New Offense, Same Day
Back in late December, when I learned Mississippi State offered its head coach position to Ohio State offensive coordinator Ryan Day, I got nervous. Then I learned the Tennessee Titans offered him a job as offensive coordinator and got REALLY nervous. He turned both of those down, but what if that “Dream Job” offer came along? I did not want to see him leave because as the 2017 season progressed, and Day implemented more and more packages to the passing game, I saw a guy who was moving the program forward. Much of what you saw came from Chip Kelly’s playbook, who Day coached under in the NFL in Philadelphia and San Francisco. His packages and play calling took advantage of the Buckeyes’ speed and athleticism at receiver. Although J.T. Barrett still had his troubles with being consistently accurate, Day made him a better quarterback. When Barrett would begin to fall back into bad habits, Day’s coaching would bring him out of them. I loved what I saw from Day. When Dwayne Haskins replaced Barrett in the Michigan game, I saw what a quarterback with a big, accurate arm could do in his passing concepts. I was very excited at the prospect of Day having a quarterback like Haskins to work with for an entire season. Then his phone started ringing. Fortunately Day’s “Dream Job”, for now, at least, is being the offensive coordinator at Ohio State.
Day’s biggest problem in running the Ohio State offense this year is there is only one football allowed on the field. The Buckeyes have lots of weapons. Fast, talented weapons. He has a stable of, at least, six wide receivers, two 1,000 yard rushers at running back and the possibility of a glue-fingered tight end, if reports are correct. Unlike 2015 when co-offensive coordinators Ed Warriner and Tim Beck seemed like they were trying to get the ball to everyone at once, I expect Day to easily handle the “problem” of having that much talent at his disposal.
My favorite addition to the passing game last season is the “Mesh” concept. Two inside receivers run shallow crossing routes and an outside receiver runs a curl into the middle of the field. If the middle linebacker chases one of the crossing routes, the curl is open. If the middle linebacker stays put, the quarterback goes to one of the crossing receivers. We first saw it in the opening game of the season when Johnnie Dixon scored on the curl route. Twice against Michigan Haskins hit K.J. Hill for large gains on the crossing route. The Buckeyes had a lot of success with this play last year scoring multiple times; I love watching this play develop. Day is a master at running the same play from multiple formations with different personnel combinations. This is nothing new to football, but Day seems very adept at doing this and disguising what the Buckeyes are going to do.
I’m really hoping new interim receivers coach Brian Hartline is able to take this group to a level Zach Smith couldn’t. If that happens, the combination of Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill at H-back, Terry McLaurin, Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack and Johnnie Dixon at wide receiver, and the arm of Haskins is going to give Day almost carte blanche in the passing game. Campbell, Hill, McLaurin and Dixon are ultra-fast and have the offense the ability to stretch the field like the Buckeyes haven’t seen since Devin Smith a few years ago. Keep in mind Alabama’s Nick Saban felt the arm of Cardale Jones made a huge difference in the offense when he had to face him in the CFP semi-finals. Once you have a quarterback who is very accurate throwing deep, it backs those safeties away from the line of scrimmage and opens up the run game. Zeke Elliot ran wild in the three games Jones started at the end of the 2014 season. Day has a quarterback with a big arm and two 1,000 rushers at his disposal. This is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
We all know what J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber can do. The question is will Day have them doing it together at times this season. Many thought we’d see those two on the field together last year, but it never happened. Because Haskins isn’t the runner Barrett is, you could see both running backs on the field in short yardage situations. My thinking is Day will come up with ways to incorporate a two-back set, but it will not be a huge part of the offense.
The glue-fingered tight end I referred to is true freshman Jeremy Ruckert. The top-rated player at his position for the 2018 recruiting cycle, reportedly has enormous hands. Fellow Buckeye receivers say he catches everything in sight and makes one-handed catches with absolute ease. Meyer has already said he’s going to play. The question is how much. Blocking is a concern for any young tight end, but if he has as incredible hands as his teammates claim, he’s one more weapon for Day to utilize.
So, is it actually going to be a new offense? Not really. It will have a bit of a different look and feel because Day will tailor the offense to fit Haskins’ skill set, which, as we know, is different from J.T. Barrett’s. With all of the off-field issues surrounding Ohio State right now, until I began thinking about this blog, I’d forgotten how excited I am about seeing what Day is going to do with this offense. Oh, yeah, almost forgot, there’s that whole Tate Martell package Day gets to play with as well. 2018 is going to be a lot of fun.
I Hope They’re Right
Nick Bosa has been named to the first team of a couple of preseason All-American teams. That’s no surprise. What I am surprised about is cornerback Damon Arnette being named to Sports Illustrated’s second team.
To say Arnette struggled to cover any receiver with a pulse, in the first half of last season, is an understatement. He was awful. REALLY awful. But, he most certainly improved as the season progressed. He may not have turned into a “shutdown corner”, but he was far from the liability we saw over the first part of 2017. He finished last season with two interceptions and 8 PBU’s (Passes Broken Up).
Do the people at Sports Illustrated think he’s that good? Or is this a product of the recent run of outstanding OSU corners and they think he has that kind of potential? Regardless of their reasons, I hope they’re right.
Five more have had their black stripes removed and are now “officially” Buckeyes. Defensive tackle Taron Vincent, running back Brian Snead and receiver Chris Olave bring the number of true freshman, who have lost their stripe, to six. Walk-ons Kory Curtis, a sophomore quarterback and junior running back Amari Mitchell, also, had their stripes removed in the last week.
TCU’s official colors are purple and white. But, after news broke recently about an injury to one of their best defensive players, I’m sure an awful lot of Horned Frogs are feeling blue these days. Nose tackle Ross Blacklock is expected to miss the entire season due to a torn Achilles he suffered on Tuesday. Blacklock was the Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year and a FWAA Freshman All-American in 2017. Considering their defense returns only five starters, the prospect of playing the Buckeyes without Blacklock is not pleasant. His matchup with OSU center Brady Taylor was one of the few the Frogs figured to have an advantage in their September 15th meeting at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
It Goes On and On And On…
Courtney Smith’s attorney, Julia Leveridge, has released a statement saying her client is “saddened by the vindictive falsehoods her estranged mother is making.” If you recall, Tina Carano, Courtney’s mother, came out in support of ex-son-in-law Zach Smith last week in an article published by Jeff Snook. Leveridge’s statement, also, said “They not only hurt her daughter, but her grandchildren as well.” This is the second time Leveridge has used the Smith kids, in a statement, to make her client look more sympathetic. I’m not impressed. When Leveridge and her client were on the offensive making allegations against Zach Smith and Urban Meyer, I didn’t see them showing concern for the kids. I don’t doubt for a second those kids, like kids in any domestic dispute, are affected by what is going on. But, Leveridge using them in statements is nothing more than a cheap ploy to gain sympathy for her client.
The media and #MeToo movement attacked Urban Meyer for waiting two days to respond to Smith’s allegations. It has taken Courtney Smith a solid week to respond to her mother’s statements in Snook’s article. But, you know what? The media won’t care. They’ll be all over this and take her word as the gospel truth, just as they did after the original report was published. But, do you notice anything about the statement? It makes no mention of the claims of Lynn Bruce, who was quoted extensively in Snook’s article. Hmmm….
Speaking of Snook, he has released a column on his Facebook page ripping apart ESPN and “Mouth of the South” Paul Finebaum for their one-sided reporting of this story. Finebaum has questioned Snook’s credibility. Trust me, after authoring fourteen books, Jeff Snook has plenty of credibility. Also, he was a beat writer for Florida Gators football at the same time Finebaum was doing the same for Alabama. As Snook points out, Finebaum is given instant credibility simply because ESPN stuck a mic in front of him. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it, Finebaum isn’t credible because he isn’t objective. He’s nothing more than a shill for the SEC. You can read Snook’s column by clicking here.
The committee investigating Urban Meyer should wrap up by Sunday. However, in an interview with WOSU radio, Ohio State president Michael Drake said two weeks was the goal, but, “It will be finished when it is finished.” I’m actually very happy to hear this. I’d far rather see the investigation be a thorough one and avoid complaints from those who think the university is only interested in protecting the football program.
The Buckeyes went to the Beyonce’ and Jay-Z concert at Ohio Stadium Thursday night. Personally I’d rather go see Skinny Lister with a small crowd. Now that I have you thinking, “What’s a Skinny Lister?”, you can go look them up. They’re one of my two favorite bands.