Overheard at the Sugar Bowl: OSU Offense

Here's a roundup of things discussed Sunday by Ohio State offensive players as they prepare for the Sugar Bowl. We are cleaning out the reporter's notebook.

Representatives from Ohio State's offense met with the media in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. Here's a rundown of much of what was said.

TOM HERMAN

He never doubted Cardale Jones would make it to the point he is worthy of being the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. In fact, he told a story of Urban Meyer asking him that very question as they walked off the field after two-a-days (probably this year but not specified). Herman's response was absolutely he would continue to progress into the player they need him to be, although he might have at that time needed more seasoning than some guys. And he's still not a finished product now. Herman has told Jones not to be a one-trick pony. He's not worried about the newfound fame going to his head. He has talked to the quarterback about that, but Herman admitted that might be more for his own sake. Overall Cardale is the same dude.

Herman disputed the suggestion Jones has not faced any adversity in a game. He said just lining up against Wisconsin in the situation he was in was adverse, a challenge that had to be overcome.

Not a ton has changed schematically with the different quarterbacks running the offense. The adjustment is more mental in the case of both QB changes. He reminded people that even though these guys become big names, they are still college kids. They still go to class, have girlfriends and play video games (then he mentioned he's glad there were no camera phones when he was in college). The coaches are grown men who have been trained to deal with various situations in life, and they have the scars to show for it, but that's not true of the players who are still so young. They still doubt themselves and need to be reassured. Sometimes he has to tell them they are good enough to be here -- has to make sure they know he believes in them.

The first thing he said he noticed about Alabama's defense when he turned on the film was their size up front. They are huge and deep. The linebackers are also big. Scheme is not a big deal because they've seen every kind of scheme there is.

Herman doesn't find it to be an advantage that Alabama doesn't have much film of Jones to study. He doesn't think they would be scheming for a specific player so much as the Ohio State offense and what it does well overall. "They've gotta stop the entire machine." Also there are no plays Ohio State has that aren't designed with answers to any defense, although they can't necessarily get into and execute every answer based on their experience level. Plays are packaged in a way a full check usually isn't necessary. Herman usually prefers they dictate what is happening with everything designed to go, "If this, then that..."

Ezekiel Elliott

His left hand is still very weak and he can't do much with it. He doesn't practice blocking as a result of that injury, but he's still a stud blocker because that's really more about desire and effort than technique. It's a mentality. Most guys aren't willing to stick their nose in there and do it.

The running game is key for Ohio State because it sets up play action.

His parents instilled in him a sense he has to go all out in everything he does, so giving his all has become second nature for him.

Someone mentioned he might get overlooked with the quarterbacks story and the evolution at wide receiver, but he said he doesn't do it for the glory. He's all about the W's. The rest will come with winning. Try to outwork everyone else and bring the others along with you following your example.

Asked about Jim Harbaugh going to Michigan, he said he doesn't know anything about him because he doesn't watch sports very much. He also didn't know who Urban Meyer was before the coach started recruiting him.

Evan Spencer

Asked about the team motto, "The Chase," he said it remains mostly an individual thing. Guys emphasize going after whatever is important to them. Goals include the Big Ten championship, going undefeated or whatever else.

Alabama has been the most successful program in the country in recent years, so everyone is striving to match their success and wants to measure themselves against the Crimson Tide.

Someone asked about previous times Urban Meyer has faced Nick Saban but I didn't write down the answer because it was a stupid question.

Tom Herman remains the same guy he was before getting the Houston job. He's a really good guy to talk to. It's weird to think he's leaving, but at the same time right now it doesn't seem like he is. He is confident Herman will be successful as a head coach.

Depth of the wide receivers has become a strength for the offense. It allows them to do a lot more on offense. They really need six guys available to play at a high tempo.

Asked about the perceived weakness of the Alabama secondary, he acknowledged he sees things on the film Ohio State can attack (nothing specific identified on his end), but Alabama is definitely very athletic. They are No. 1 for a reason. Safety Landon Collins is a great player. he's physical and knows the game. Overall, Spencer thinks Ohio State has a good plan for going after the Tide D.

Asked if he is tired of hearing the SEC speed question, he said, "A little bit." (As he should be.) Then Spencer basically indicated it's a fallacy considering Ohio State recruits nationally just like all the other great programs. Ohio State will get a chance to show off its speed on the turf in the Super Dome. He's not sure they really have much to prove though. They just need to get out there and do their thing. He knows the Buckeyes are a fast, athletic team.

The Big Ten title victory was a weight off the shoulders of the team because that had been a goal that had eluded them, but now they have to refocus and get ready for the Sugar Bowl. He did feel like that was an exclamation point on their case for making the playoff.

Ezekiel Elliott is a great player who hits the hole hard. The offensive line has been great and makes his job easier, but only after showing tremendous growth from the start of the season. Early struggles were good for the team overall, though, and have made them better. Elliott is great with or without the ball and never seems to get tired. He will go find a guy 50 yards down the field to block him. He just plays with great hunger.

Someone asked a dumb question about Jim Harbaugh becoming the head coach at Michigan, but he gave a pretty good answer. Harbaugh must be a great coach based on the results he has produced, but he is confident Meyer is better and will have the Buckeyes prepared to beat the Wolverines up.

Spencer said by the time the start of the Big Ten Championship Game rolled around, the Buckeyes had a collective smirk on their face because they knew Cardale Jones was going to surprise everyone else with his performance. It is a testament to the training and the culture of Meyer has installed at Ohio State that they have three good quarterbacks ready to lead the team.

Asked if Ohio State can attack Alabama down the field, he said yes, but he's sure Alabama is working on any weaknesses it might have during this long break since the SEC Championship Game.

His infamous (and wildly overblown) comments about "wiping the floor" with Alabama last year were brought up and he explained they came from a place of confidence in his team. He apologized when he saw people were taking it the wrong way. He got some grief on social media but had to regroup and move on.

Jeff Heuerman

The break since the Big Ten Championship Game is huge for Cardale Jones' development. He only had six days to get ready last time and the Buckeyes were dealing with exams. It is great now to be able to concentrate on football.

He saw the team really starting to become a national contender when J.T. Barrett started making big plays. They already had shown they were an athletic team with a bunch of weapons, but the offense went to another level when Barrett started to make more happen with his arm and feet. The offensive line's continued development was also a factor as the team gelled.

Taylor Decker

Asked about New Orleans, Decker observed there is a lot going on. They had a chance to see what was going on last night, but he was back in early because he knew Sunday's practice would be a hard one. He also mentioned joining this program has turned him into a morning person.

Ohio State would not have been ready to deal with Alabama early this season. The offensive line would have been embarrassed. That's not the case now. They have made tremendous strides. It was a matter of improving mostly from an intangible standpoint. They had to get some experience and build their confidence. That allows them to play fast and effective. They've also developed chemistry.

Cardale Jones is a goofball off the field, but he's grown in how he handles everything. That started with the offseason program, which is hard and not fun.

Unsurprisingly, they have not talked about how the offensive line got embarrassed in the 2006 and '07 title games. Probably because those are totally irrelevant now. He has confidence in Ohio State's process now.

Alabama will be the best defensive line Ohio State has faced. They have incredible size, even at defensive end. They are hard to move, and they play a lot of guys so they can stay fresh. Overall they will have to take what Alabama gives them to have offensive success.

Note: Cardale Jones also spoke, but I didn't make it over to him.

Follow on Twitter @marcushartman


Buckeye Sports Top Stories