Players Expect Similar Offense In 2011

It's an obvious question: What changes, if any, will happen with the Ohio State offensive attack now that head coach Jim Tressel is gone? Tressel was noted for having a hand in developing OSU's game plan and criticized for the Buckeyes' occasional struggles, but the remaining OSU offensive veterans don't expect many changes during Luke Fickell's tenure.

(REFERENCE: For more on Ohio State's offensive braintrust and one writer's opinion on what the offense might look like, click here. For a feature on OSU's quarterback situation, click here.

Woody Hayes famously said that three things can happen when a team passes and two of them are bad.

As a result, Hayes' run-based offenses often made stars of linemen, fullbacks and ball carriers alike – and created wars of attrition the last two games of each season when the talent was equal on both sides.

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel didn't have quite the antiquated view of offense as Hayes, but he still wasn't seen as the most liberal tactician.

In an era in which some teams throw the ball upwards of 50 times per game and scoff at the I-formation, Tressel – who played quarterback in college and considered himself much more an offensive mind than a defensive one – preferred a pro-style attack.

There were always plenty of wrinkles as the coach molded the attack to the talent at hand, but the maxims of holding on to the football and avoiding major mistakes were never far from the coach's lips. As a result, the phrase "win the surest way" was introduced into the Buckeye lexicon after a number of run-first, pass-later second halves as OSU grinded out certain wins during Tressel's tenure.

So now what will change, if anything, now that Tressel has left the program in the form of his May 30 resignation?

Obviously, that's a tough question to answer considering fall camp is still three weeks away, but the players questioned about the subject recently don't expect major changes.

"We still have the same offensive staff," fullback Zach Boren said. "It's a great staff. Our offensive coaches are amazing, and we'll see what happens. It should be fun this year. With Coach Tressel gone, he had a lot of input in the offensive stuff, so to get some new inputs, it'll be interesting."

While, as Boren referenced, four of the five offensive assistants return, there will be some new cooks in the kitchen. Though the flow of offensive play-calling over the past few years was never firmly established in interview sessions, Tressel often made it clear that he had a fair bit of input in the matter. The head coach also pointed to offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and wideouts coach Darrell Hazell as collaborators in the process.

Now, two of the three are gone, leaving Bollman. At his introductory press conference in June, new head coach Luke Fickell talked up Bollman's skills as a coordinator and indicated he will continue having a hand in calling the plays.

Fickell also mentioned that Ohio State will play to its strengths on the offensive side of the ball, and in 2011 that appears to be the run game. The Buckeyes have a deep group of talented backs on the roster as well as three returning offensive linemen with plenty of experience and others ready to fill spots who were highly rated coming out of high school, and Bollman is a noted aficionado of a power running attack.

"We have a stable of running backs, five or six guys who can go out there and play," tight end Jake Stoneburner said. "We have a lot of tight ends – me and Reid Fragel and a couple of good freshmen. The wide receivers are improving, so I think you might see a little more use of the running backs and tight ends and just develop the receivers, and when DeVier Posey comes back obviously he'll make a huge impact.

"I think it'll be the same old Ohio State football, maybe just different guys out there."

On the flip side, most of the passing attack – including quarterback Terrelle Pryor and No. 1 wideout Dane Sanzenbacher – will need to be rebuilt, especially with Posey's 53 catches, 848 yards and seven touchdowns from 2010 on the shelf until his five-game suspension expires.

At quarterback, four players will vie for the starting job, none of whom have made a collegiate start. Posey was by far the best wideout during spring, and behind him sits talent but uncertainty, though the tight ends could be a major part of the passing game should Stoneburner stay healthy and split out wide as he was occasionally during the spring.

Senior right tackle J.B. Shugarts said he wouldn't be sure what Ohio State will do on offense until things progress in camp, but the most logical answer would seem to be a leaning on the running game.

"That's what you would probably think," he said about the power-running game being the default. "But once we get into camp and start rolling, you have to see what's going on. That's how we have been in the past. We're a power football team, we're a pro-style team, we're a balanced offense and that's what we plan on doing again."

Whether that will please fans hoping for a more explosive attack remains to be seen. Ohio State finished an average of 61st in the country in total offense during Tressel's tenure, and last year's 20th-place mark was the best under the former coach.

Of course, Ohio State also won an average of 10.6 games per year under Tressel and qualified for eight BCS bowls.

"It won us so many games over the years – the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, we beat Michigan all those years with that same offense," Stoneburner said. "I don't see why it would change too much. Maybe little things, but nothing too great that people are like, ‘Wow, it's really a different scheme they have out there.'"

If anything does change, Stoneburner said, it might just be the intensity Fickell brings now that he's in charge of the whole operation.

"We're going to try to be more enthusiastic," the junior said. "Not that we're not, but Coach Fick is going to bring a little bit of what he has to offer and hopefully that works."

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