting the Ball to his Playmakers is Not.

  • With Jordan Hall's injury, much of the focus is upon who will fill the 'hybrid' slot-back role that Percy Harvin made so famous.  While Meyer enjoys having a versatile player that can nimbly move between threatening the edge and between the tackles, this is not the person who makes this offense go.  Instead, think of it as the cherry on top.  Hall himself was not an ideal fit for this role, as he is not a true vertical receiving threat.  While such a multi-faceted player is a plus, the role of horizontal edge constraint threat can be filled by several players depending upon the situation.  (See No. 1 above.)      
  • What matters instead for Meyer is identifying his best play makers and making sure they get the ball no matter what position they play.  One of the factors that drove Meyer to his philosophy was his experience at Notre Dame where one of their most explosive receivers did not touch the ball in a loss.  Meyer's offense is based around the players he has and not the other way around. Therefore, if his bigger threats are at quarterback or tailback (or tight end), he will structure his play-calling to feature those individuals.  Thus, unlike some offenses, the absence of the ideal is not devastating.  

But Meyer Must Have Both a QB and Inside Run Threat.    

  • That is not to say, however, that the 'Jimmie and Joes' do not matter.  As with any offense, Meyer's offense is based around a core philosophy.  His is the inside power run game, made possible by the QB run threat that evens the offense's arithmetic deficiency (everything else is just 'constraint').  

  • Of course, that necessarily requires an inside power run game and QB run threat (with solid offensive line play being a pre-requisite to the functioning of any offense).  As discussed in point 6, Meyer can skin this cat in different ways, such as having a fullback moonlighting as a quarterback.  But without these pieces, Meyer's offenses have sputtered.  
  • With Braxton Miller, Meyer has the needed quarterback run threat and then some.  But Miller, unlike Tim Tebow, cannot run the football between the tackles.  Meyer's Buckeye offense must therefore be able to establish the inside run game with their tailbacks from the spread.  Doing so will open up all the other gadgets—the screens, options, play-action, and down field attack—that can make an Urban Meyer offense explosive.  

Comments Show All Comments

Rapping Bum's picture


Help is on the way.

beserkr29's picture

Wait.....we might put up more than 17 points on a middling B1G opponent?!?!?!

gobucks1226's picture

Another home run, Ross.

Charlotte Buckeye Chip's picture

Great piece!  Just got my Cal tickets.  Any special events happening for that game?  I know we'll beat them 45-17, but I'm talking about special guests, things like that.

~Charlotte Buckeye Chip

B1G 10 Buckeye Stuck in SEC Country's picture

I can't take it anymore...I need Buckeye football

" Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid." - John Wayne 

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Stay calm. And run QB Counter Trey.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Iron_Buckeye's picture

Yeah the Dave has gone the way of Bueller.....Dave, anyone....anyone. Thank goodness not this year!

“The minute we stop expecting greatness from our football program, we become Wisconsin.” Craig Krenzel

Nutbuck1959's picture

Dave's not here!

sawesome's picture

You know this post is jonesing for a 2001: A Space Odyssey joke.

yrro's picture

Ya'll do realize that Dave is one of the staples of almost every running game, and that Urban will run practically the same play from a slightly different formation.
Only difference (dear lord, hopefully, anyway) is how it's worked into the offense as a whole. The issue with OSU's old offense was rarely with the plays in the playbook, but with how they were fit together.

Ross Fulton's picture

Couldn't have said it better myself...

yrro's picture

Haha, probably because you did say it. Everything I know about Tressel's playbook I learned from your articles. Thanks, btw -- now I know just enough to annoyed at the "Dave" guys ;-)
Or was that sarcasm... crap, stupid internet.

smith5568's picture

I think he was being serious. I have been saying the same things you have for awhile now. We will still run "Dave" just maybe not as often and out of different formations. This is why I have also been saying that Urban will still recruit big bruising backs as long as they are fast (i.e. Beanie and Brionte). Urban's offense is an inside run offense, but it is simply done in a more "modern" way and with much better use of constraints.
Does this sound right Ross?  

buckeyedude's picture

I think the bottom line is to just mix up the play calling a little so the opponent doesn't know what you're calling, and move a faster past. A little more passing, a little less running. Viola! We have a winner!



LouGroza's picture

But not two out of every three offensive plays. There is without question a place for the play. Just not unending massive doses.....on 1st and 10, 2nd and 9, 3rd and 17 or otherwise.

GoBucks713's picture

How fantastic would it be to see Hbomb open up against Miami with the first play from scrimmage Run Dave, then show us what can really be done with an offense? Miami had better bring their maxi-pads.

-The Aristocrats!

Iron_Buckeye's picture

Dave wold be ran as a trick play this season....No one would expect it from Urbs offense...LOL!

“The minute we stop expecting greatness from our football program, we become Wisconsin.” Craig Krenzel

Ken-Yon Rambo's picture

*Wipes drool from chin*

How firm they friendship...

gobucks96's picture

Wait, does this mean the playcalling drinking game is gone? I could get some peps seriously messed up off the old offense..

GoBucks713's picture

It seems that Ramzy needs to update it.

-The Aristocrats!

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

A few things:
What is this screen pass thing you mention?
Can we now start writing articles about Urban's offensive schemes without using Tim Tebow or Percy Harvin references?  No offense to the writers, but we get it - we get the role they played, but frankly, I'm Tebow'd and Harvin'd out!

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

dmurder's picture

These 3 words sum up the new offense.

Ingenuity - quality of being clever, original, and inventive, often in the process of applying ideas to solve problems or meet challenges.
Creativity - invention or origination of any new thing
Relentless - showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace

"We have always had the best damn band in the land, now we have the best damn team in the land"- Jim Tressel 1-03-03

zachofaltrades's picture

Why the hell did they not get someone in there to run this offense when TP was around?  He was on record stating he would put up better numbers than Cam Newton, those Oregon QBs (Darron Thomas?), and the rest of the spread QBs.  

cbusbuckeye's picture

Pryor came to OSU to run a more pro-style offense...that's why he chose the buckeyes over Oregon and Michigan (rich rod). 

yrro's picture

As an aside, if you look at Pryor's junior numbers and Tebow's junior numbers... they're actually fairly similar. Pryor has more yards, Tebow has more touchdowns. Tebow comes out on top in efficiency, but not by a giant margin.

zachofaltrades's picture

So who would be the better QB in TSUN's offense?  Denard or TP?  Who would start?  Would they split time?  Would we be talking about Denard as a WR instead of a QB right now?  Would TP put up bigger numbers?

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

TP could be a wide receiver in TSUN's offense.  Think about it.  Denard likes to throw jump balls.  TP is 6'6".  Good

Class of 2010.

Kurt's picture

I'd like to just compliment 11W for figuring out how to make X's and O's diagrams not hurt my eyes!  Seriously, no website I've come across has figured out how to do this.  Thank you Jason and Ross.

Boom777's picture

Did anyone ever think of how much Urban Meyer learned from all the schools and coaches while being a commentator on ESPN! It is like he got to watch games from a birds eye view, talk to coaches (which they probably shared a lil more with him since he was out of the game). All of the new ideas and revitalized vigor for the game! + being home! It has all the signs to be a dynasty or a travesty!

Wherever you are, there you be!

CowCat's picture

I hope we keep Dave in the playbook -- it dates all the way back to Woody, doesn't it?  :)
I just don't need to see Dave that often.  He can get kinda annoying.  Especially when there are girls around.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Poe McKnoe's picture

It's still Dave...with the hope the defense doesn't know it's coming.

razrback16's picture

Very enjoyable article, thx.

buckeyedude's picture

Sounds like a plan. I hope it works.



southbymidwest's picture

Hey, I actually kinda sorta understand some of this now-before it just looked like spaghetti and meatballs. Thanks Ross!

Chad Peltier's picture

Because Braxton is a better outside than between-the-tackles runner, can we expect more zone read than inverted veer? Seemed like Tress ran inverted veer a lot with Pryor because of his size. Yet it seems like Hyde, Dunn, Smith can provide that inside run game.