Ground Assault

By Kyle Rowland on October 17, 2012 at 10:00a
36 Comments

The transformation of the Ohio State offense from 2011 to 2012 cannot be overstated. Each mechanism has improved after a year in which the Buckeyes ranked 107th in total offense and lost the most games in program history. 

Two-headed monster of Columbus.

Seven games into the next season, Ohio State ranks 34th in total offense – not that anyone would notice, though, with the current defensive woes. The offensive line is protecting the quarterback better and opening up more holes for the running game, the wide receivers and tight ends are evading coverages, Braxton Miller is an entirely different player at quarterback and Carlos Hyde has continued his development into an elite running back.

But it’s not just a bruising style that’s benefitted Hyde; maturity has also led the once hot-headed running back to thrive in Urban Meyer’s power-spread offense. Hyde has run for career highs the past two weeks – 140 yards and 156 – and scored five touchdowns.

“A complete 180,” said Meyer, describing Hyde’s turnaround off the field. “He was a guy that had issues. Every time you brought his name up it was not very positive. It was very alarming. I think Coach Drayton has done a wonderful job with him, and most importantly, Carlos has. He’s taking this real serious right now. We all know we’re one speed bump away from a bad situation (at running back). I’m really impressed with his attitude in the classroom and his professionalism on the football field.”

Hyde had spurts of similar production a season ago, but as he says, “it was like a rollercoaster.” In a bit of déjà vu, Hyde had 100-plus yard performances against Nebraska and Indiana last season. But in other games he inexplicably disappeared. Part of it was due to Boom Herron’s presence, part dealt with a sputtering offense and overmatched offensive coordinator.

After Hyde had a then career-high 103 yards and two touchdowns at Nebraska, he only received a handful of carries the following week against Illinois. And he didn’t take the high road following the Buckeyes’ 17-7 win over the previously undefeated Illini. Ohio State’s season was teetering at the time, entering the game off consecutive losses.

Later that night, Hyde fired off a tweet that alluded to a possible transfer, saying, “Guess I’m not good enough. Take myself elsewhere.”

The brief controversy was aborted after Hyde issued an apology and pledged a declaration of loyalty to the Buckeyes. One year later, Hyde is a fan favorite. But the mere notion that he would excel in a Meyer-coached offense has caught some off guard – Hyde among them.

Born in Cincinnati, Hyde attended high school in Naples, Fla., so he was familiar with the program Meyer ran in Gainesville. Hyde was offered a scholarship from Florida, but never gave the Gators serious consideration. He was under the assumption – partially correct – that what he brought to the team would be of little value, a fool’s gold.

His body type was nowhere near Percy Harvin or any other primary runner not named Tim Tebow. Instead, Hyde looked north to a program not far from his birthplace that churned out physical, downhill runners virtually every season. It started with Hop Cassady and through the decades, Ohio State became a proving ground for running backs. Hyde was sold.

The reliability of Carlos Hyde has boosted the offense.

But as luck would have it, following Jim Tressel’s ouster, Ohio State hired Meyer.

“This is something that’s new for Urban because we never had that type of physicality,” said running backs coach Stan Drayton, who was a part of Meyer’s staff at Florida. “Now that we have it with these guys here, man, it’s really fun to watch the offense develop.

“We’ve always been a power, inside-zone outfit, no matter where we’ve been. It’s just that down in Florida, you were doing it with guys who weighed 185 or 190 pounds. Now you're doing it with a 235-pound back.”

The first ingredient is the offensive line. Despite being the unit perceived as fit to bring another national championship to Columbus, the offensive line recruiting class of 2008 was largely disappointing. The Buckeyes won three Big Ten titles and the Rose and Sugar Bowls, but a national championship never came close. Mike Adams was suspended five games of his senior season for his role in the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal and JB Shugarts was more known for false starts than helping running backs.

In one offseason, offensive line coach Ed Warinner has transformed the Ohio State line into one of the team’s strengths. And he’s done so with a group of misfits, one of which was playing tight end a year ago.

“The area that’s most improved is our offensive line play,” Meyer said. “By the end of the spring they were much improved. But at the beginning of the spring it was not good at all. If you want to get an offense going, you get your offensive line playing well, and right now they are.

“I am pleased with our run game. Braxton brings a dynamic to us. Carlos Hyde is breaking tackles, but we’re getting him to the second level of the defense, which is the goal of the offensive line. So I’m very pleased with that so far.”

Growing up in Ashtabula, Meyer idolized Archie Griffin and took a liking to Ohio State’s ground-it-out style. What many people don’t realize is the power run game is closely aligned to Meyer’s version of the spread offense.

It has become more evident as the season has progressed, especially with back-to-back multiple 100-yard rushers. It’s a feat Ohio State had not accomplished since Meyer was a boy watching Griffin and Pete Johnson on TV in the mid-70s.

“It’s weird,” tight end Jake Stoneburner said. “With Coach Meyer, everyone thought we’d be throwing the ball everywhere. But I would say we probably have one of the best rushing attacks in the country. With Carlos and Rod (Smith) coming along pretty well, and then with Braxton probably being the best runner in the country, I’d say people have a lot to worry about with our rushing attack.”

Urban Meyer has always had a soft spot for power running.

Ohio State fields the eighth-best run game in the nation, while the past two weeks is the best back-to-back games the Buckeyes have had running the ball since the last time they scored 50 in consecutive games – in 1996.

Facing a Purdue team that has allowed more than 300 rushing yards its past two games, including 467 yards to Wisconsin, Ohio State could be looking at three straight games of at least 300 yards on the ground. 

Before the season, Jordan Hall would’ve been thought of as the Robin to Miller’s Batman. But a foot injury over the summer and slow-healing PCL tear during the season has halted the grand Jordan Hall experiment.

Ohio State knew it had a transcendent running threat in Miller. But to truly become a special team, one that can compete for a national championship, there needed to be more pieces. Meyer also wanted someone to step up and take carries away from Miller, despite his offensive output, because of the toll it’s taken on his body.

Enter Hyde. 

Playing alongside a player defenses find confounding, his 326 total yards and six touchdowns the past two weeks have ignited an already effectual offense. Miller has averaged fewer than 20 carries over the past two games – still a hefty amount, but an area that is serviceable.

“You kind of go back to what’s working well for you,” Meyer said. “It’s just been a little bit different the way we manage the game. Because at the end of the day we have to win it. If that means a little more imbalanced in the run, I'm fine with that.”

The injuries to Hall could have been disastrous to Ohio State’s offensive game plan, and many thought it would be. During the winter and spring, Hall was the one guy on offense Meyer could point to as being a playmaker. This was at a time when the remainder of the offense was at its low point.

After Hall’s initial injury in June, Meyer spoke of how devastating the blow was to the Buckeyes. Meyer had already drawn up a specific set of plays used exclusively for Hall. But instead of moping about it, Meyer and the offensive coaches worked with the pieces dealt to them and formulated a system that plays to their strengths. It’s been a Meyer philosophy since he became a head coach in 2001 at Bowling Green.

“The beauty of this offense is that it fits the skills of our players,” Drayton said. “It can always be adjusted to the skill that we have with our personnel.”

36 Comments

Comments

Earle's picture

Warinner needs a nickname.  What' the opposite of "Walrus"?

hodge's picture

I would just call him "The Messiah", considering the fact that he saved our decrepit O-line and rejuvenated our faith in the run game.
Keep Calm and Run Zone Read.

hodge's picture

They should just take the original and amend it:

KEEP
CALM
and
RUN
DAVE
ZONE READ

buckeyeEddie27's picture

I like it.  

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

Mix's picture

Maybe we can get the Chive to print up some shirts for them.

-Mix

Larryp713's picture

That is beautiful.

Respectfully,

Larryp713

WC Buckeye's picture

Messiah might be a LITTLE strong :) How about "Transformer", with a tag line of
KEEP
CALM
and
MORPH

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Hodge: Great shirt idea! 
 
I'm so relieved that the line is finally being coached properly. 
 

Sgt. Elias's picture

Killer Whales?  #closeenough.jpg

"Okay -- I've got an El Camino full of rampage here." 

MediBuck's picture

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

celtic020's picture

I said it when J Hall got hurt:  Hyde is a much better option at tailback for this offense and we are sseeing just the tip of the iceberg!

bassplayer7770's picture

IMO, a back like Hall is valuable as a receiver as well as for speed options and such.  Guys like this will still be utilized in the future, but we just don't have another Hall this season.  Next year, we'll have guys like Zeke and possibly Jalin to fill that role.

yrro's picture

Agreed. There are quite a few plays we run to Corey Brown that would probably be more dangerous with Hall running them. Nothing again Corey - he's doing a great job as a reliable receiver on third down, but Hall makes a lot more people miss.

buck-I.8's picture

I agree completely. The one play that Ross brought up with the quick little flip/toss/pitch to Philly where he picked up about 10: I'd love to see that kind of misdirection coming from Hall

Enzo's picture

The fact the O-Line is actually being coached makes a huge difference. I will always wonder how good the 2008 class would have been without the walrus.

bassplayer7770's picture

I certanly can't disagree with that.  When I see a blitz coming against us, it makes me very happy when everybody gets picked up and blocked.  Then when Ross gives us his breakdowns, it's always good to see how effectively the O Line is blocking and how important they are to the success of this Offense.
EDIT:  It's also good to see Backs and Receivers blocking.  Often, they pick up some very key blocks that extend plays.  It's apparent that all the Offensive coaches are putting an emphasis on blocking.

MediBuck's picture

Hyde has done some awesome blocking IMO. Being 240 lbs also puts him in a great position to pick up blitzes--I wouldn't dare send a 180 pound cornerback to take on El Guapo.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

osu07asu10's picture

Wonder what Derrick Green is thinking right now...
 

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

bassplayer7770's picture

He's probably thinking that our staff wasn't recruiting a bigger back for the 2013 season since we'll have guys like Hyde, Smith, Dunn, and Ball.

johnny11's picture

Yah I like how Urban and Herman are utilizing the players they have and are finally getting things rolling. I tell you what though as good as our running backs are developing I still think #5 brax makes this team really roll. To be competitive moving forward we will always need a quarterback that can make things happen. Maybe not like Brax specifically, but someone that can extend the play and make those "loose plays" look beautiful via their legs or arm.

Evansvillebuckeye's picture

I don't know, but I think the opposite of Walrus in this case is simply "Coach."

Doc's picture

It's refreshing to see a new coaching staff using and adapting to what is on the current roster.  Not trying to put a bunch of round holes into square pegs.  I'm sure Meyer will eventually go back to his "prototypical" back, but for the next few years we'll have the big hammer in the back field.  iViva El Guapo!

"Say my name."

yrro's picture

I surely hope he doesn't. I honestly think this may be a better/more dangerous combination than Tebow/Harvin. Your biggest home run threat has the ball every play, instead of just the ones designed for him, but you've got your reliable short yardage back any time you need him.
There are two big roles in the offense- power and speed. You're always better off if you have both available.

IBleedSandG's picture

If Vegas had to set a line for total rushing yards for OSU vs Purdue, I dont think they could set a number high enough that I wouldnt take. I hope they keep using Philly in the run game, I love those touch pass plays when he goes in motion. I almost can't believe what I'm seeing out of Rod Smith, I think the coaches really have him buying in. When is the last time we dropped 50 pts. 3 games in a row.

We don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan, we're from O-HI-O!

thorvath22's picture

If Miller can start making better decisions in the option game I think this offense could.be putting up Oregon #'s but with Ohio State power style.

cjkanski's picture

IMHO Miller has to get quicker at making that decision to give or pull the ball.  He seems to be waiting to see what the defense is going to do and striding with the RB.  Once he gets that kink worked out this offense is going to get nuts!

pcon258's picture

i think that the thing to take away from this isnt just how good carlos hyde has been, and he has been fantastic. I think we need to consider how deadly this rushing attack would/will be when defenses have to plan for jordan hall, carlos hyde, or braxton running the ball, and that is a TOUGH thing to do given their varying skillsets

GrossePointeBuck's picture

The opposite of "Walrus" is "Competent"... obviously.
 

QBYBuckeye's picture

I look at the 2 deep on the offensive line and it amazes me that we aren't worse than last year.  The starting five include 4 juniors and 1 senior, but that senior is a converted tight end in his first year as a tackle, and only one of the juniors is playing in a familiar position.  The backups include 2 converted defensive linemen in a mix of 2 sophomores and 3 freshmen.  That has to keep the coaches up at night.
Then I look at the linebacker corps.  Last Tuesday Urban looked up and saw 5 of his top 7 linebackers on the sidelines with various ailments.  One of the two LBs on the field was not on the team at the beginning of the season.  And don't forget that Nathan Williams, possibly the best player on the team (apologies to Simon, Roby, and Miller) was also out with a concussion.  Rather than throw in the towel, he called in the Cavalry, aka Zach Boren, a potential All-American fullback candidate.  All he did was "change the energy level" on the defense and lead the team in tackles.
This team is being held together by bubble-gum and baling wire, or maybe blood and guts.  Some of us who are very quick to criticize, and I have been one of them, should take a step back, breathe deeply, and appreciate the job our coaching staff is doing.  It is more than a bunch of numbers on a stat sheet.  It is #7 in the left column and #0 in the right one.

New York Buckeye

timdogdad's picture

i agree, like i said yesterday, if we can improve by an average of a td per game scored and not allowed we'll be tough to beat.  and how about improve to 10+!    we could really steamroll through a season. 

input4u's picture

The offense is getting better every week.  Which should lead to sleepless nights for upcoming "D" coordinators.  The one thing I don't like or understand is what appears to by our snap count.  Miller claps his hands and then ball is snapped when center is ready.  I did notice a few times he clapped, then back shifted posisiton and clapped again to signal for the snap.  We will not have teams jump offsides due to hard counts and going "on 2" ect.  but hard to complain with the results.  And when players go in motion presnap it hard to go off any normal count then what the plays needs for the timing.  Enjoying the season... 
Hope Boren channels his inner Katzenmoyer... seems like the same style and build type guy at Middle Backer spot without the off the field issues... LOL....

timdogdad's picture

or imagine if we had our offense now and a d as good as the rose bowl vs oregon that basically held them way below their average.  that's a championship team right there. 

d5k's picture

2010 type defense would suffice to make this team a contender next year.  This might require Hankins staying his senior year like Cam Heyward (unfinished business).  We would also obviously need sophomore leaps from a few freshmen @ LB.  I think he should cash in while he can if he's rated top ten but I wouldn't complain as a Buckeye fan if he came back.

Johnniebuckeye's picture

Not to be a downer but if coach Warinner gets so much credit ( and he should ) for his  offensive coaching ability, does a poor defense mean a poor coach on that side of the  ball. If scum's defense has gotten  better because of Mattison; is it coaching or luck. Point being, Luke needs to pick it up because good results result from good coaching and our defensive results are poor. I for one hope Luke turns it around because he's scarlet and gray through and through but he'll be the last to make an excuse. Here's hoping for Luke.