Buckeyes Saw Offensive Progress In Spring

Ohio State's offense wasn't totally fixed in one spring after struggling a season ago, but new head coach Urban Meyer did see progress from his players. Meyer talked about those strides recently, outlining how the team got better and where it needs to continue to work.

Of all the things that excited Ohio State football fans most about the hiring of Urban Meyer to lead the Buckeye football program, the thing that might have been at the top of the list was the offense he planned to bring.

That offense helped spark Meyer's high-scoring, championship winning teams at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, and if there was one constant criticism of the old regime in Columbus, it was that the points – both of the style variety and literal tallies on the scoreboard – weren't always racked up in a manner that proved satisfactory to Buckeye Nation.

But if those fans had been at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center early this spring, they likely wouldn't have been quite as thrilled anymore.

"I hate to say things like ‘clown show' but early in spring – the guys have been instructed no one is allowed to watch that videotape because it was a clown show," Meyer said. "I want to say in the third week is when it all of a sudden resembled an offense."

Players saw it the same way. Tight end Jake Stoneburner said he first thought the offense was figuring it out two weeks into the spring when it beat the defense for the first time in a winner-loser day.

"We started making big plays passing and running," he said. "At that point, I think Coach Meyer started acknowledging we're starting to get a little bit better, starting to feel like an actual offense, and then it started going a lot better from there."

In fairness, there are a lot of reasons the Buckeyes took some time to relate to Meyer's offense, and the coach expressed patience at the time even if he wasn't thrilled to be in that position.

The offense wasn't likely to be fully humming even in the best of times given the way it struggled through fits and starts a season ago. Much of the skill position talent was brand-new a season ago, and the Buckeyes are still gaining valuable experience in places like quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

Then there's the offensive line, which will boast at least three new starters in 2012 with the graduations of left tackle Mike Adams, center Michael Brewster and right tackle J.B. Shugarts, all of whom were multiple-year starters who signed with NFL teams in the offseason.

So from a personnel standpoint, it's easy to see why there would be some sputtering in the spring, and that's not even taking into account the new coaches, new terminology and, well, new philosophy resulting from the change in leadership.

All in all, it's not an easy transition.

"This offense takes a while," running backs coach Stan Drayton said. "This is not an easy offense. It's a very complicated offense. They have to know a lot, and right now they're still playing the game thinking. Once they get it, you'll start to see the speed improve."

But there were a few reasons Meyer started to see progress as things went along, as he elaborated his thoughts about the offense as week ago while unveiling his post-spring depth chart to local media.

There weren't many surprises in the release, but there was some interest in listening to Meyer speak about where he thought the offense got better through the spring. The most important place might have been the offensive line, which he tabbed as the most improved position on the team.

"I would put them at non-functional in January and very functional after spring practice," said Meyer, who pointed to the arrival of four-star tackle Taylor Decker as one of the big reasons for the improvement.

"I thought (offensive line coach Ed) Warinner did a very good job with them in what some would say a complicated, a very different offense, and they came in and I've got to give those guys a lot of credit."

Indeed, a position that appeared to be a possible major question mark coming into the year appeared to show some potential, with players such as Jack Mewhort stepping up at left tackle, Corey Linsley – one of the surprises of spring – at center and Marcus Hall at right guard.

One position that slowly continues to grow is that of wide receiver, where Ohio State truly struggled a season ago. Devin Smith and Corey Brown led the position with a woeful 14 catches – the lowest total to do so since Ohio State's famously pass-deficient 1970s – and Meyer continues to want to see growth at that spot.

"We're not functional at wide receiver yet," Meyer said. "That's not saying that I wasn't pleased with the progress, but from their performance last year statistically and on the field, understand where we were starting from. The good thing is I think we have enough talent in there to make some improvement and be very functional by the fall."

While those pieces might have needed the most building, Meyer has been impressed if not overwhelmed with the rest of the offense. He has praised quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenneth Guiton, talked about the possibility of using senior Jordan Hall as a multipurpose player, raved about the tight end depth and spoken of getting the ball more to fullback Zach Boren.

Add in Meyer's new attacking philosophy and the Buckeyes figure to see improvement a year after finishing in the bottom third of the country in both yards amassed and points.

"It gives you a lot of confidence," Guiton said. "His past record is just amazing. Everything that he's done, you just have to believe in. You have to buy into it. I feel like we'll be a great team if we can do that."

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