The Urban Meyer Ohio State Offense: Stretching the Defense

By Ross Fulton on February 21, 2013 at 2:00p

Last week we laid out the foundation of Urban Meyer's Ohio State offense. In short, it consists of using the quarterback as a run threat, thereby adding an additional offender the defense must account for and in so doing open up the base inside run game.  

Today, I want to examine the next layer of Meyer and Tom Herman's offense.

The Buckeyes want to stretch the field horizontally. This pulls the defense's second level across the field and slows them down from crowding the box. The purpose is thus the same as using the QB in the run game — protecting the base run plays. 

Stretch 'Em and Slow 'Em

Last week we discussed creating 'defensive end conflict.' The goal is to hold an unblocked defender against the run game and make a defense's most disruptive athletes play slow. Meyer & Co. want to next induce the same hesitation into a defense's second-level players.


The Buckeyes do so by using misdirection off their run plays in both the run and pass game. The first such method is jet sweeps.

Meyer runs the jet sweep action away from the base inside zone or gap blocking. This false keys the linebackers and ideally makes them a step slower when they see the base run action. And if they do not honor the jet sweep action then Meyer can give the football to a speedy player in space. 

OSU also likes using inverted veer/power read for the same purpose but in a slightly different manner. The hope here is that the front side linebackers widen out with the sweep action, enabling the QB to follow the pulling guard through the hole.

Putting inverted veer aside, OSU used relatively few misdirection jet sweeps in 2012 because they did not have the ideal personnel to run the play. But the Buckeyes nonetheless successfully resorted to it late in the season, simply to prevent teams from keying on Braxton Miller. For instance, here OSU runs the tight zone away jet sweep arc block diagrammed in the upper right hand corner above.

Look for OSU to use such plays more frequently going forward as they get the personnel to make such plays succeed. 

Keeping the D out of the Alley

A related method OSU uses to stretch the defense horizontally and protect its inside run plays is flash screens. Flash screens are thrown off inside/tight zone action. The goal is again to force the defense to honor the spread offense's established arithmetic.

Defenses like to cheat the slot defender into the alley between the receiver and tackle to regain an extra defender against the run. Though he is feigning accounting for the slot receiver, he is in reality playing the run. The defense can then have that defender account for the quarterback, giving them +1 inside the box versus the run game. The flash screen forces defenses to honor the immediate perimeter threat.

If the defense is forced to account for every receiver, it re-equates the numbers advantage in the box. That alley player is now caught in between versus inside zone action. He can either close down when he sees the fake to take the quarterback and be liable to the wide receiver screen, or stay with the wide receiver, providing a wider alley for the inside zone read play.

Play Action: Creating Separation 

Finally, the Buckeyes use play-action to freeze second-level defenders. Meyer likes to have a corresponding play-action for every run play. That way a defense cannot immediately commit on the initial sequence. OSU often employs 'gap' play-action protection with a pulling guard. 

This accomplishes two purposes. It allows for 'big on big' protection (OL v. DL) as referenced above.

The offensive linemen block just as they would for power or counter trey. The play-side linemen all down block to their inside gap. They keep their pad levels low, initially demonstrating run. The backside guard pulls. Rather than kick out, however, he blocks the backside 'C' gap (outside the tackle) from the inside out.

In the above diagrammed action, the H-back begins to fake as though he is also pulling for QB counter trey, but then backfills the backside B gap. 

Secondly, this protection also provides a harder play-action fake. It is difficult for linebackers to see a pulling guard and not think 'run,' particularly when OSU was so effective running counter trey and inverted veer with Braxton Miller.

As Chris Brown notes, gap power blocking puts additional bodies at the point of attack. It is therefore only natural for linebackers to want to 'flow fast' to fill the hole. And this becomes only more pronounced when OSU uses read or 'single wing' plays with the QB as ball carrier to increase their arithmetic advantage. 

These plays — in both the run and pass game — all work to slow the defense's linebackers and prevent a defense from overplaying the run game. It is thus a second layer of protection for OSU's base plays. As an added bonus, it is a relatively easy method to get the ball to athletes on the perimeter in space when a defense does overcommit to playing the run.  

With the conceptual framework of the OSU offense in place, we will turn to OSU's base offensive plays. 


Comments Show All Comments

Doc's picture

Ross, thanks again for your articles.  I hope at the end you will look at how a defense would scheme to stop our offense.  It worries me that Mattison up at AACC knows Meyer's offense intimately.  Help talk me off the ledge.

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bwh's picture

Off the ledge? well how about the past Michigan game.
pretty sure that's all the talk off the ledge you need. that was year 1 of the offense that mattison knew 'intimately.' year 2 is going to be even faster, stronger, and harder.

immort9888's picture

Two words to help talk you off the ledge:  Ed Warriner.
Explanation needed?  Not really, but here you go.  On November 24, 2012, Ohio State ran the ball 52 times for 207 yards against the great Mattison and TTUN.  

Doc's picture

Thanks Immort.  That helps.  The off season does strange things to my head.  I'm so football illiterate it helps to know what the opposition might be thinking.  Other than "Oh shit!' of course.

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The Official DDS of 11W

otrain2416's picture

Great stuff

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

Dougger's picture

This is great, I am now a smarter man. 1) Those linebackers for Nebraska commit about six yards horizontally each on Braxton's keeper in the first video, it's almost laughable. 2) even though we didn't have the bodies to run the jet sweep last year, Carlos Hyde seemed to be pretty good at it (in that 2nd video at least) - once he chose the angle to turn upfield, he loses a defender by absorbing his hit with ease.  3) I love watching the wheel route against Illinois because Rod's so wide open Carlos is pointing to him, this time it is laughable.  4) I personally thought Braxton's throwing was the best of the season in The Game because a lot of his throws were very on target. His footwork didn't look great though in the video provided on the 3rd and 5. What are your thoughts Ross?

I like football

MediBuck's picture

For the precise reasons you mention above, Ross, I'm ridiculously excited about next season with its incoming personnel. Philly has soft hands, but not the elusiveness to turn one of those flash screens into a 40-yard TD. Similarly, Hyde was surprisingly effective in the sweep, but I have no doubt a speedster like Ezekiel Elliot would stress the edge defender more with burst to the outside.

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

Hovenaut's picture

Three yards and a cloud calling for a whole helluva lot more.....B1G defenses look out.

Royball's picture

Ross, the idea of the offensive line selling the gun play action by carrying out the same pulls, etc. as they would when carrying out a misdirection run really seem to put pressure on the guards, in particular, as there's the pressure to first get to a certain spot, and then pass pro with completely different leverage and positioning than they would normally.  For example, in the wheel route video, you can see Marcus Hall kick out and become the de facto left tackle.  Makes me feel good about bringing guys like Marcelys Jones into the fold at guard.

4-6 seconds of relentless effort

SilverBulletNYC's picture

Yes! Love this segment. Keep up the great work, Ross.

The South will NOT rise again!

SMP's picture

Great article and analysis!  I would like to see the shovel pass incorporated / used more this coming season.  We saw it once last year in the red zone, unfortunately I forgot what game.  I do remember we scored and was impressed by the play.

OldColumbusTown's picture

If I remember correctly, I thought it was at IU, possibly?  I know for a fact it was Kenny Guiton at QB, as I do not think we have yet seen Braxton run the shovel pass.

nickma71's picture

Defenses were forced to honor Lindy Infante to account for Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack, stacking the box, even though their quarterback ran a 5.2 40 (allegedly by Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy during games). Which allowed Kosar to pick apart defense by passing.

razrback16's picture

These are my favorite articles on 11W.