Offense Should Keep Improving Under Meyer

The Ohio State football team scored a lot of points in 2012 -- enough to place fifth in school history. The scary part for Big Ten teams is the Buckeyes could be just getting started. Ohio State returns a wealth of players on offense, welcomes in a recruiting class of playmakers, and is part of an offensive scheme that should only get better.

In the book "Three and Out," John U. Bacon's fantastic, detailed account of Rich Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan, the coach described how his offense always had a year or two of growing pains before truly taking off.

That was certainly proven true when Michigan went from 27.2 points per game in a pro-style offense in 2007 to 20.3 points a year later in Rodriguez's first season. In year two of the Rodriguez era, the Wolverines' scoring average jumped to 29.5 and then 32.8 in 2010 when Denard Robinson took over.

Things often happen similarly when any new coach takes over and installs a new system. Players can require a while to get comfortable in a new scheme, not to mention the amount of time required for a staff to recruit the players they need to maximize the efficacy of their X's and O's.

In that vein, Urban Meyer is similar and yet very different from many college coaches. His teams are better at putting points on the board without fail in year two than year one – which is all the more impressive given the fact they don't take long to fit into his power spread offense.

For example, when he took over at Bowling Green in 2001, Meyer doubled the Falcons' offensive output from 174 points on the campaign to 333. In his second year up I-75, Meyer and the Falcons had 490 points in 12 games, an average of 40.8.

The progression was similar at Utah, where the Utes scored only 22.6 points per game the year before Meyer was hired. That went up to 28.7 in his first year and 45.3 the second as the Utes put together an undefeated record and trounced Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

The only place the form doesn't quite hold was at Florida, where the Gators actually went from 31.8 points per game in 2004 to 28.6 in Meyer's first season. But the total ticked up to 29.7 a year later in Meyer's second campaign as Florida won the national title, and quickly, the point average reached 42.5 in 2007 as Tim Tebow on the Heisman and 43.6 a year later as national championship No. 2 was won.

In other words, each place Meyer has worked has seen a dramatic uptick in offense as the coach's system has been fully implemented, which is a scary thought for Big Ten foes – and the Ohio State cord book.

The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in scoring year one of the Meyer era, posting 37.2 points per game to best Nebraska's second-place total by more than two points per game.

In addition, that mark places fifth in Ohio State history, sitting behind only the 1969 squad (42.6 points per game), 2010 (38.8), 1996 (37.9) and 1973 (37.5).

It helps that Meyer inherited a talented quarterback, Braxton Miller, who was good enough to use his skills to capture the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as Big Ten MVP in his first year in Meyer's offense. Previously, Meyer walked into situations with standout quarterbacks at Bowling Green (Josh Harris), Utah (Alex Smith) and Florida (Chris Leak).

But while Miller was no doubt a difference maker and tailback Carlos Hyde turned into one of the best interior runners in the nation, Meyer had a lot of praise for the way his offensive line developed through the season.

The good news is that much of that unit will return next year, as only right tackle Reid Fragel is set to graduate. All-Big Ten choices Andrew Norwell (left guard) and Jack Mewhort (left tackle) were juniors this past season, as were center Corey Linsley and right guard Marcus Hall.

"I think there were different parts (of the offense) that were really good, and other areas that were very poor," Meyer said. "The very good part, first, would be the development of the offensive line, and also the run chemistry and the ability to run the ball, that downhill mentality. I think we were about as good as any team in the country, and against teams who knew we were doing it."

Ohio State was able to run with great success, finishing 10th in the nation and second in the league with 242.3 yards per game. The Buckeyes topped the 300-yard mark vs. Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois.

Much of that attack will return next year and should be bolstered by the return to health of Jordan Hall and the recruitment of high school stars Jalin Marshall and Ezekiel Elliott.

But where Ohio State could explode next year is in the passing game, a place where Meyer was guarded in his assessment of the team throughout the season. He was pleased with the big plays the Buckeyes made in the play-action game, but the dropback passing needed work both because of a lack of depth at wideout and fundamental flaws that popped up in Miller's game.

"In the passing game, I'd grade a C or a C-minus," Meyer said. "It was better than the year before, but nowhere near what we need. It's not in the same hemisphere as far as what's expected. That has to change and change fast. I was very disappointed in just the whole approach we had (before last season).

"It's hard with the coaching staff not being allowed to throw with these guys until spring practice, so it all falls on the players. They were the most unprepared group I've ever been around as far as throwing a ball from here to there and knowing how to get there and catch it. It was awful. Those areas have improved, but we're still not very good."

Corey Brown did earn All-Big Ten honors and Devin Smith proved to be a solid deep threat early in the season, but the Buckeyes should continue to improve as no wideouts are set to graduate. Miller is also expected to continue developing as a passer, while OSU welcomes in Taivon Jacobs and perhaps more.

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