Previewing OSU's offense

What can we expect from OSU's offense this week? Dave Biddle takes a look.

Ohio State's offense will attempt to rebound this week against NC State, following a listless performance against San Diego State last week.

It's been well documented that quarterback Craig Krenzel had the worst game of his career, going 5-for-20 with 76-yards and one interception.

However, as bad as Krenzel's statistics look, the entire Buckeye offense was partially to blame.

"No, 5-for-20 is not very good," receiver Michael Jenkins said. "But you have to consider everything else. Ben (Hartsock) had a dropped ball; I had a dropped ball; there were some misreads here and there. So, it's not all Craig's fault that he was 5-of-20. You can't put all of that on him."

Krenzel is ready to turn the page and get ready for NC State.

"We didn't accomplish much of anything offensively last week and it was frustrating and disappointing," Krenzel said. "But it provided a learning opportunity. Obviously, I was not satisfied with my performance – I know I did not play well. But now it's time to move on and get ready for a very good NC State team."

Head coach Jim Tressel expects that his veteran QB will rebound this week.

"Craig knows what's going on and knows what he could have done better last week," Tressel said. "I'd like to think we as a staff know what we could have designed better, and I hope we'll do a better job as well."

Krenzel is known as a confident guy. But, could a 5-for-20 game against a lesser opponent affect his swagger?

"Craig has a passion to help his team," Tressel said. "And he doesn't feel like he played as well as he could for his team. Now, does that wear on his confidence? I don't know. I know he doesn't feel good about it. But the competitive guy that he is, I haven't seen too many tougher competitive guys than Krenzel. The tough, competitive guys usually grow from that, and I'm sure that's what he has in mind."

One of the areas in which the Buckeyes struggled last week was adjusting to various defenses. San Diego State was mixing things up all afternoon. The Aztecs were loading up the box, daring the Bucks to throw. Ohio State's coaches and players did a very poor job of adjusting to things they had not seen on film.

This week, you can bet that the Wolfpack will also have some surprises in store for OSU.

"We might come out on Saturday and NC State's defense might have something totally different than what we're preparing for now," Krenzel said. "If that's the case, it's going to be up to us to do a better job during the game of making adjustment and coming out and executing – which we didn't do last week."

When NC State plays its base defense, the Bucks are expecting an aggressive, attacking scheme.

"NC State runs a pretty similar defense as San Diego State," Krenzel said. "They are going to load up the box and they are going to press us on the outside. We know that. They are going to play some man-to-man against us. It's going to be up to our guys to win routes and get open and it's going to be up to myself to get them the ball.

"In the running game, they are going to give us some different looks: stunts, twists, blitzes and stuff that our guys up front are going to have to be prepared for."

Ohio State's offensive line was expected to be a much-improved unit this year. It's a veteran line and the players are said to be in the best shape of their lives. But, there are still some holes in the line, namely pass protection.

Making matters more difficult for the Buckeyes' O-line is the fact that starting center Alex Stepanovich is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

Nick Mangold is an excellent replacement, but suddenly OSU has very little depth on the line.

One player in the group that is playing up to expectations is senior guard Adrien Clarke. He graded out the best in the win over SDSU.

"Adrien graded 91 percent – he did an excellent job in there," Tressel said. "Had a young center in there with him two-thirds of the game. He continues to improve in his senior year and play very well."

Tressel was happy with the way that young center performed.

"Nick Mangold graded very, very well also," he said. "He gave a little stability there and got us in the right places and so forth."

The rest of Ohio State's line – LT Rob Sims, RG Bryce Bishop and RT Shane Olivea – has played well, but it can definitely play better.

Ohio State's running game has also struggled so far this season, gaining just 131 yards per game. Tailback Maurice Hall rushed 19 times for 91 yards against San Diego State, but the ground game has a lot of room for improvement.

"Well, we want to be 200 rushing yards a game, so we're well away from that," Tressel said. "I think that the nature of college football, or even professional football, is that people are going to make it very hard for you to run the football.

"One of my coaches told me a good stat from Sunday's games in the NFL: the five teams that had 100-yard rushers won, and the two teams that had a 300-passer lost. You need to be able to run the football well to win, and the defense is going to do all they can to make it such that we can. So, we've got a lot of work to do in that area, no question."

Although defenses are keying on the running game by loading up in the box, that shouldn't be an excuse, according to some of OSU's players.

"I think anytime we face a team, no matter how many people are in the box, if you execute the play the best that it can be executed, you're going to get yards," Clarke said. "So, I mean, I guess if they put seven, eight, nine people in the box, then that just means a couple of our linemen are going to have to take two or three people and hit somebody hard enough. So, I think it's more execution than anything else."

Hall echoed those comments.

"It's all about execution, because people know where you're going to run, and we know where people are going to run," he said. "But the question is, ‘How well are we going to do it on that play? How well are our linemen going to block and how well can we read or block out linemen?' So, it's all about execution."

Hall should have some help in the running game this week as Lydell Ross is expected to return from a toe injury.

If Ross cannot go, freshman Ira Guilford will be Hall's backup. The coaching staff has been trying to get Guilford as many practice reps as possible.

"I would think Ira will get a lot of reps, just like he got a lot of reps last week in practice," Tressel said. "I've seen a lot of improvement in Ira. He came here thinking he was going to be a safety, but maybe a running back. Maybe do a little bit of both as a young player. And the situation as it is, we feel as if he needs to be a tailback, and he's done a good job, I think, picking up things."

As for the passing game, all we heard during the offseason was that OSU would be able to burn teams that played eight men in the box. But, the Buckeyes have yet to prove they can do that.

"We have the weapons to be a very good passing team," Krenzel said. "We just have to execute and take advantage of our opportunities. We are going to have our share of opportunities."

Even the conservative Tressel knows that the deep ball is a big key to the success of OSU's offense.

"I think you have to do a good job of attacking people for some home runs," Tressel said. "If they're trying to get too many people in the box – you know, we hit some good ones from a big play standpoint the first week and really didn't last week. We hit (tight end Ryan) Hamby for 30 yards as they were overrunning a run play, that type of thing.

"For you to have a scoring drive, I used to think you better have at least one 17-to-20-yard play – if you're going to have a scoring drive – and the rest will be consistent. But the way that defenses load up and so forth in this day and age, you're going to need to perhaps have two, or three, 20-to-25-yard plays."

Some fans might be wondering if they'll see more of Chris Gamble on offense to help jump-start the offense. Tressel – the de-facto offensive coordinator – isn't holding his breath.

"You know, offense really gets the last choice for Chris," Tressel said. "Defense gets all they want. Special teams gets almost all they want. And then whatever we think is left, we allow the offense. So, I don't know that won't change. We'll just see how that unfolds.

Why does the offense get last dibs on the team's most talented player?

"Well, you win with defense and special teams," Tressel said. "Win championships and all those clichés that everyone laughs at, but they became clichés because they're true."

So, what can we expect from Ohio State's offense this week? Look for the Buckeyes to come out with a few surprises in terms of the passing game. They are still going to try and run the ball – especially against NC State's inexperienced front seven – but the passing game will win or lose this game for OSU. Don't be surprised to see the Bucks in a lot of three-wide sets throughout the game.

Krenzel still needs work when it comes to play action fakes, but that will be a big key this week. NC State is going to make the Bucks prove they can throw the football. Its safeties will be creeping up and good play-action fakes will loosen up the deep part of the field.

Overall, as bad as OSU's offense looked last week, expect it to move the ball fairly well against a very suspect NC State defense. Tressel's goals of 250 passing yards and 200 rushing won't happen, but the Bucks will score enough points to win.

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