All signs point to the 2013 Ohio State Offense being one of the deadliest in recent memory. It’s the squad’s second year under Urban Meyer’s system (and you know what he does in year two), the group is led by a legit Heisman Trophy favorite in Braxton Miller and an incoming freshman class brings more of the speed and versatility that Meyer so desperately craves.
If all goes as planned, the Scarlet and Gray offense might set a few scoreboards on fire. So let's take a look at the arsonists.
Braxton Miller. Nuff said. No. 5 is poised and ready for a season that could be something special. Here’s what he had to say last month at B1G Media Days:
“I feel a lot more confident than what I was last year. With that big ole' playbook, we had the verbiage and things like that. Knowing how I was last year, it just changes my mindset. It's like, 'Dang, I know what I'm actually doing this year.' And it can change up the whole offensive gameplan. The plays are in my mind, and I (won't) second-guess myself.”
This is coming from a player who in his “less confident” year, led his team to a 12-0 mark, tallied a school record 3,310 yards of total offense, finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting, won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football (awarded to the B1G’s MVP) and was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien National Award as well as the Manning Award. Wow. Would hate to see what Miller can do with a little more swagger out there.
Much is expected out of Braxton, and he seems up to the challenge. However, if the unthinkable happens and Miller is injured, Meyer has a more than adequate backup in senior quarterback, Kenny Guiton. Show ‘em Kenny.
The hogmollies up front look to be an intimidating group. Returning are starting seniors Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall. The right tackle spot is the only one still up for grabs, though it seems sophomore Taylor Decker has solidified that spot as of yesterday.
Gone are the days of 700 pound Jim Bollman linemen. Replaced with a leaner, meaner operation drawn up by strength coach Mickey Marotti and dietician Sarah Wick. The combination of a rigorous strength training program coupled with an extremely regimented intake allowed the line to lose 150 lbs of fat last season. The purge made them a quicker, stamina-rich group that outscored their opponents 222-147 in second halves and overtimes last year.
The unit will be led by an incredible coach in Ed Warinner who has worked with four separate offenses that led the nation in rushing. While Warinner has the majority of his line returning, depth could be a concern. Coach Meyer went so far as to say “The don’t look Ohio Stateish. We’re going to have to hang in there and not have guys get hurt. We have depth issues.”
With the three game suspension of Carlos Hyde, a deep stable of running backs will have to step up to fill the void. According to Meyer “there’s no miss in (the) running back group” going on to state that the depth is huge. Leading that charge will be senior Jordan Hall. Reports out of camp state that Hall will probably be the No. 1 guy heading into the first game against Buffalo. That title comes as no surprise – Hall was the starter last season before a rash of injuries cut his year short.
Behind him are an embarrassment of riches in Rod Smith who looked downright impressive at times, rushing for 215 yards on 32 carries with 2 TDs. Next up is Bri’onte Dunn. The big back out of Canton will be kicking off his sophomore campaign following a 25 carry, 133 yard and and 2 TD outing in 2012.
Redshirt freshman Warren Ball is also in the mix. Ball missed the entire 2012 season with a knee injury, but has impressed out of the gate in 2013. Running Backs Coach, Stan Drayton, has called Ball the best open field runner on the team. Look for him to get a share of the carries in the first three contests.
Finally, highly touted incoming freshmen, Ezekial Elliott and burner Dontre Wilson round out the group. Don’t worry we’re not done talking about Wilson just yet.
Just two seasons removed from the “clown show” of 2011, the team’s top three receivers look to be Corey “Philly” Brown, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer. Brown led the team in receiving yards with 669 and 3 TDS tacking on 2 more in the punt return game and 1 rushing.
Devin Smith put together a 30 reception, 618 yards and 6 TD season in 2012 and will look to build on that momentum in 2013. Meanwhile Evan Spencer has been earning a lot of praise from Wide Receivers Coach, Zach Smith and Meyer who both stated the junior looks like a different player this season.
Behind those three will be senior Chris Fields, sophomore Michael Thomas, and incoming freshman Jalin Marshall who Smith said has shown flashes of greatness. All-in-all this group looks to be much more comfortable and improved in year 2 of Meyer’s system.
Roughly four months ago Coach Meyer appeared on ESPN’s College Football Live Spring Bus Tour. During that interview, Meyer called this year’s tight end group, “the best (he’s) ever had.” Expectations are high with quotes like that from the head man, but junior, Jeff Heuerman and sophomore, Nick Vannett appear up to the challenge. Meyer said he plans to use both on the field in different packages to get the best players in the rotation. Vannett and Heuerman have both shown they can block and receive (Vannett tallied 9 receptions for 123 yards last season, while Heuerman racked up 8 receptions for 94 yards and 1 TD.
With versatile weapons like Heuerman and Vannett, another wrinkle is added to Tom Herman’s offense.
Last but certainly not least are the athletes on the squad. There are a few players who Meyer and Herman will try to get creative with. Right now, it looks like those individuals will be Jordan Hall, Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson.
Hall was the first on Meyer’s Buckeye squad to draw (possibly too early?) comparisons to Percy Harvin. Meyer has said he wants to utilize Hall in the H-back role, but as aforementioned, injuries have limited Hall’s playing time.
Coming in are two incredibly speedy freshmen in Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson. Marshall, a Rivals four star, was ranked the No. 1 athlete in the state of Ohio and played QB/RB for his Middletown H.S.
Then there's Wilson who appears to be the young phenom everyone is talking about at camp. QB Miller was the first to heap praise on the Texas native, stating:
“I feel like he better be starting this year. He can run any route, he can come in the backfield and take a handoff. … He can catch the ball and he bolts like a little fish running from the sharks or something. He's fast man. I'm glad to have him on my team.”
Meyer tried to curtail the hype during B1G Media Days, saying “We’ve got to slow down on Dontre,” but that was before Meyer had the chance to see him play on the practice field. Since Meyer has jumped on the praise train as well. The young gun was one of the first freshman to have his black stripe removed. In addition, when asked if Wilson gives the offense something it didn’t have last year, Meyer simply said, “Oh my gosh yes.” Urban will look to use Wilson as a running back, WR and punt returner. According to Wilson, he ran a 4.33, 40 at Ohio State. If that is true…look out.
So there you have it, your 2013 Buckeye offense in a nutshell. If they're half as explosive as they look on paper, this season could be something special.