New Staff Plans To Be Physical From Spread

Players such as Zach Boren and fellow fullback Adam Homan can expect to be part of Ohio State's plans on offense next year as Urban Meyer's staff promises to maintain a physical bent to the brand of spread offense it will install.

Ed Warinner clearly wanted to get one thing straight when talking about the type of spread offense Ohio State will run under head coach Urban Meyer.

"No. 1, we won't be a finesse running attack," the incoming offensive line coach said. "We will not be that. Some people equate the spread with finesse running, and that will not be us at all. We will be a physical, aggressive and attacking offensive line and running game."

An Ohio native, Warinner is not new to football in the Midwest nor to coaching the spread. He spent the past nine years coaching some variation of the offense at Kansas, Illinois and Notre Dame.

As he talked extensively about the versatility of the attack and explained that looks can be deceiving to the casual observer, one got the distinct impression he had heard the claims about the softness of the offense a time or two before he came to Columbus this month.

"There's a lot of different definitions of spread and there's a lot of different types of spread," Warinner said. "There's spread offense that maybe Mike Leach runs that throws the ball 55 times a game. Then there's spread offenses that maybe Oregon runs where they run it 55 times a game, 60 times a game. So you can do whatever you want.

"Spread just means you usually have three receivers or possibly four receivers on the field and they're detached. Sometimes that one receiver can be a tight end or a fullback or a tailback or whatever and you spread them out of the formation. I mean, conventional football was you want to run power and you've got eight or nine offensive guys near the football. So they're going to have nine or 10 defensive guys around the football. So it just becomes a lot of bodies. Spreading them out kind of identifies how many guys you have around the box, how many people you have around the football. It makes it a little bit easier to identify who you're blocking and so forth and where different defensive stunts and adjustments are coming. So spread is very varied and it doesn't mean you're going to be a finesse or throwing team. It just means that you're spacing the field horizontally."

The versatility of the look should serve the Ohio State personnel well.

While receiver was a sore spot last season as the unit's most veteran player sat out most of the campaign due to suspension and the rest of the group endured the ups and downs of on-the-job training, the new staff inherits a trio of bigger players comfortable in quarters both close and open.

Fullback Zach Boren is a three-year starter who rarely left the field last season regardless of the formation, and classmate Adam Homan has been a consistent contributor as Boren's backup, in short-yardage situations that call for an extra blocker and on special teams since the two arrived in 2009.

Tight end Jake Stoneburner is a converted wide receiver who has long provided a potential mismatch as a pass catcher and developed as an edge blocker the past two seasons as well.

"Good players are always going to find an opportunity to get on the field," said new coach Tim Hinton, who will coach both tight ends and fullbacks. "That's what we're certainly planning on doing, getting the good players on the field. Listen, Zach Boren and Adam Homan and those guys are really good football players."

Hinton, like Warinner, comes from Brian Kelly's spread at Notre Dame. It was more pass-oriented than the one Meyer developed in stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, but it both coaches are flexible in how they choose to attack.

"The nice thing about the spread offense – and this will be my first experience with Coach Meyer's spread offense – is you can utilize people in many different ways," Hinton said. "You can get them the ball. You can get them in blocking situations. You can motion and shift them. There's just a thousand ways to utilize your personnel. I think that's one of the great things that the spread offense can bring."

New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman is no stranger to coaching the spread flexibly, either. He ran a pass-first offense at Rice for two years before moving to Iowa State, where all three of his units ran more than the threw. He looks forward to using spring practice to identify which players are most capable of contributing and molding a strategy around them.

With physical, versatile fullbacks Boren and Homan along with tight ends Stoneburner and Jeff Heuerman available to match with a stable of running backs both large and small, the biggest change fans might notice is a move to mostly shotgun sets. After the play starts, they can expect to see a lot of the same things they are used to.

Herman said the focus of the offseason and spring practice will be teaching core philosophies that include, running the ball, being successful on first down and playing "a physical and hard-nosed, tough brand of football."

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