Thursday, October 22, 2009

GBMW: Ohio State offense and Pryor

Subduction Zone in West Lafayette Shakes up Big Ten Picture

What a shocker at Purdue on Saturday as the Boiler win puts the Big Ten up for grabs as Purdue takes down Ohio State 28-20. This article is intended to provide a snapshot of the meaning of the Boiler victory to the rest of the Big Ten and the POSSIBLE implications for Ohio State. Take note, nothing here is intended to be derogatory, braggart in nature, or mocking, commonly called flaming on the web.

Some of the information comes from nut sources who just 6 weeks ago saw Ohio State as absolutely unbeatable for the national title this year. Some of the comments come from recent Columbus media. Some of the material is analysis and inference.

Just a few weeks ago, many in Columbus were touting T. Pryor as a shoo-in Heisman winner next year. This year, of course, would belong to the three amigos quarterbacks of Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida. As an aside, Sam Bradford is now likely out of the picture and the question remains will the media and voters be sympathetic to a fine player, Colt McCoy, who has never won the award, or go with Tim Tebow as the second two-time winner?

Now, the brunt of the recent offensive shortcomings for Ohio State has fallen upon Terrelle Pryor. The offensive line is second in line for criticism and the offensive line coach, Jim Bollman, is a distant third.

The sky has not fallen in Columbus and winning out will cure some uneasiness by providing a conference championship and a likely BCS trip. But the margin of error is now slim, and what happens the rest of the way depends on what, if anything, next transpires with the offense.

Ohio State started the season with clearly the best talent in the Big Ten, clearly superior to Iowa and Penn State. The defense is among the top five or so units in the country. But the offense is currently not of that ilk, even with the anointed one. On this site and others, the author has maintained that only injuries could prove Ohio State to be vulnerable. This is still so, but now another variable and potential factor enters the discussion; namely the offensive structure and the fit of the personnel to the structure.

After moaning about only scoring 30 or so points a game early on, Ohio State, to the cheers of many fans, started shifting to a shotgun spread. Modern spread football, long promised by Tressell, but snickered at the proposition put forth by those who know Tress well, had arrived on the Olentangy and the nation’s number one recruit would now be free to create and clobber the opposition, with his legs and with his arm.

The experiment is short in stature having only three games to judge results. But last week’ results were not really a fluke, neither was the production the week before against Wisconsin. Well, Ohio State won easily against Wisconsin, right? The defense won easily, and the last two weeks have yielded very few rushing first downs.

This is where injuries come into play. Boom Herron is a solid running back and runs hard every play. He is a credit to his team. But even with his effort, the nut offense has not been running wild on anyone. Now enter Saine, one of the fastest backs with size in the nation. He only received eight or so rushes Saturday, one (I believe) in the second half as Ohio State scrapped the game plan and went to the air. Saine, and Herron have had limited success getting outside and have been stuffed a few times on short yardage.

With the advent to the spread, local reporters discussed changes in the blocking schemes and pronounced the line play as better. This is a group of mostly five star touted recruits on the offensive line and the job is not getting done. The group is huge and strong as Paul Bunyan, but the group appears to take quite a bit of time for things to develop. This led to criticism of Coach Bollman’s scheme last year. Now figure in that when the other team is sending the fort, like Purdue did on Saturday, Ohio State has held in tight ends for max protect. Some are infuriated that Purdue’s five beat Ohio State’s seven on the line, leaving plenty of coverage for the three wideouts in the secondary.

Now enter another factor, other than injuries (backs and line) and o-line play, the shift of responsibility almost totally on Terrelle Pryor. You see, in the spread, the quarterback is responsible for nearly everything: making the initial call, audiblizing, making the read play decision, and staying in the pocket or running outside for a gain. The time it takes to read and get set and make a final decision has led to several sacks, even against slower types.

The obvious best thing for Ohio State would be to just put him in a wildcat and run the ball for 5 to 10 a crack. But stop signs appear on the horizon. Terrelle Pryor has bragged far and wide that he would never play for Coach Rodriguez at Michigan because he would not let a coach get him hurt running the ball, and besides he wanted to be a pocket quarterback, prepared to play quarterback in the NFL. Is this limiting his run production, because it is obvious this guy could run for 150 yards a game against anyone? Or is this a partial result of Coach Tressel’s known lust for total control and micromanagement?

Ohio State has a great opportunity to make a decision about the future of the offensive philosophy, since the next two opponents are Minnesota and New Mexico State, two of the worst offensive teams in the nation. This will provide time for a continuum shift, an opportunity not available if Ohio State was playing, say, Penn State next week.

Coach Tressel is a master at cold calculation, analysis, and systematic decision-making. It is the writer’s opinion that two choices are now at the forefront: continue on the current path and hone the offense for next year or changing the horse in midstream. The first choice would likely yield another loss and the second might not meet with the favor of his prize quarterback.

A reasonable but far from guaranteed guess is that Ohio State changes back to a standard proset, I-formation team that runs blasts and pulls linemen. Herron will be healthy soon (presumed). The objective will be to run the ball, control the clock, and win, a familiar Ohio State formula. This will free Pryor for play action and taking off on the perimeter with less pressure.

Again, the good news is Ohio State has two weeks to transform back to its natural mode of operation. If the current spread continues, Penn State might feast in the Ohio State backfield. Those guys are sack-masters.

Remember, Ohio State still has the best talent in the Big Ten, but the earthquake on Saturday did not come from the New Madrid area, it came from the defensive staff of Purdue, who showed the way on how to somewhat neutralize one Terrelle Pryor. Since the spread puts most of the onus on Terrelle, the Purdue defense put all of their attention on him as well.

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Written by Doc4Blu

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