After rushing for 314 yards on 7.7 yards per carry against Indiana, Ryan Day has reason to be excited about the status of a rebuilt rushing attack that never quite got off the ground last season with a pure pocket passer at the helm.
The Buckeyes are averaging 6.1 yards per carry through three games – against pretty meh competition to be fair – after averaging just 4.2 yards per carry in 2018.
By extension, J.K. Dobbins looks to be back on track posting 7.1 yards a pop after a lackluster 4.6 average last season.
There are a host of reasons for the running game's resurgence including having a dual-threat quarterback defenses must respect on the run and an offensive line that has largely dominated the line of scrimmage.
That said, my sense has been that while Day's playcalling suggests confidence in the entirety of the offensive line, he seems to lean heavily toward the left side as his clear-cut best option with the middle of the line next and then the right side as his third option.
I guess maybe the Indiana defensive coaches saw the right side as the least-dominant section of Ohio State's line although Day wouldn't give an inch when asked that in yesterday's press conference.
Q. I was re-watching the game, and Indiana’s defensive coaches told the FOX broadcasting crew that they wanted to attack the right side of your offensive line. What do you make of those comments and did you notice that during the game they were trying to attack the right side of your offensive line?
RYAN DAY: I didn’t. You know, I think Brandon Bowen and Wyatt Davis are two of the better linemen in the country, so it’s not something really I even noticed all that much during the game. I think they did bring when we were into the boundary on that side some corner blitz a few times, but for the most part they were lining up in their defense and playing their defense.
I think any time there’s somebody in there who’s untested like Brandon, hasn’t really played a bunch of tackle, they want to find out what you’re made of, and Wyatt is getting more and more film out there for people to look at, but I think they’re answering the test.
Day could absolutely view Bowen and Davis as two of the better linemen in the country but in watching the tape of Ohio State's most effective runs this season, the eye test says left tackle Thayer Munford, left guard Jonah Jackson and center Josh Myers have been doing the heaviest lifting.
As our own Kyle Jones noted in his most recent Film Study, Munford and Jackson have developed a pretty nice chemistry in the run game. I've also been really impressed with Myers' ability to get to the second level and wipe out a linebacker or defensive back helping to spring some big gainers.
The run above is maybe the single greatest example of both Munford (75) and Jackson's (73) cohesion and Myers' (71) ability to quickly erase a second-level tackler but it certainly not the only example so far this season.
Dobbins destroyed Indiana with 193 yards on just 22 carries and most of his gashes came as on plays to the left side.
Just look at the work Munford, Jackson and Myers put in on Dobbins' 56-yard dash early in the second quarter. And on Dobbins' 26-yard touchdown later in the quarter, Munford again provides a seal block while Myers sprints to nearly the left sideline to eliminate a would-be tackler. (Also, note Davis getting from his right guard spot to the left hash to erase another Hoosier in space.)
Against the Bearcats it was more of the same as Dobbins went for 141 yards on 8.3 per carry with his most effective bursts going left.
His 24-yarder early in the second quarter was sprung in part by a Munford block and his 60-yard touchdown gallop midway through the quarter saw Myers and Munford create a lane at the line of scrimmage while Jackson took out a linebacker at the second level.
The point of this article is not suggest Davis and Bowen aren't doing their jobs or that Day doesn't have confidence in the pair to open running lanes. Both of these guys earned their starting spots and my guess is while they're fine now, they'll only get better with increased reps considering Davis is a first-year starter and Bowen is coming back from a devastating injury.
Instead, the point here is to call out that no matter what is said, the tape indicates Ohio State favoring the left side and for good reason as the results have been pretty much spectacular behind Munford, Jackson and Myers.
Knowing this is on film and the Hoosiers coaches appeared to view Davis and Bowen as the least dominant guys up front, it will be interesting to see if Day adjusts his playcalling at all to give the appearance of more balance and/or to break what looks like a tendency as upcoming opponents like Nebraska, Michigan State and Wisconsin collect tape. Or maybe he'll just dare teams to stop it. Or maybe I'm crazy and he's running right just as much as left even if the success metrics may not be the same.
I know I will be interested to see how the run game schemes to attack Miami this weekend knowing Day can call pretty much anything he wants and the plays will gain yards.