GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tim Beck knew the questions were coming. Tucked away in a corner of a locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium, he stood up straight and took the heat from reporters after the group he helps coach produced next to nothing in Ohio State's stunning 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
“It's all of it. It's personnel, it's everything. It all ties into guys when you're running an offense, sometimes there are tendencies,” Beck said. “That just happens. It's natural. Every football team has that type of stuff. Sometimes that takes place, personally.”
Fans flamed Beck after Ohio State's 17-14 loss to Michigan State last season that blew another chance at a Big Ten and national title. It happened again this year when the Buckeyes lost 24-21 to Penn State but the Buckeyes still earned their way to the College Football Playoff.
But everything ferociously came tumbling down against Clemson, when it was clear early on that the offense was not suited to score enough points to keep pace. The fact is, that was the case all season — the Tigers just exposed it even further.
“I think we got to create an identity of what we want to be,” Beck said.
It is odd that the 2016 season is over and the Buckeyes are still trying to create an identity on offense. Urban Meyer wants to see a power rushing attack set the ground work for play-action passing down the field. For that to happen, there must be a strong runner at tailback and an offensive line that can move people on the interior. Ohio State did nothing of the sort against Clemson, as the big guys up front were consistently outclassed.
Everything fell on J.T. Barrett's shoulders, who was often running for his life from the likes of Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins and others. When he had chances to make a play, his receivers weren't open, dropped passes, or he flat out missed them. Barrett has appeared hesitant all season. He did last year too even after winning the starting job back. As his position coach, that falls on Beck. The 2014 season seems like eons ago.
“As for myself, because that's all I can really talk about, I thought I worked really hard and prepped. Thought I had J.T. ready to go against a difficult defense,” Beck said. “I thought he played hard, he played tough. He made some mistakes as kids can do.”
“We didn't play a very good game all the way around offensively and I'm a big part of that. I'm one of the leaders of the offense. With that being said, bullets get shot at me, I gotta do a better job. That's kinda where it is. I understand that.”– Tim Beck
All season, a terrific defense masked the issues in playcalling and the offenses inability to do much on its own to generate points. Ohio State scored, sure, but the passing game never got to where it needed to be.
“We will become a good passing team, we will,” Meyer said. “Next year.”
He said the same thing ahead of this past offseason. Nothing changed with the structure for the minds that call the plays, however, and a much worse result transpired as the Buckeyes closed their season. Meyer said he plans to take a "hard look" at his coaching staff as a whole, before noting there were some great performances in 2016 like during Ohio State's 45-24 win at Oklahoma and the overtime victory at Wisconsin.
“But anytime you struggle a little bit, you always take a hard look,” Meyer said.
The play calling process needs a change. Does that mean coordinator Ed Warinner is let go? Or Beck? Or both? Who knows. Only Meyer does. But while the men leading the charge were not great against Clemson, the guys on the field rarely executed themselves.
“On offense, I truly believe that we got the best looks we could, plays,” Barrett said. “I thought we had good plays. We just didn't execute those plays and that's what happens.”
“It's everybody,” Beck said. “J.T. missed a throw. It's protection, it's a receiver, it's inconsistent. It seems at times we don't, everybody just is inconsistent. Not performing at the level it needs to be.
“When it does, it's pretty good. You've seen that. It's a variety of factors that take place with that. Just things that we have to sit and evaluate, to be able to sit down and stay, where do we go from here? What do we need to change? How do we change it? And stay within the realm of the offense that's in here.”
These are questions Meyer must answer quickly. Beck said it is up to his boss to decide if he returns to Columbus next season, yet feels confident he coached better in 2016 than in 2015.
“I just think I understood it, was able to see things and help in our offense and areas that we're able to do,” Beck said. “We didn't play a very good game all the way around offensively and I'm a big part of that. I'm one of the leaders of the offense. With that being said, bullets get shot at me, I gotta do a better job. That's kinda where it is. I understand that.”
Warinner didn't hang around long in the locker room after the loss to speak with reporters. Beck faced the cameras and microphones and gave his side of the story. Meyer claims he will evaluate and make changes, vowing the Buckeyes won't look like this again. Drastic measures are needed after the first shutout in his career.
“Ohio State is not used to this. I'm not used to this, and we will not get used to this,” Meyer said. “That's not going to happen again. So we'll get things worked out.”
Will they? That remains to be seen. But alumni, former players and everyone in between are deservedly upset with the grave inefficiencies on offense.
“I'm going to take a hard look at some things when we get back,” Meyer said.
The clock is ticking.