Offense Ready To Communicate Quietly

As it turns out, you do not need to be in the huddle to know what is going on when playing for Ohio State's offense. Find out how nonverbal communication that has been going on all season among the Buckeyes could pay dividends this weekend against Penn State.

Changed numbers on the backs of a few jerseys are not the only differences between this and last season's offensive huddles. As quarterback Todd Boeckman barks out the signals, his primary targets in the passing game are nowhere close to being within shouting distance.

Most of the time, they are already headed to the line of scrimmage and getting ready for the next play. When the huddle breaks, the wide receivers are already ready to go.

For the first time since head coach Jim Tressel's arrival in Columbus, Ohio State wide receivers are equipped with wristbands detailing the team's plays. The switch was brought about for many reasons.

"We really thought going into the year when they went back to the old timing rules that the thing that was going to happen was they were going to spot the ball and get the 25(-second clock) going," Tressel said. "We thought we'd better be ready. It's just become a part of who we are and it's a lot more convenient for a receiver to get out there and see the safeties, see this, see that and not have to spend most of those 25 seconds being in the huddle listening, running out. It's just better for (their) understanding."

The wristbands have been particularly effective when junior Brian Robiskie and sophomore Brian Hartline have been on the field. Both in their third seasons with the Buckeyes, their knowledge of the offense has allowed them to progress to the point where they do not need to be in the huddle.

As for the young guys, Tressel said, "They're learning."

Rather than rely on what play Boeckman is calling out, the plays are relayed via hand signals from the sidelines indicating which play is being called.

The switch has also allowed the Buckeyes to expand their offense in ways they have not before.

"It's just up-tempo, a little bit," OSU wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said. "It's not a hurry-up offense, but it's not a huddle offense. Just trying to pick the tempo up and get a few more plays."

With the wide receivers already set, the Buckeyes can get to the line of scrimmage quicker, survey how the opposing team is lining up and make changes as necessary. Most of the time, Boeckman goes to the line with two plays at his disposal. Once he reads his keys, he has the option to audible at the line based on what he sees in the defense.

The fact that the Buckeyes are 8-0 and Boeckman is the conference's most efficient quarterback indicate that he has been fairly successful at doing so.

"You just hear the play call, you turn around and you go to the line," junior offensive guard Steve Rehring said. "We all used to huddle up, but now the wide receivers are out and guys are rotating in and out. It's a little bit quicker thing so we can get to the line. We have more audibles this year so we get to the line quicker and we're not worrying about the play clock as much."

But the key to the whole system is effective hand-signal communication between the sideline, the quarterback and the wide receivers. Utilized effectively, the Buckeyes have little need to verbally communicate with each other once set at the line of scrimmage.

Having worked at non-verbal signals throughout the course of the entire season to this point could pay especially big dividends this weekend at a sold-out Beaver Stadium.

"It was probably one of the loudest places I've been to," Boeckman said of OSU's last trip to Penn State. "We've got to go in there and do some different signals and stuff like that because it's hard to hear the person next to you.

"It's going to definitely help out with this noise factor we're going to have. It gets them in the right situation and we've got to be on the right page. We've just got to get the calls to the linemen so they can do their thing up front."

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