Clown Show No More: Urban Meyer's Ohio State Offense Finally Has its Playmakers

By Kyle Rowland on February 15, 2013 at 10:00a
Surround this young man with playmakers and sit back to enjoy the explosions

When Urban Meyer inherited the Ohio State football program, sweeping changes were needed. The Buckeyes were coming off one of their worst seasons and were mired in turmoil searching for hope. 

It arrived like a caped crusader in the night. Meyer’s mere presence instituted an immediate culture change. But on the field is where he knew improvements were most in store, particularly at the skill positions. The deficiencies were glaring and easily identifiable.

Meyer-coached teams, starting at Bowling Green, have been built on athletic speedsters at wide receiver and running back. Space is his offense’s best friend. The first recruiting class at Ohio State yielded little in the way of game-changing players. It was headlined by running back Bri’onte Dunn and wide receiver Michael Thomas. Those two played sparingly during the Buckeyes’ undefeated season, but did offer glimmers of a bright future.

That isn’t what Meyer is looking for, though. Sure, his eye is pointed beyond 2013, but he wants true freshmen to make an impact in Year 1. This year’s recruiting haul has several candidates that could become household names before the month of October.

The happy recipient is dynamic quarterback Braxton Miller, who was already one of the nation’s best players. Miller amassed more than 3,000 yards last season and helped Devin Smith and Corey Brown reach the combined total of nearly 1,300 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.  

An almost 1,000-yard rusher in Carlos Hyde further bolstered the offense. He ran through holes produced by an offensive line that evolved into one of the Big Ten’s best.

Still, Ohio State lacked that true home run threat that could consistently be a nuisance to the defense, especially on the perimeter. That contributed to a passing offense that ranked 101st, though the Buckeyes did turn in the No. 10 rushing attack in the country.

“We were the most flawed undefeated team in college football history.”

“We were the most flawed undefeated team in college football history,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “There’s a lot to improve on. We have a lot of work to do still. That’s exciting knowing what we accomplished last year, not being at the potential we know we can be.”

Enter Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, James Clark, Corey Smith and Ezekiel Elliott.

“We wanted to get some playmakers,” Meyer said.

Mission accomplished.

Speed. Agility. Elusiveness. It’s all there.

The popular description for what Meyer is searching for is another Percy Harvin, the playmaking wide receiver that helped lead Florida to two national championships. The current Minnesota Viking also has found success in the NFL with his speed and ability to make defenders tackle air.

The leading candidate for that role is Wilson, a Texan who spurned Oregon after Chip Kelly bid the Ducks adieu. The four-star athlete can play wide receiver or running back. Regardless, running free is what he does best. Meyer called him an “unusual athlete” due to his level of production. His senior season yielded 2,600 yards of offense and nearly 50 touchdowns.

“You sit there and look at his track time. His track times are national times,” said running backs coach Stan Drayton, who knows a thing or two about speed, having spent time with Meyer at Florida. “He can be a collegiate track athlete and be an All-American – he is that fast.”

It’s not just the speed, though. Wilson’s style of play fits like a glove in Meyer’s system. Marshall, Clark and Smith are wide receivers that could give Miller targets that are one broken tackle from paydirt, while Elliott is a running back with burner speed.

“When you’re recruiting a guy, I think you’ve certainly got to look at a guy’s ability to make people miss in space,” Herman said. “To break tackles, to show toughness and to make big plays when big plays are there to be made.”

Asked if he was excited about the players Meyer brought aboard, Miller answered with an emphatic, “Heck yeah!”

“It’s going to help out a lot. I can’t wait. It helps to get explosive guys in here. We want to score a lot of points.”

Finally, Meyer has some toys.Buckle up.

That wasn’t a major problem in 2012. Ohio State scored more than 30 points in seven games and topped the 50-point threshold in four games. Over the course of the season Ohio State averaged 37 points per game. Explosive plays were still few and far between. The Buckeyes’ formula for wins was mostly predicated on simply being the better team for 12 weeks of an underwhelming schedule.

Ohio State’s longest rush of the season from someone not named Braxton Miller was 33 yards. That is coupled with only five rushes of 30 yards or more. Those numbers are nowhere near what Meyer and Herman are expecting.

“Big plays are a problem for us,” Meyer said. “We didn't have the home-run hitter explosiveness, open-space players on offensive. But you know what? Some guys really grew up and did a good job for us.”

That reference would be Smith and Brown. Even then, there was little in the way of breaking tackles or embarrassing defenders with deft moves in the open field.

“We felt like we were pretty deficient last year in terms of getting the ball in space,” Herman said. “We get one-on-one with a safety or one-on-one with a corner, or even a linebacker at times, and we can’t make that guy miss.”

At one time, Meyer’s Gators were the gold standard for that type of athlete. The Pacific Northwest is now home to college football’s most exciting players. Oregon’s brand of football isn’t what Ohio State is looking to replicate – the Buckeyes just want the same explosiveness.

The important thing to remember in this conversation is that none of the skill position players Ohio State could turn to next season will be enrolled when spring practice begins on March 5. Instead, they’ll all be finishing up their senior year of high school. Some are even playing other sports.

Herman believes being absent for spring drills makes it that much harder on the true freshmen. But Meyer has a prior history with turning guys into first-year wonders.

“The farther you get away from the ball, the easier it is for you to play early,” Herman said.

“They haven’t played a snap of college football yet. The main focus is development and improvement of the guys that are here. We wouldn’t have signed (the 2013 recruiting class) to scholarships to Ohio State if we didn’t think they could help us win a national championship. To say that we’re going to depend on them is absolutely false. They don’t get here till June and don’t start playing football until August, and the last time I checked we play August 31.”

Chances are scarlet jerseys with the names Wilson, Marshall, Clark, Smith and Elliott adorning them will find their way into the stat sheet that afternoon. 


Comments Show All Comments

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

The night my faith in Tresselball was irreversibly shaken was after losing at Penn State in 2005 when Tressel sugarcoated the evening by talking about how Ohio State had won the time of possession "battle." He had Ted Ginn & Santonio Holmes on the field the entire game and spent 60 minutes trying to manufacture runs out of check-swing singles.

I'd rather watch them strike out this way than the old way.

AJBor41's picture

I don't recall that game ever happening...
Not sure if that's due to the vacating on their part or the Yukon Jack that left me nearly comatose in a Happy Valley tailgating lot.

JLBNYC's picture

That was our best shot at a NC in my opinion - 2005 Team had a better defense and it had Holmes. If Troy Smith doesnt get suspended, we beat Texas and PSU.
And the "sugercoating" you mention from Tress was always frustrating (along with punting on 4th and short from the opponent's 37)

cplunk's picture

Agreed- I've always said the 2005 and 1998 OSU teams were the best I've seen in my thirty years of rooting. Neither won a championship.

JLBNYC's picture

Edit (for some reason, the edit function didnt work)

That was our best shot at a NC in my opinion - 2005 Team had a better defense and it had Holmes. If Troy Smith doesnt get suspended, we beat Texas and PSU.

To clarify - what I meant to say was that i thought the 2005 team was better than the 2006 team (and the 2007 team), each of which went to the title game. The 2005 team should have won the title.  Even with the early-season QB issues, we should have beaten Texas.


cinserious's picture

Urban Meyer will soon take over CEO duties of Carnival Cruise Lines and rename it Clownshow Cruise Lines.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Hoody Wayes's picture

The night my faith in Tresselball was irreversibly shaken was after losing at Penn State in 2005...

causeicouldntgo43's picture

"The night my faith in Tresselball was irreversibly shaken was after losing at Penn State"
This could be the start of the Part III to Don Mclean's song "American Pie"....... 

andretolstoy's picture

Was he sugarcoating Tresselball, or Bollman?
(nice imagery, no?)

osubuckeye4life's picture

F*%&ing Robinson
F*%&ing Poslusny 
F*%&ing New Jersey speedster on special teams that I can't remember his name. However, he was one of the top players in the nation when he was recruited.
That team was amazing came so close to taking down the eventual national champs.
However, they still got to curb stomp the domers in Tempe. :)

Maestro's picture

I think the guy in the background of that picture just had one of those.

vacuuming sucks

BuckeyeRick's picture

Who is that guy in the black jacket standing behind and above Urban? He is with the team, I've seen him on several occasions.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Looks like longtime local Columbus sports anchor Dom Tiberi. 
Nevermind, that's Tiberi beside Urban, not behind. I can't read...

Kyle Rowland's picture

Fernando Lovo, he's a member of the football staff. 

causeicouldntgo43's picture

No - I think that's Fernando Lamas telling Braxton "You Look Marvelous"....

Grant Edgell's picture

Fernando Lovo (@flovom) - Football Operations Coordinator for The Ohio State University

cinserious's picture

I thought Mark Pantoni was FOC fo' OSU

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Grant Edgell's picture

He's Director of Player Personnel.

whobdis's picture

Have to agree with was frustrating at times. Oddly enough it wasn't always against the Penn St or USC's that bothered me. We would play teams we clearly overmatched but our gameplan seemed to keep the opponent in the game. It allowed for very few mistakes and if you had a few (fumbles..ect)..someone like Ohio U could make a game of it. We could still have that (ie..Purdue this year) but I think this offense will be able to absorb errors much better. I know i'm setting my expectations WAY to high..but it's been awhile since I've been this pumped about our offense.

JColeman1's picture

I love it, foot on the throat offense.

JozyMozy's picture

Ah, offense. What I'm most looking forward to- something that I got a pretty good taste of this past year- is the confidence that comes with knowing your team is capable of getting back into a ballgame.  Exhibit A is the 2008 debacle at USC. Exhibit B is the 2011 game vs. Michigan State. Exhibit C is [READACTED]. Three Two very different type losses, but a common thread of flailing like a wet noodle on offense as the other team either A) executed with frustrating flawlessness and pulled farther and farther away, B) capitalized juuuust enough and then spent the rest of the game going "why do you keep hitting yourself?? why do yo keep hitting yourself?!" as time ran down, or C) [REDACTED REDACTED NO NO NO]

buckeyepastor's picture

I didn't mind much when Pryor was just a freshman and we'd play a team that was very inferior to us and Tressel would elect to not cut loose and risk because there wasn't a need.  But when he did that with him as a junior, it was maddening.  At some point, I would think that it would lead to players wondering if the trust in them was there.   That's what I love about the whole "go for it on 4th down," go for the jugular after a turnover, keep running the offense instead of just taking a knee, keep coaching until the final whistle style of Meyer.   A lot of coaches say that they elected to punt because they trust their defense.   But what does that say to your offense to hear that?  And in truth, I think it shows an even greater level of trust in your defense when you are willing to risk putting them in a bad spot once in a while to keep the drive going.   
I think we're still two receivers away from having the passing attack we want.   I think Smith and Brown have established themselves as legit targets, but we need two guys to step up who can take things over the way Teddy Ginn did.   I think in Brown we have a great possession receiver.  He can make guys miss, too, but mostly he's just someone who, when we need 6 yards, he'll find it.   Devin is the guy who, when the play is falling apart and someone needs to get open, can just really do a great job of finding the soft spots in the defense.   We have our Sanzo and Robiskie type guys.  We need to find our Ginn and Holmes.   Gotta like our chances that Marshall or Wilson or clark or Smith, in some combination, gives us that.    

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

whobdis's picture

I've thought the same thing..if you really trust your defense then the possiblity of losing field position doesn't bother you as much. Honestly I think Urban didn't trust his D at times this year and would rather NOT give the ball back to the opposing offense. I hated punting inside the 40..if it went out of the endzone(which it frequently did) you maybe bought 15 to 18 yards of field position. With todays' offenses..the risk/reward is a different dynamic. As for wr's..I really think Corey Smith is going to help. His film is impressive and because he's a JUCO he's a little more seasoned. He runs great routes and he's had to learn a number of different offenses in a short time frame so his learning curve may be easier than the younger guys.

mshaf's picture

Football season can`t get here soon enough.


An exciting offense can be an effective offense. Oregon's proved that. Meyer and Herman understand that. I am thankful for the success under Tressel, but Tresselball was NOT fun to watch and could not get past that belief that the only effective offense was a plain-Jane bread and butter offense with about as much excitement as a rotting tree stump. 2006 was the only year it didn't seem to matter and that was only because we had more skill position talent than what we knew what to do with. Troy & Co. were so good they made that offense sparkle. Imagine what Troy Smith could've done under Urban Meyer? Wow

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

81Alum's picture

I think you meant to say "An exciting offense can be an effective Defense". Totally agree.


No, actually I was hitting on Ramzy's point about that 2005 PSU game that the offense can be exciting yet effective and not bore us to tears or make us want to pull our hair out. Having Troy Smith and Ted Ginn and not managing much on offense was the issue. It was my opinion that JT and/or Bollman thought that an effective offense didnt mean anything flashy or exciting. Meyer/Herman have an offense that is exciting and effective.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

We are about to enter a future that we can't really quite comprehend yet. There is an air of excitement, but we really don't know how good it's going to be. Sure, we think we will be seeing more playmakers, more "offense", more excitement. We did see some of the beginnings of this this past season. No doubt about that. But, Teddy Ginn, Gonzo, Hartline, and Dane Saaaaaaanzenbacher, and Troy Smith, and flashes of Terrelle aside, we are entering new territory here, as Ohio State fans and followers.
God bless the cloud of dust, and lead us into the future. This will be historic.

81Alum's picture

Is it football season yet??? Can't wait for the season to start - 14-0 here we come!!!

nickma71's picture

The Pacific Northwest is now home to college football’s most exciting players. Oregon’s brand of football isn’t what Ohio State is looking to replicate – the Buckeyes just want the same explosiveness.

And they managed all of 17 points being one dimensional against the most predictable Senator ever.

rdubs's picture

I am very excited about the offense for all kinds of reasons.  Obviously just because it seems apparent that we will put up tons of points so that is always fun.  But one of the other big reasons will be the personnel combinations will be interesting to see.  
We have a ton returning on offense, so normally you wouldn't expect many drastic changes from last year.  But we also have a lot of dynamic incoming players, however it is often hard to get them on the field early. I am hoping to see some early blowouts so that we can empty the bench to get the young guys some guaranteed reps so that late in the season they are ready to contribute meaningful minutes.

gobucks96's picture

A dare say that I switch from day to day. Part of me is extremely excited about the pieces added to this offense and what these new kids can do. Then, I'm very excited about the LB's and DB's and how they do..
Thank goodness we don't have a punter yet....(sc)

heartofabuckeye's picture

By November offense will be a well oiled machine. Let's hope Ryan and Roby can rally the troops on the leaner/meaner side of the ball. I need ttun to be destroyed in unique and devastating fashion !!!!! GO BUCKS !!!!!

MindTwinMedia's picture

Thank god we don't ever have to suffer through Tresselball ever again. Sure, he won games, but they were always sooooooooo boring.

buckeye85's picture

Come one now, the man brought tOSU football back to new heights.  He lost 1 game against Michigan, won a Natty and played for 2 more, and went 5-3 in BCS bowls (I still count the Sugar Bowl, IDC what the records say) and 7 Big Ten titles.  Pretty damn good.

Knarcisi's picture

I did suffer some near heart attacks.

SPreston2001's picture

Tres did ALOT of good but he also hit some dreadful low spots too! Those lows (06-07 Natty's, USC games, etc) left a very bitter taste in your mouth that could never truly be swallowed. I love coach Tres but Tressellball was holding us back from becoming one of the ELITE programs. Everytime we ran up against an ELITE team, chances are Tressellball would be our downfall. We just were never aggressive enough to keep up with those type of teams. Sure we could match up and defeat very good teams, but the big boys of the world always gave us hell. I couldnt ask for a better replacement than Urb! 

cinserious's picture

Urban still follows the same principals and philosophies as Tressel like field position, control the clock, don't make mistakes, defense and special teams mastery. He's just going to go about it in a more explosive, pedal-to-the-metal, step on your throat kind of way. MERCY IS FOR THE WEAK!!!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

"Sweep The Knee"!!!
Are you still in love with Elizabeth Shue (I am).........

Squirrel Master's picture

I am a big Tressel fan and still back him but his offense was very boring. Unless it was a broken play by Pryor, lets just say DAVE was very common.
Plus, not putting it all on Tressel, he didn't do the play calling and continue the year after he left. That was all Walrusball!
No matter what you all think, big difference between Urban's offense and "DAVE, DAVE, DAVE, Punt".

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

lwitters's picture

It seems like people are forgetting about Jordan Hall.  Won't he be the incumbent #1 at the pivot/hyrbid position?  Or will he just add more depth to the RB spot?  If memory serves, UFM consistently listed Hall as the #1 playmaker on the squad last year before the dog sh** heard 'round the world.  

MediBuck's picture

I think that was in relation to his versatility coming out of the backfield or lining up in the slot. The kid has really good vision and can break a tackle or two. At the end of the day, though, Hall doesn't have the speed or athleticism to become a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. Compared to the unproved recieving corps or the lumbering halfbacks we had on roster at the time Coach Urbs made that statement, Hall was the best we had.

Don't get me wrong, his experience and shiftiness will net him considerable playing time next year for sure. I just don't believe that he's the "Percy" player tOSU fans have been slobbering about since UFM was announced our chief.

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

Dougger's picture

i understand everyone's frustration with tresselball and the excitement that comes with the speed kills mentality, but does no one remember in The Game 2006 when they went for it on 4th and 1? Beanie had a beautiful fake and Troy threw a perfect ball to a Teddy in full stride? that was fun.
or was that just a figment of my imagination

I like football

SPreston2001's picture

No we remember but those moments were just few, far, and in between lol.

Menexenus's picture

All the complaining about Tressel's conservatism misses the point.  His football was basically a numbers-based "sabermetrics" approach.  He was always playing the odds, choosing the options that gave his team the best chance to win.  Sometimes it wasn't pretty or fun, but when you play the odds long enough you win big.  Just ask a casino.  The house always has the odds on their side.  On any given night, the house may win money or it may lose money.  But over the long run, the house is virtually guaranteed to win and win *big*.  That was Tresselball.  Like it or not, it was smart and it *worked*.

Real fans stay for Carmen.

andretolstoy's picture

I agree that I saw a lot of "TresselBall" in our offense this year. In the end, there are a lot of similarities.
People can say what they want about Tress - his downfall wasn't style of play it was his inability or lack of will to replenish staff that would get him where he needed to go. This is the main difference between Meyer and Tressel. And, this is the real reason why money-makers-and-givers had to figure out a way to soil his 'mittens' in the press so that they had enough pull to bring in Meyer.
No tears, 'tis the game of collegiate football.

Statutoryglory's picture

10.43 Clark, 10.55 Wilson, 10.9 Zeke....pretty pretty nice.  

3technique's picture

I really believe this offense can average 40 this year.. There will be plenty of playmakers...

DefendYoungstown's picture

Playmakers will get us back to Pasadena in 2014...

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

osubuckeye4life's picture

The first of many times this will be uttered........
Is it 12:15pm EDT on 08/31/2013 yet?!?!?!?

buckeyestu's picture

Tress was a fantastic coach, he did what coop could not do, beat aacc repeatedly and win a natty. That win over the hurricanes is one of my favorite games in my life.tress ball was boring at times, to say the least, but it worked a lot. Now it is urban time, and i cant wait to see the playmakers, lets hope some of them get on the field very soon. I am mostly waiting to see the young studs on defense.