Urban Meyer Optimistic But Realistic About Progress in Ohio State Passing Game

By James Grega on October 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm
Urban Meyer

Since looking out of sorts in a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 9, Ohio State's offense has shown significant improvement over its last three games. 

Much of, or at least part of, that improvement has to be attributed to the opponents the Buckeyes have played during those three games. Army, UNLV and Rutgers have a combined record of 6-8 this season with zero wins against Power 5 opponents and a 2-1 record against FCS teams. 

Against lesser opponents, Ohio State has taken the opportunity to work on its passing game that looked anemic against the Sooners. Starting quarterback J.T. Barrett is averaging 251.3 pass yards per game since the loss and has yet to turn the ball over in that span. 

Be that as it may, head coach Urban Meyer said Monday that he knows Ohio State still has to prove it can keep up the aerial assault against better competition. 

"The good thing about this team and coaching staff, you're not walking around with blinders on," Meyer said. "We're optimistic and we're pleased with the progress, but we're also realistic."

One particular player who has stood out in Ohio State's improved passing attack is Johnnie Dixon, who leads the Buckeyes in touchdown receptions with four. 

Two of his touchdown catches have come on what appear to be the same play, a crossing route in which Dixon finds the hole in the zone and sits, allowing Barrett to make an easy completion. 

Johnnie Dixon

That play concept and many others have come from quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day, according to Meyer. 

"Ryan Day brought us that whole package to us. It's been dynamic. The big hits we had against Indiana were the same package. So now about seven, eight different concepts off of that," Meyer said. "He's made – a lot of times they get questioned about when you hire a coach, do you let them enhance your offense, Ryan Day enhanced our offense. It's been very successful."

As the Big Ten season rolls on, Ohio State's competition, at least on paper, appears to get tougher each week. Maryland rolls into Columbus on Saturday with a 3-1 overall record, having held three of its four opponents under 100 rushing yards, which could encourage the Buckeyes to once again air it out a bit more than usual.

Meyer said he expects a stiffer defensive challenge when the Terps, coached by former Meyer assistant D.J. Durkin, come to Columbus on Saturday, citing Maryland's victories over both Texas and Minnesota on the road. 

"(Maryland's) a typical, extremely well-coached team, where the guys go as hard as they possibly can," Meyer said. "Videotape is the great motivator. And this (team), they went down to Austin, Texas, and then they beat Minnesota up at Minnesota."

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