Buckeye Offense Moving Toward More Balance Under Herman

By Michael Citro on April 27, 2014 at 8:15a

It is well known that some of the wisest sage advice can be found in 80s movies.

In June of 1984, a younger version of me graduated from high school. Later that month, I saw a film at the good old Cinema 4 in Heath, Ohio, which taught me three very valuable basic life lessons that I still try to apply today.

“Focus power. Remember balance. Make good fight.”

These were the words of Kesuke Miyagi to Daniel LaRusso during the All Valley Karate Tournament in the 1984 classic, The Karate Kid. As we all know, LaRusso took those lessons to heart and won the whole darn tournament against the more seasoned (and cheat-y) kids from the Cobra Kai dojo.

Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman has probably seen The Karate Kid, because his offense in two seasons with the Buckeyes is working its way toward balance.

In fairness, the offense is already pretty balanced for a college team. But herein we’ll look at the way the offense is trending in Herman’s first two seasons in Columbus, as his quarterback, Braxton Miller, matures and becomes more entrenched in the philosophy.

In 2012, Miller took a step forward as a quarterback (58.3% completions, 140.5 efficiency rating). But the Buckeyes still weren’t a great passing team.

Figuring in passing yards and sack yards allowed, Ohio State picked up 1,988 yards on passing attempts. Passing accounted for 35.5% of the Buckeyes’ offensive yards in 2012, and also garnered the same percentage of the team’s first downs (discounting first down via penalty).

So the running game was utilized 64.5% of the time in Herman’s first season. But rushing accounted for only 59.4% of Ohio State’s offensive yardage gained, meaning the passing game was responsible for more big plays (hi, Devin Smith!), despite fewer attempts.

In 2013, Miller was even more efficient (63.5%, 158.1 rating), and backup Kenny Guiton was also very good (68.8%, 165.2) while the OSU starter was sidelined with injury.

The Buckeyes still ran the ball more often than passing, but the percentages dropped from 64.5 rush-35.5 pass to 62-38. The Buckeyes gained first downs on rushing plays 63.2% of the time and passed for a fresh set of downs 36.8% of the time.

This is clearly the direction Mr. Miyagi would favor.

The percentages of the yards evened out more in 2013 as well. Ohio State gained 61.5% of its yards rushing last season, with 38.5% coming via pass. So the gap between percentage of attempts vs. percentage of yards was almost even in 2013.

The best part of 2013’s slight move toward absolute run-pass parity is that the offense improved by leaps and bounds. The Buckeyes went from 2,907 rushing yards in 2012 to 4,321 last year. Net passing yards increased from 1,988 to 2,710. Non-penalty first downs grew from 242 to 342.

And scoring improved by eight points per game.

Ohio State’s offense will probably continue to trend toward absolute balance. It’s easy to drift away from a balanced attack when you’ve got a battering ram like Carlos Hyde running behind a veteran group of road graders on the offensive line.

Hyde and four fifths of that line are gone. The Buckeyes should still be fine with running back talent, although I can’t expect anyone on the current roster to make me forget about El Guapo. He was a special talent and that will likely become more apparent as we move through the non-conference schedule.

The offensive line will be anchored by a junior, and feature four new starters.

It’s quite possible the Buckeyes will need to move more toward balance in order to keep the defense more off-balance if they are to continue trending upward in yards and points.

That balance will help offset the loss of graduating talent — and it will be just what Mr. Miyagi ordered.

Then Herman will just have to focus power and make good fight.

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