Fast Pace Should Suit OSU Offense

Over the years, there have been times the Ohio State offense looked to be at its best when using a fast tempo. This year, fans will get to see what they've been clamoring for -- a no-huddle look that will speed things up as the base offense. The Buckeyes discussed the transition to that this spring.

During an interview session early in spring practice, reporters noticed a thick beard starting to form on the face of Ohio State tight end Jacob Stoneburner.

One jokingly asked whether things were moving so fast in the first year under new head coach Urban Meyer that he had no time to shave, and Stoneburner answered in the affirmative.

"Saturday's practice was so rough and demanding, I slept all weekend," he said. "I was like, ‘Screw it, I'm not shaving.' I had class all this morning. I don't have anyone to look good for."

Speaking to the media again Thursday, Stoneburner was sans any facial hair, having had enough time to pick up the razor now that spring practice has been over for a month. But when asked to reflect on the change to the high-tempo offense the team undertook this spring, the pass catcher was still awed by the changes.

"(The transition) was a lot worse than I expected," he said. "When we were out there, by the end of practice, I was done. I was so tired because it was nonstop. Usually (under the former coaching staff), in a 20-minute period, we'd run 15 pass plays. With Urban, we'd get up to like 45 or 50.

"By the end, you were just dead tired, but you can see how it would just wear a defense down. The bigger guys on our team, they would get so tired, and that's finally when our big plays would happen."

The hope is that increased pace – in everything the Buckeyes do on the field – will help the squad rebound from its disappointing 6-7 season, its first losing campaign in more than two decades. While the increased work should help the team's defense stay in shape late in games, the main goal is to help the team's offense bounce back from a campaign in which it finished in the bottom third of the country in both points scored and yards gained.

With that in mind, the Buckeyes have adopted a no-huddle look that it used throughout the spring and looks to incorporate on a regular basis. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said there are multiple tempos at which the team can work, but more often than not, the team will be moving much more quickly than in the past.

"I think everybody enjoys it. It's a fast tempo offense," running backs coach Stan Drayton said. "It's definitely outside the box of what they're accustomed to, but we're dealing with great kids who all want to win football games. They've bought into what we're teaching to them and what we've brought to them."

There are a number of benefits the offense hopes to see. In addition to the fatigue aspect, the Buckeyes hope to use the fast pace to limit defensive substitutions, leading to advantageous personnel groupings and mismatches.

Quarterback Braxton Miller also likes the fast pace, as it allows him to get to the line quickly and assess the defense before making the necessary checks.

A number of defensive players questioned said that was making life more difficult on them during the spring.

"It's fast-paced, no-huddle," linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "There's a lot of misdirection and everything. I think they're going to be real good when they jell together."

"It keeps the defense on their heels," safety C.J. Barnett said.

The switch to the faster pace did require some adjustments before spring even started. During the winter months, first-year director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti dedicated himself to getting the team in the type of shape necessary to run more plays and do it at a faster pace.

Along the offensive line, that meant linemen dropped around 20 pounds each while adding 10 pounds of muscle, offensive line coach Ed Warinner said.

"They're trying to get us in game shape," left tackle Jack Mewhort said. "We're a no-huddle offense now. I know on the offensive line we're working since before the clock even starts out there. We're doing conditioning drills and trying to get our bodies right so when September comes we're ready to go."

But the biggest change might have come for players like Stoneburner – those who are out there running routes on every play. Additional passing plays means a lot more running during practice, one reason why the senior said he felt dead after each practice session.

That's normal, said Warinner, who has been part of spread offense installations at a few schools.

"The receivers have the biggest shock," he said. "They don't get to come back and have the advantage of the huddle. It's run back, go, run back, go. Linemen actually get the good part of the deal because they don't have to run to a huddle. The receivers get no break, so they're the ones that really get gassed."

By the time September comes, the Buckeyes should be pretty used to the fast pace and lack of a huddle. Time will tell whether opposing teams can catch up.

"As long as we're in shape, the defense will get pretty tired," Stoneburner said.

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