Ross Fulton's Spring Game Takeways: Piecing Together an Offensive Line

By Ross Fulton on April 22, 2014 at 1:15p


With a vanilla playbook and its returning starters largely not playing – most prominently Braxton Miller – it is dangerous to draw too many conclusions about the Ohio State offense from the Buckeyes' spring game.

Nonetheless, the scrimmage provides certain insights and areas for improvement, most notably along the offensive line.

Keeping it Simple

Given that most expected starters did not play – and the ones that did participate appeared for 1-2 series – it is not surprising that Urban Meyer and Tom Herman stuck to the basics. The Buckeyes extensively worked the short passing game, often featuring snag and other intermediate route combinations.

In addition, as Kyle diagnosed, the Buckeyes worked the wide receiver flash screen game, often combining wide receiver screens with a deep route to the opposite side.

Packaging different concepts to each side of the field is a common tactic for Herman and Meyer. The purpose is to provide options. Pre-snap, anoffense cannot be certain what coverage a defense will use. Meyer and Herman thus put a route combination to each side that is good against a different coverage. Upon the snap, the quarterback can diagnose the coverage and then work the side of the field that best responds to that defensive look

Putting a fly route opposite a wide receiver is an easy combination. If a defense overplays the quick game it opens an easy throw down field. But the Buckeye coaching staff also like combining a concept that attacks outside the hash marks with one that works the middle of the field. The middle of the field routes are often good against man coverage, while the outside routes attack zone. Again, this provides the opportunity for an offense to adjust in the face of uncertainty.

Use Sparingly

By design, run plays during the Spring Game were few and far between. Yet as Kyle diagnosed, one run play was repeatedly used. Titled 13 Bash, the run is a tight zone play for the quarterback. The offensive line blocks tight zone towards the quarterback, while the halfback runs jet sweep away from the offensive line action. The quarterback reads the backside end to determine whether to give or keep.

13 Bash

The play is a constraint to the Buckeyes' base inside zone play, in an attempt to slow play the defense's inside linebacker. In addition, it attacks a backside defensive line overly focused on the quarterback. Given that defenses frequently game plan to contain Miller, the jet sweep away from the blocking action is a useful response. 

Piecing together Five

The biggest takeaway from the Spring Game, however, was not any scheme issues. Rather it was Ed Warriner's continued task of replacing four offensive line starters.

The Spring Game demonstrated that the Buckeyes have numerous young linemen unprepared to play. But the positive is that Warriner does not need all his linemen ready. He needs five starters, pus perhaps two capable back-ups. Of any position, the offensive line involves the least substitution. Offensive line play is all about cohesion and working as a unit. So the ideal is to have five starters that play as extensively together as possible.

With this in mind, the Buckeyes have less holes to plug then may at first appear. According to Meyer, Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein are locked in at left tackle and right guard, respectively. The move of Evan Lisle to the left guard competition suggests that, at least for now, Daryl Baldwin is penciled in at right tackle.

That leaves two positions where competition remains stiff – center and the aforementioned left guard spot. At center, Jacoby Boren and Billy Price seemingly provide two capable – if inexperienced options. Left guard represents the most open competition. Antonio Underwood, converted defensive lineman Joel Hale, and Lisle, among others, are vying for the role. Chase Farris will also receive an opportunity when he returns this fall from injury. And Meyer may be able to resolve one of these two open spots by the Buckeyes' recruitment of former Alabama offensive lineman Chad Lindsay.

As such, the offensive line contingent may not be as thin as first appeared, as the Buckeye coaching staff's primary concern is finding five solid starters and then building depth. 



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AngryWoody's picture

TUN went through a very similar situation with a young o-line last year and it demolished their season. Does it look possible that we could be facing a situation like that this year?

Our Honor Defend!

otrain2416's picture

This won't happen because the difference is we have Ed Warriner.

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

+7 HS
Denster's picture

COMPLETELY different situation... if for nothing else than because there's actually a sound scheme.

"It's a double-barreled pistol that fires hard work and victory..."

+2 HS
buckeyeblur5's picture

What was unsound about Michigan's schemes last year?

FitzBuck's picture

Over complicated blocking schemes.  Giving help to a LT in the form of lining up a TE next to him and taking away help from other lineman that need it.  In short lots of stuff that made a bad situation worse.  There is a good article on the evaluation of Lewan for the NFL draft that brings up parts of the scheme that makes evaluating him tuff and in the process points out parts of the scheme that hurt the line performance.   

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+1 HS
Denster's picture

"It's a double-barreled pistol that fires hard work and victory..."

Squirrel Master's picture

I would put that on game plan that puts a young Oline into a bad position in many ways. The way Gardner played, a young Oline would struggle with a scramble passing game and zero production from the running backs.

I believe Eze and Braxton will make it easier on the Oline. The way this offense works it puts linemen in good positions by keeping the defenders on their heals. Plus I trust in Ed Warriner than whomever is coaching the Oline at UM!


I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

d5k's picture

According to various reports, Meyer told D. Knox during the recruiting closing that he needs him to start specifically at left guard so I think it is highly likely he is involved in that competition come fall.  Jamarco Jones could compete at RT as well as the backup tackle spot.  The other freshmen seem likely to redshirt.

Having 2 solid starters coming out of spring is probably as good as where we were in spring of 2012 after losing 3 long term starters.

Squirrel Master's picture

I think a rookie like Knox or Jones will compete and provide some unreal talent with what is already there. My money is on Knox.

Like Ross says, its not as dire as other situations. This offense can hum against any team. It is dependent on if the defense can get stops to allow the offense to build a comfortable lead to really open up the playbook. If the defense gets stops, this offense will find a way to put up points. Even if Braxton and one of the speed demons has to do it without an Oline. Although I trust Ed Warriner to get the oline set in time.

I am curious, will Cardale run the 2 pt conversion like Kenny did last year? That might be quite a sight.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

DBell8's picture

We just signed Lindsay apparently so there is 3 spots officially taken!

HotSauceCommittee's picture

Seriously, source? Sweet if true.

HotSauceCommittee's picture

Nevermind, just popped up on homepage. Nice.

-1 HS
pdan46's picture

The signing of Lindsay makes this a much better situation.  If he can start at OC with Boren backing him up, they can shift Price to LG.  Among Price, Lisle, Farris, Hale, Underwood, Knox and J. Jones we should emerge with a solid 2 deep at LG and RG.  Trout, Lisle, J. Jones and Taylor should provide depth at both OT positions.  M. Jones should provide depth at Center as well as either Guard position.  Hopefully, we play a lot of these guys early on; settle on the best five to start and the next best five to provide depth with some experience.  The key will be keeping Miller upright and unhurt for the first few games until the starting five emerge and gain cohesion.  Great to have Warriner to make all of this happen!

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Excellent point 46 - CL will be a huge addition. Ed W and UFM collective brain trust is so much smarter than TTUN's

PoKeY21's picture

This new offensive package they are working on kind if makes me nervous. The QB will now be forced to make 2 reads. It does keep the D more honest, but at what cost? I feel 2 reads with 3 options from 1 play is asking for a turnover. 

Also I think this will force the Oline to hold their blocks longer, which hasnt had the time to gel or work together yet. I may be wrong though. The coaches might just be expecting the Oline to just go the way the RB goes and hope the D over pursues. 

"It was a woman who drove me to drink, come to think of it I never did hang around to thank her for that"

cw823's picture

Miller seems capable of making the DE reads, it's the secondary reads where he seems illiterate.  I don't see us cramming Elliot "Tressel style" every game so I think in the end we'll be fine.

-1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Personally, I would like to see the Spring Game go back to the first team defense versus first team offense, and so on.  Pencil in your starters based on spring practice and let them play together.  Repetition with each other and allowing them to start to gel and mesh is pretty important, I would say.  Though, I NEVER played O-line...

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!