Despite Its Youth, Ohio State Not Surprised With Offensive Success

By Tim Shoemaker on October 15, 2014 at 10:10 am
Dontre Wilson is one of Ohio State's young playmakers

Tom Herman looked down at the podium and hesitated slightly before answering the question.

Ohio State's co-offensive coordinator had just been reminded the 13th-ranked Buckeyes have played without two of their captains this year due to injury (Braxton Miller and Jeff Heuerman) and are starting an array of new faces on offense, yet somehow they still rank near the top of the Big Ten in nearly every offensive category.

Is that surprising?

"I don't know that surprised is the right word. I don't think anytime you do well offensively you say that the emotion is surprise," Herman said Monday. "I think you expect to do well offensively no matter what the circumstances are, but I'm pleased with the progress we've made with a lot of the inexperienced guys we do have and happy with the trajectory that we're on."

The numbers are kind of staggering.

Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in total offense at 523.6 yards per game. The Buckeyes' 44.6 points per game are second in the Big Ten and fifth in the country. And redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett ranks third in all of college football in passing efficiency.

Still, though, it's not surprising to the Ohio State coaches.

"As long as there's good quality players to work with, which you should always have at Ohio State, it's up to the offensive staff to develop the plan around those players," head coach Urban Meyer said. "I think our guys have done a really good job."

Without question, the development of Ohio State's young skill players have been key to the offense's success this year.

Players like H-backs Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel and wide receiver Michael Thomas have all had expanded roles in this year's offense and all have thrived. The offensive line — which had to replace four starters from last year's group — has played well since the Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6.

But perhaps most important has been the play of Barrett, who was dealt with the near-impossible task of filling in for Miller — the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

"Braxton gave us the 'Wow' factor and would take one at any time. You saw a couple times last year 60 yards, 70 yards," Meyer said. "J.T., that's not really his game. He's a move the chain quarterback and that's fine. We have to get those big plays elsewhere and we kind of are."

Ohio State's balance has been huge in its success this year, too.

The Buckeyes were No. 1 in the Big Ten in rushing offense a year ago, but ranked only eighth in passing. This year, however, they are fifth in rushing and third in passing.

The loss of Miller and running back Carlos Hyde has allowed for a more balanced attack from Ohio State's bevy of young playmakers.

"I knew through the offseason that we were gonna be powerful, we were gonna have a lot of weapons and we were gonna have a chance to put a lot of points on the board just because of everything that we've done in the offseason and the way that we looked," said senior wide receiver Evan Spencer, one of the few veterans on offense. "I knew that it probably may take us a while to start clicking like we are now, but I'm glad that it is."

But while Ohio State's coaches and players don't appear to be surprised by the success of its youthful offense, they certainly aren't satisfied. At least not yet anyway.

"I don't know that you're happy in this business but, yeah, I guess you could say I'm happy with where we're at," Herman said. "But, again, understanding that there are still things that are yards that we've left out there, whether it be from the technique issues that I was talking about, my stubbornness to call a play into the front that might not be conducive to a specific play.

"I think we can get better, but I'm happy with where we are at now understanding — me understanding and you understanding — that the offense understands that it needs to improve as the season goes on."

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