Offensive Plays to Know for the 2013 Buckeyes

By Ross Fulton on August 15, 2013 at 2:00p
Ross Fulton breaks down the offensive plays to know this season for Ohio State.Eleven Warriors 2013 Ohio State Football Preview

This spring, I examined Urban Meyer and Tom Herman's offensive theory, along with the base run and pass offense they installed at Ohio State.

A coach must deal with different personnel every year, however, impacting what plays an offense features. The 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes are no different. It is therefore important to understand what pages from Ohio State's playbook are essential this fall.

Raison D' Etre

No matter what the personnel, Meyer's offense begins with inside zone read. The Buckeyes may run inside zone read as many times in a game as every other play combined. For instance, the Buckeyes often run inside zone read in short-yardage. According to Tom Herman, the defense likely knows the play is coming. But the Buckeye coaching staff believes they will succeed because they practice inside zone so often and their team believes in the play.

With Meyer's offense, inside zone is perhaps a misnomer. The play is run in a downhill, aggressive manner. It resembles a dive play. The offensive line steps play side to combo block the defensive line and linebackers. The goal is vertical movement on the defensive linemen. The running back lines up six yards deep — about a yard behind the quarterback — and aims for the play side leg of the center to hold the front side linebackers.


OSU prefers running inside zone read ‘away’ from a 3 technique, i.e. a defensive tackle that is aligned between the guard and the tackle (see the defender marked as 'T' above). This creates a natural bubble in the backside A gap. The running back looks to bend the play back behind the center.

The most crucial blocks are often those of the backside guard and tackle. Ohio State likes running the play to the right. This allows the running back to bend back left behind Ohio State’s best offensive linemen, left tackle Jack Mewhort and left guard Andrew Norwell.

After he receives the snap, Quarterback Braxton Miller reads the back side defensive end. The read forces the unblocked backside defender to account for the quarterback, preventing an additional defender from attacking the front side zone play. If the defensive end fails to do so, Miller keeps and attacks the backside edge – an event a defense generally seeks to avoid. A defense's focus upon Miller makes it easier to run the base zone play.

We were inverted

Tailback Carlos Hyde is an ideal fit for inside zone. He makes one cut, runs downhill and is generally tackled falling forward. With Hyde, inside zone is the jab for the Ohio State offense.

The Buckeyes were unable to fully exploit other aspects of its offense, however, for lack of appropriate personnel. That was especially true for plays attacking the the defense's edge. At times, Miller was the Buckeyes only outside threat.

Inverted veer/power read – another Meyer staple – is one example. Both names for the play are descriptive. Power read describes the blocking action. The offensive line runs traditional power blocking. The front side down blocks while the backside guard pulls and leads on the front side linebacker. Rather than having a fullback kick out the front side end, however, the offense leaves that defender unblocked. The quarterback instead reads him.

Inverted veer references the backfield action. The quarterback and running back exchange responsibilities from the traditional veer play. The quarterback follows the pulling guard. The running back runs a jet sweep, attacking the edge as quickly as possible.

For the 2012 Buckeyes, inverted veer was a method for Miller to attack north-south. But the play could not be fully utilized because the Buckeyes lacked a back to exploit the jet sweep. This year may be different. Jordan Hall – who Meyer expected to fill that role last year – returns from injury. The Buckeyes also have three ideally suited freshman in Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, and Ezekiel Elliot. One or all could bring this missing element to the Ohio State offense.

Meyer also employs sweeps away from the blocking action to constrain an over aggressive defense. For instance, another play where Wilson may thrive is the touch pass, a simple method to get a player the ball in space. Expect a more regular use of such plays this fall. 

Constraint is the Thing

As referenced, the spread's goal is to put a defense in a bind. By using the quarterback as a run threat, the offense forces the defense to account for two potential ball-carriers, while still defending three or more wide receivers. Defenses attempt to cheat this arithmetic. One method is to bring the linebacker covering the slot receiver inside as an additional run defender.

Offenses respond with wide receiver screens. An offense can gain easy yards throwing quickly to an uncovered play maker in space. Ohio State struggled with such screens last year, however. Miller never looked comfortable throwing the pass and the Buckeye receivers were unable to regularly turn short completions into big plays. 

But the Buckeyes have players such as Wilson to perhaps exploit yards after the catch this season. One play that will likely be used is the flash screen. The outside receiver steps forward and then comes back inside for the pass. The inside receivers kick out the defensive backs, creating an alley for the receiver to attack. 

Flash screen is another method that Meyer and Herman use to get athletes the ball quickly in space.


Much of Meyer's passing game gets the football to receivers underneath to gain yards after the catch. Snag is an Ohio State staple that provides the Buckeyes several methods to accomplish this goal. Snag is a triangle stretch. The triangle is created by three wide receivers. Two of the three stretch an area horizontally and two stretch an area vertically.

The outside receiver runs a mini-curl route, the middle receiver a flag route, and the inside receiver breaks to the flat. 

Snag is well suited to the Buckeyes' receiving personnel. Philly Brown generally runs the curl route, attacking the mid range area where he is most effective. Devin Smith, the Buckeyes' best deep threat, runs the flag, providing a big-play possibility. And, as discussed, Ohio State has ample slot options to attack underneath. 

The Buckeyes also run snag as a sprint out pass, placing more pressure on the defense. Miller attacks the flat defender. If the flat defender hangs back Miller can run, but if the defender comes up Miller can dump over the defender's head for an easy completion. Snag is therefore one of the Buckeyes' most versatile plays.

Ohio State had an effective offense last season despite being somewhat limited. The Buckeyes relied upon a very effective offensive line, a steady Hyde and Brown, and Miller dynamism for big plays. The 2013 Buckeyes return these elements. But they have added pieces that make Ohio State's offense more versatile and can exploit other aspects of Meyer and Herman's playbook. 



ChazBuckeye's picture

Thank you for these break downs.  Always fun to read your articles about how OSU's offense or defense works.  Great stuff.  Can't wait to see the Diamond formation with Braxton, Hyde Smith and Wilson/Marshall/or EzE.  I realize this article didn't contain that and it was back in April.  However that formation just sounds fun to me;-)

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Warfield's picture

I love this feature! You do a great job Ross! I thought I knew a lot about football, but I learn something new every time I see you stuff. Bucks got all kinds of weapons this year!

Maestro's picture

Great article Ross, always love reading your stuff.
Housekeeping point, is it EzekiAl or EzekiEl? I have seen it both ways on the site lately.

vacuuming sucks

RoweTrain's picture


"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

Maestro's picture


vacuuming sucks

pjtobin's picture

It's easy e. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 


The comment Meyer made recently that we simply didnt have the personnel (in 2012) to run everything he had in mind boggled my mind because i thought we ran quite a bit last year, at least in terms of the new offense. I cannot wait to see what the new personnel including the freshmen will contribute. Buffalo gets to be the first guinea pig in the Meyer/Herman offensive testing facility that is the 'Shoe ;)

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

hetuck's picture

Last year we were dazzled by life without "Dave." With more experienced/talented personnel, I expect an even greater offensive improvement. OSU succeeded last year with the base stuff; add in the diamond and more options from the base offense for the key games and we're in for Oregon-like numbers. Don't be surprised if the defensive stats may suffer a bit, only because they will be on the field more. Hopefully some of the dropped interceptions from last year go our way. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

omahabeef1337's picture

I don't understand why people talk so much trash about Tressel offenses. They won a national title, BCS games, a Heisman and a LOT of Big 10 games.
Also, "Dave" is just power, which we still run plenty.

vitaminB's picture

Because the margin for error is so small.  If you get down by two scores it's not likely that the Tressel offense would be able to come back.  They mainly relied on TP making a play with his legs.  With this offense I breath a little easier going into Saturdays knowing that at least we're going to put points on the board.

Ross Fulton's picture


Meyer uses two blocking schemes--zone and power, aka Dave.  Power blocking is used for power, inverted veer, and counter trey, three Meyer staples.

Otown Buckeye's picture

I believe now that we have personnel to fill Urban's prototypical "H" or "Percy" position, it will enable our offense to run the inside zone/shovel screen play that was very successful at Utah and UF.  The inside receiver ("H"/TE/RB) can be positioned in multiple formations and personnel groupings to essentially run the same play.

"because we couldn't go for three"

OSUBias's picture

Yes please.

Shitter's full

Frostybuck88's picture

Great breakdown as usual Ross.  I love these features.  With Hall healthy, the freshmen speed factor, and the wide receivers stepping up their game, this offense is going to be tough to stop.  Throw in the tight ends, running backs and the threat of Braxton... what a nightmare for any defensive coordinator!  I can't wait to see them explode!

The Dude abides...

InHartWeTrust's picture

Great stuff, I can see where the "new speed" will really help to propel this offense to new heights.

jedkat's picture

We were inverted

You were in a 4G inverted dive with a MiG28?
Top Gun FTW!

"Can we please stop the message board fighting? I really can't stand the message board fighting..."

"No. You're an idiot, and your posts are terrible."



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

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

We were keeping up foreign relations... you know, giving them the bird?

Northbrook's picture

Inside zone read is Dave with a twin brother.

Hovenaut's picture

Inside zone read is Bill Brasky to Dave.

We have filled the Braxton Miller position.

Northbrook's picture

Better. Anybody else have a metaphor?

Earle's picture

Exactly. Just like Arnold and Danny.

Your Noble Savage is a Straw Yeti.

buckskin's picture

Great article.  So many options, only so many plays the offense can run in a game.  I noticed on the triangle stretch/snag play video against TTUN that the TE was clearly open deep also.  With an improved Braxton making better reads this year, he may have the ridiculous option of having 2 receivers to throw the TD to on certain plays.  

gwin321's picture

very cool to get a better insight on the scemes.

BeijingBucks's picture

The more I see of these breakdowns the more the reality of the complexity of the offensive schemes.  Brax must have been mentally a hamster wheel with if/then scenarios before the snap.
Ross a quick Q: In the cat and mouse game of X's and O's it will be interesting to see how opposing defenses prepare for a scheme they've seen the second time around?  Do they use a Zone Blitz scheme so they can better react to the ball carrier-- and keep giving up short yardage gains?  Or do they pray their personnel can match up 1 on 1 with receivers and have safeties keep the game in front of them-- again giving up short yardage gains?  Is Dontre really a HR threat every time he gets a touch? Does that give misdirection for Brax??
I guess I am still unsure of our ability to consistently stretch the field other than a streaking Dev.  I miss play action sometimes.
So much relies on the QB in this scheme it's a little nerve wracking.  And next year... Do we go back to no play book?
So many questions! I can't take it!!  Must. Watch. Footbaw!!



None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Ross Fulton's picture

I would expect defenses to use the same scheme they used last season against us.  Go back and look at my Wisconsin review.  Play cover 4, have your safeties aggressively come downhill to contain Miller, force OSU to throw the ball down field.


Whether defenses are able to continue to do so is largely on BM. 

pjtobin's picture

I would love to sit and chat with you Ross. Picking your brain might explode mine though! Thank you Ross. As always your articles kick butt. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

BenW's picture

The down field blocking on that inverted veer was a thing of beauty. 

NitroBuck's picture

Awesome column as usual, Ross.  I always learn something new.  Hopefully, it will lead to more enjoyable experience watching the Buckeyes abuse opposing defenses.

Ferio.  Tego.

razrback16's picture

Ross, would love to see a breakdown from you on The Diamond Formation, how it works, and the variations you expect to see from Meyer with it.
As always, thanks for these writeups.