Five Offensive Scheme Questions for Fall Camp

By Ross Fulton on August 5, 2014 at 1:45p
Ohio State will focus on rebuilding the offensive line.
27 Comments

The 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes open fall camp with more questions then answers on offense. Beyond having Braxton Miller at quarterback, Urban Meyer and Tom Herman face questions at nearly every position.

And this position uncertainty results in schematic uncertainty. Below are five questions that fall camp must begin to address.

What is the Offense's Core?

For the last two years the Buckeyes offense had a simple formula. When in doubt, rely upon inside zone and power runs for Carlos Hyde and lead plays for Miller.

Hyde is now in the NFL. And although the Buckeyes will undoubtedly rely upon Miller's legs in crunch time, all parties want to reduce the experienced senior's exposure to hits running the football.

So the question becomes – what is the basis for the Buckeye offense? Does it remain the inside run game? Or will the offense become more reliant on Miller's arm? 

In many ways the tactical questions below will answer this strategic issue.

How Much does Ohio State Use Packaged Plays?

One early prediction is that inside zone and power will remain the bread and butter of Meyer's offense, as it always has. But the Buckeyes will frequently utilize packaged plays off those inside runs.

Packaged plays are one of the hottest concepts in college football. They are an outgrowth of the zone read concept. As with read plays, the quarterback watches a pre-determined defender post-snap. But instead of keeping to run, the quarterback will either give on the run play or throw a quick passing route.

Packaged hitch

Packaged plays were a growing part of the Buckeyes' arsenal last season. Meyer extolled the concept this spring and indicated Ohio State will utilize more complicated run/pass concepts.

Fall practice will indicate whether the Buckeyes are fully embracing the packaged play. A successful use of this concept will reduce Miller's carries off reads and open the quick passing game. 

How does the H Receiver Position Develop?

Meyer and Herman will also likely utilize more variety in who carries the football. But such versatility depends upon the development of the H-position.

When Meyer Arrived at Ohio State, focus was upon the so-called Percy position, named after Percy Harvin. Harvin did a little of everything for Meyer at Florida, including frequently motioning into the backfield for inside-run plays.

But the H position, as it is officially called, has not filled the same role with Meyer's Buckeye offenses. Corey Brown most frequently played the position, but his primary role was as a possession receiver. At other times, Meyer utilized a second tight end or another blocker. 

But this may be the year that the H-receiver fills a more versatile role. Led by a bigger Dontre Wilson, Meyer has the players who can potentially function as both a receiving and running threat. Look for Wilson and others to receive carries, particularly outside the tackles. This will further lighten Miller's running load, as he has functioned as the Buckeyes' primary outside run threat.

what of the intermediate Passing Game?

Ultimately, Miller likely holds his own key to reducing his running attempts – through an increased efficiency in the passing game. Although Miller and the Ohio State passing game has gradually progressed in Meyer's first two years, it has remained too inconsistent, particularly in crucial contests.

Miller's biggest challenge this year is increasing his consistency with mid-range throws.  CBS Sport's Dane Brugler offered this insight regarding where Miller must improve.

While much improved in areas, Miller needs to continue his development as a passer for some NFL scouts to be sold. His touch and accuracy still run hot/cold with too many fastballs in his arsenal, needing to develop a change-up. Starting with his footwork and base, Miller needs to continue and tweak his mechanics and improve his ball placement, something that continues to be a work-in-progress . . . .

Miller is a gifted athlete and exciting in the open field with dynamic speed, but as a senior, scouts want to see improved touch. He takes a lot of deep shots, but needs to develop a better feel in the intermediary passing game and not rush his process or escape the pocket before necessary. 

Of course, as Brugler recognizes, Miller needs help from his receiving corps. This task is made harder with the loss of the Buckeyes' only consistent intermediate target in Brown. Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman must demonstrate they can be consistent targets in the 10-15 yard range.

Despite this, Ohio State is potentially deeper at wide receiver. And with players such as Wilson, Miller now has targets that can turn short passes off constraint plays and gain yards after the catch. 

Traditionally, Meyer's preference is to work the football to the inside receivers on option and follow-pivot routes like in snag, providing those receivers the football in space to make plays.

 But all too often last year – whether by design or by Miller's decision-making – the Buckeyes became too reliant upon throwing the ball down field. This resulted in an inefficient passing game that too frequently left the Ohio State offense behind schedule. 

The burden falls on Miller to lead inexperienced wide receivers and consistently work the intermediate passing game. Taking that step would not only result in a more diversified Buckeye offense, but also take pressure off Miller in the run game. 

The Offensive Line's Development

Concededly, this is not a scheme issue. But it is the biggest question mark and will determine how far the Buckeyes' offense goes this fall.

Although the Buckeyes must replace four starters, in reality left guard may be the only remaining open competition. Getting center Chad Lindsay to transfer from Alabama may have been Meyer's biggest off-season recruitment, solidifying the line's interior. Daryl Baldwin is seemingly fairly secure at right tackle. That leaves Antonio Underwood, Chase Farris, Joel Hale, and Billy Price, among others, to battle for the left guard spot. 

Nonetheless, all eyes will be on the offensive line this August to determine whether Meyer and Ed Warriner can adequately replace a unit that was the Buckeyes' strongest last fall. Whether a new offensive line can gel may determine whether the Buckeyes can match or exceed last year's offensive output. 

27 Comments

Comments

tussey's picture

Great write up! Thanks Ross!

+1 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

Ross, Assuming a bigger WR like Thomas or Jeff Green earns some playing time in summer camp, how do you see them being utilized in Urban's offense?

Buck_YES's picture

Thanks Ross,

This may be a dumb question…But I'll ask it anyway.  In the first "Packaged Play" gif.  How is that not a penalty for ineligible receiver down field? It looks to me like half of our O-line is 4 yds down field when Brax throws the ball.

Maybe I'm missing something...

+3 HS
unknownmusketeer's picture

I wondered the exact same thing. It seems that the play would have been successful as either a run or pass.

sharks's picture

Linemen are allowed three yards past the neutral zone, iirc

The postgame show is brought to you by... Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it...

+1 HS
Buck_YES's picture

Thanks for the clarification.

Zimmy07's picture

For some reason I thought it was 5 yards, but you are correct (rule 7, article 10) = 3 yards past the neutral zone.  The neutral zone is not really given an exact description in the rule book, IMO.

BuckeyeSouth's picture

I read elsewhere (on 11W, I believe) that the ineligible receiver down field penalty is given a lot more leniency in college so it doesn't get called as much.  I think that was even some of the complaints from pro-style teams who play against spread teams claiming they get an unfair advantage.

Embrace it.

+1 HS
rdubs's picture

Yep this has definitely been mentioned various places.  I remember seeing one video where an 8 yard curl route was practically a screen pass given how far down field a couple of the linemen were.

Killer nuts's picture

Is it just me or does the left DE in the first gif (number 97 for NW) have an opportunity for a kill shot on Braxton if he doesn't pull up? I realize the scheme of the play is to leave him unblocked and I'm sure the threat of Braxton running is why he pulls up but I worry that increasingly using packaged plays to pass off the read option could result in some negative yardage if Braxton doesn't get the ball out quickly and Defensive Ends stop respecting his running

+1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

I don't think a DE is EVER going to be able to discount his ability to run the ball, even if he is running the ball less. In that play, he pulls up exactly for the reason you said, because he's not certain that Braxton is passing the ball. If he keeps hard charging, Braxton most likely takes off, and right into the area he just abandoned.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

+1 HS
bakerjon's picture

I still get giddy when I see Ross' articles. Great stuff Mr. Fulton. 

"He Good!"
"Good and terrible..."

QBYBuckeye's picture

In the first clip against NW, how many interior linemen were illegally downfield?  Was it 2 or 3?

New York Buckeye

Jpfbuck's picture

the rule in both college and the nfl is that linemen are allowed 3 yards down field on any pass play hence not called, also due to the quick nature of the play, even when many of them may have been 4 or even 5 yards downfield, it wont get called as the refs are looking elsewhere. Kelly at Oregon is credited with much of this kind of plays development and for taking advantage of this rule interpretation.

it does make it very tough on a defense when you read play action and see the linemen come up field, only to see the ball thrown a second later on a quick dig route.

+2 HS
QBYBuckeye's picture

In other words, if you do it quickly enough, the odds are you can get away with this particular penalty most of the time.

New York Buckeye

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Great write up. 

I could dork out in this type of stuff all day. I love the chess match going on within a game. 

+1 HS
d5k's picture

Ross,

It seemed that in the last 2 games in particular we were unable to use packaged plays with the same success that we had earlier in the year.  Is the counter to the counters that we saw in those games (namely sitting on the short routes) utilizing more of an intermediate passing game or is it a more complex packaged play arsenal that you referenced?

+1 HS
d5k's picture

There's a typo in the O-line section at the end with Chase instead of Chad Farris.

Here and in a couple other places I have seen the incoming freshmen omitted from the LG competition.  Is that inside info about where the competition stands or am I reading too far into it?

-1 HS
sk4664's picture

~~When in doubt, rely upon inside zone and power runs for Carlos Hyde and lead plays for Miller.

Couldn't disagree with you more!  If we truly believed in that philosophy, we would have been in the championship game last year...With Hyde averaging 7+ yards against MSU, and the game is on the line...we don't give him the ball on 3rd AND 4th down....Happened against Clemson too.....that isn't "when in doubt, power football"!!!  Personally the Mensu had a brain freeze and cost us the chance to play in the championship!  Yes, I know, I know.....let it go..let it go!!!

+1 HS
robobuck's picture

I think really smart people tend to overthink things on occasion, a la Vizzini during his duel with the man in black. I believe this what happened. The answer was right in front of him in the form of a 230 pound manbeast but he failed to see it.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

whiskeyjuice's picture

It was mentioned in this years spring game that Urb and Herman want to throw the ball %78 of the time this season.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

d5k's picture

Pretty sure that was a made up number and referring to the spring game itself.

+1 HS
ToetotheFace's picture

lol that isn't happening and like the guy before me said is some made up number that was referring to the spring game. The fact is that Urban has never had an offense pass more than run(look it up on CF reference), and his best offenses consistently averaged 8-20 more run plays than pass plays. 

I don't get why people always harp against Urban's system, It would be incredibly stupid to go away from a system that has created some of the best offenses in recent years, and helped win a title and dominate a conference known for NFL talent on defense.

okiebuck's picture

Good article Ross. I'm predicting a big year for Jeff Heuerman; he really should become Braxton's security blanket when he's under pressure, instead of relying on his legs.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

+1 HS
rosenbuck's picture

Wow, that second TD run by Harvin was impressive.  Man I hope we get to see some of that with Dontre or Samuel.

+1 HS
ToetotheFace's picture

Are we ever going to see that killer TE option Urban ran with Aaron Hernandez at Florida? Heuerman is athletic and powerful enough that I think he could be effective on with these type of plays, and it would add another wrinkle that can get three weapons moving in space(QB+RB+TE).

Horvath22's picture

Great job, as usual, Ross.