Developing An Identity

The Buckeyes are seeking to establish just what kind of offensive team they might be this season. That comes in contrast somewhat to what they already knew about the team headed into the season. Find out what we might still have to learn about this year's offense as camp gets underway.

It took all of one play to confirm what we thought we knew about the 2006 Ohio State offense.

Returning a cadre of weapons in Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez and Antonio Pittman, the Buckeyes were expected to have one of the most explosive offenses in the history of the program. The Buckeyes broke their first huddle of the season with four wideouts, and Smith hit redshirt freshman Brian Hartline on a slant across the middle for a 32-yard pickup.

The offensive juggernaut that was the OSU offense had flexed its muscles for the first time. When the dust had settled on the season, the Buckeyes had averaged 34.6 points and 384.5 yards per game and posted a 12-1 record.

One season later, though, trying to predict exactly what this team's offense will be like is decidedly trickier. There are a few known commodities on the offense, but a big question mark where it all begins: the quarterback.

"Now let's see: you've lost so many receivers, so let's see if some guys can step in there and play some of those roles," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "You lost some good linemen, and obviously you lost the guy with his hands on the ball every play. We have to be smart about what we ask these quarterbacks to do."

Arguably the biggest contributor on the offense this year will be sophomore tailback Chris Wells, who is expected to improve on a freshman campaign that saw him rush for 576 yards and 7 touchdowns as the primary backup to Pittman.

He is joined on the offense by wideouts Hartline and Brian Robiskie, the latter of whom finished last season as the No. 3 wideout.

With a proven producer in the backfield, will the Buckeyes become more reliant on their ground game this season? It's an ongoing debate.

"You'll be trying to figure it out and you'll be arguing," Tressel said. "The receiver coach always wants three or four receivers in the game and the running back coach always wants a tailback and a fullback and Coach (Jim) Bollman is kind of the moderator in there. You're trying to figure it out, but there's a little bit of lobbying going on to get their players opportunities to showcase."

A key component of the evolution of the offense is obviously the evolution of the quarterback position. While quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels said the goal is to have a starter emerge about two-thirds through fall camp, Tressel has said an ideal situation would have two quarterbacks at least partially sharing time early in the season.

Regardless of which player assumes that spot as the top signal-caller, Robiskie said he does not think the wideouts will simply spend the season blocking.

"Once we go through camp and kind of find out our identity, what we want to do this year, that's going to help as far as what they want to do game to game," he said. "We're just excited about what we can do."

When asked, Tressel agreed that the process of developing an identity through camp is similar to opening a mystery novel.

"We know there's some good characters in this novel and we know they have a lot of ability – whether the writers have good ability, we'll figure that out," he said. "I'm anxious to see them."

Not all coaches take the same approach to fall camp as Tressel does. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis has stated that he will not publicly name a starter for the season until the first game, helping to keep his opponents in the dark as to what type of identity his team might have.

To Tressel, the task is simply to develop that identity – regardless of who knows what it is.

"Everyone's in camp right now working on fundamentals," he said. "They're working on what they're trying to become, trying to find out what their players are capable of doing, trying to sort out how to feature the talents.

"We're worried about ourselves."

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