OSU Ready To Go Yard In 2013

Ohio State's offense got the job done for the most part in 2012, but the numbers show there was a need for the Buckeyes to add the longball to the equation. The OSU coaching staff thinks the skills of the newest Buckeye signees will do just that.

Last summer, Urban Meyer threw out ceremonial first pitches before both Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds home games.

By the end of the season, only two players on either team – Cincinnati outfielders Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce – had more than 20 home runs on the season.

Yes, it seems no matter where Meyer went in 2012, there was a distinct lack of what the Ohio State head coach called "home-run hitter explosiveness."

Despite going 12-0 and boasting one of the most explosive players in college football in sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes finished the season with 53 plays of 20 yards from scrimmage or more, an average of 4.4 per game that tied for fifth in the Big Ten and 63rd in the nation according to CFBStats.com.

The Buckeyes didn't exactly have much trouble scoring last year – the team's mark of 37.2 points per game finished 21st in the nation and fourth in school history – but the big-play mark was perhaps not what was expected out of the spread offense installed by Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman.

"We feel like we were pretty deficient last year in terms of getting the ball in space, but then we'd get one-on-one with a safety or a corner or even a linebacker at times and we can't make that guy miss," Herman said. "The premise of a spread offense is to not play football in a phone booth and spread it out and create one-on-one mismatches."

The Buckeyes had just a single middle-of-the-order bat, so to speak, in Miller. Of the teams' 53 explosive plays, a full 38 – 14 rushes and 24 passes – involved the quarterback who finished in the top five of the Heisman Trophy voting.

In other words, those numbers show an area in which Ohio State was deficient in 2012, and Meyer is nothing if not about improvement. Accordingly, one of the Buckeyes' key tasks in the recruiting process was to add game-breaking skill to its running back and wide receiver positions.

As most Buckeye fans know, it's fair to say it was mission accomplished because five such players who are rated four stars are better were inked two weeks ago. Ezekiel Elliott will play running back after accounting for more than 3,000 yards in his senior prep season, while highly rated receivers Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and James Clark will join the squad.

And then there's Dontre Wilson, who Meyer and running backs coach Stan Drayton both compared to former Florida star Percy Harvin, the slash player whose ability to make big plays in both the running and passing games has become the stuff of myth.

Throw those players onto the roster and suddenly the power running game that Ohio State depended on in crucial situations this past season should have a more effective complement in 2013.

"We were a little bit one-dimensional this year because we didn't have that piece," Drayton said. "We were a little bit more of a power, QB-run football team, and we were pretty good, obviously. Now we can protect that QB run, we can protect that tailback because we have components to our offense that can spread defenders out a little bit more.

"We always felt that if we can bring that type of athlete in this system in the Big Ten that we feel that we can have some incredible success here in the future."

Meyer would certainly like to see that be the case. For proof, look no further than his 2008 national championship team at Florida, which boasted the kind of explosive offense the coach became famous for.

That Tim Tebow-led squad put up 82 explosive plays on the season, an average of 5.9 per game. Not only were the Gators able to put up more plays of 20 yards or more in the running game, where their 36 on the year bested OSU's 2012 total of 26, but there was a big step up in the passing game.

Ohio State had just 25 passes of 20 yards or more last season, while Florida posted 46 in 2008. No Buckeye receiver had 10 such catches – Devin Smith led the way with nine – while Louis Murphy had 13 for the title-winning Gators and Harvin added 11.

"Some guys really grew up and did a good job for us – Philly Brown did a nice job – (but) we don't have enough," Meyer said of last year's squad. "I think we're starting to get a little bit of that built up where you're having a Jalin to put out there, and Dontre can play that, that's what he'll do as well. And you can break the formation a little bit and have guys in space.

"Ohio State was talented. We just didn't have enough players who could make guys miss on offense, and I think we addressed that."

As Meyer referenced, the new additions don't mean Ohio State will throw out the players who were so integral to last season's undefeated run. Players like Brown, Devin Smith and Carlos Hyde were important parts of the offense, but those veterans will be pushed by the latest haul.

"I think to say that we're going to rely on all these (new) guys, as excited as we are, would certainly be putting our eggs in the wrong basket," Herman said. "First and foremost we have to spend this offseason developing the guys that are here and teach them how to be better at what we want them to be better at.

"That being said, then you go out and you recruit to your philosophy, and obviously that philosophy is well documented in terms of spreading the field and getting guys out there in space. I think it will lend itself to maybe being a little more balanced and a little bit more of a philosophy along the lines of where we want to be."

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