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How Will Kevin Wilson’s Hire Affect Look of Ohio State’s Offense in 2017

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J.T. Barrett, Ohio STate Buckeyes

When you get whooped 31-0 in a College Football Playoff semi-final, it is time to look in the mirror. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has clearly done that in the week-plus since that debacle and on Tuesday rumored offensive changes became reality. 

No move was bigger then the announcement that former Indiana Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson, fresh off his own firing for “philosophical differences” at IU, as co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.

Additionally, Meyer announced that Ryan Day, who was hired as quarterbacks coach just a few days ago, would add the title of co-offensive coordinator too.

It means the architects behind OSU’s 2016 offense — Ed Warriner and Tim Beck — are gone. But, what does it mean for an Ohio State offense that clearly had plenty of talent and plenty of issues in 2016?

What we do know is that Ohio State gets one of the best power-spread offensive minds in the country in Wilson. He has long been known as the mastermind of Northwestern’s rise back to a Big Ten title in 2000 and more famously as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator for the better part of a decade.

However, will Urban Meyer turn the keys of the offense completely over? Can he become a “consultant” instead of clearly inside the offensive playbook on a daily basis?

Above all the smaller issues, can a guy who clearly knows what he is doing with an offense be entrusted by Meyer to do what he sees best without Meyer tinkering around with philosophies?

I ask only because the ways in which Meyer and Wilson think of offensive football are rooted in similar goals, but are vastly different in how they get there. Will it be Meyer’s ideas molded in to Wilson’s or will Wilson’s ideas take hold and a few wrinkles from Meyer be put in?

What is often overlooked in talking about Wilson’s time in Bloomington is just how explosive Indiana’s offense was, as in nearly even to the best of Ohio State’s offerings since Meyer came to town.

Going back to 2011, when Wilson took over at IU, Indiana’s offense averaged 441 yards per game. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s chugged along at a pace of 443 yards per game. That is nearly a dead-heat and done on Wilson’s part without nearly the level of talent to work with across the board that OSU has for him to work with coming in to 2017.

But, the bigger question at hand is just what is this offense at Ohio State going to look like in 2017. While we know that Wilson is well-versed in the power spread offense, he also is used to doing it with a more conventional spread passing game look to it.

That brings us to the biggest question of the offense — just who will be the quarterback?

Ohio State’s offense has been based on the power run game, with the quarterback as the centerpiece of the dangerous read-option. From Braxton Miller to Cardale Jones and certainly to J.T. Barrett, the passing game was always secondary to the ability to create mismatches in the run game.

That isn’t what Wilson or Day are about. They are passer-friendly coordinators who also believe that the key to a good passing attack is having a good rushing attack first. The first thing that comes to mind have been the arm punts put up in the last two years by J.T. Barrett on a rather consistent (and unfortunate if you’re an OSU guy) basis.

Barrett will enter his final season in Columbus likely facing competition from two much more highly rated passing prospects than he is.

Joe Burrow will be a redshirt sophomore and Dwayne Haskins has the arm that Barrett doesn’t, with the ability to run that Burrow doesn’t.

First though, Barrett is likely to get every chance to win the job quickly. A lot will depend on how this coaching staff can work with him. Should Barrett prove he hasn’t hit a ceiling, this is likely his offense.

He’ll have to do better than the career numbers suggest though, as he has a career completion percentage of 63 percent to go with 6,381 yards and 69 touchdowns to 21 interceptions.

On paper those are winnable numbers, but the devil is in the details. Often times Barrett was only making the easy or safe throw and that was seen time and again in the loss to Clemson. If it wasn’t easy or safe, he was taking off with the ball rather than extending plays in hopes of passing out of bad situations..

Wilson’s offensive mindset isn’t based on that type of play from his quarterbacks.

Things happen from within the pocket first and foremost, and that is where things have always been dicey for Barrett as a quarterback. If he can develop a pocket passing game, Barrett wins the job.

If not, Burrow is certainly a guy that fits the mold of what Wilson looks for in quarterbacks. He’s got size (6-3, 218) and he’s got athletic ability, but also a presence in the pocket too.

The difference between the two is easy to see in Ohio State’s spring game this past offseason:

Besides the issue of what happens at quarterback, Wilson’s biggest worry is how to shape an offense that doesn’t include the versatile weapon named Curtis Samuel.

He was one of the biggest bright spots for the Buckeyes this past season, but is gone and there isn’t another player on the roster that can fill his shoes. Additionally, Wilson loves to use tight ends in his scheme.

There’s never been and likely never will be an “H-back” in his system. Of course, this is made easier with Samuel being gone and no ready replacement really in the mix.

So, the traditional tight end is likely back in the offense way more than it was this season. That addition likely means a lot more of a traditional spread look to the offense as a whole. Gone will be the funky lineups trying to get space for Samuel to work in the run game and the like.

This offense also happens to have two quality, albeit young, running backs in Michael Weber and Antonio Williams. Weber put up 1,096 yards in his debut season, while Williams played in just one game but was arguably ready to contribute more in the coming years.

OSU’s offensive line was young and inconsistent in 2016, but that experience and overall recruiting prowess up front should take things back to normal this offseason. Wilson has always had good offensive lines to work with, and it may be the most underrated part of what his offenses have done throughout his career.

Look at Wilson’s recent (forget the long-term names even) record with the run game and you’ll see an offense that wins up front first.

It isn’t a coincidence that running backs like Tevin Coleman and James Houston are putting up good NFL careers quickly nor players like Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney have bright NFL futures ahead of them. They were key components to Indiana’s offensive success in the past few years, never mind the crazy running stats Wilson’s offenses put up at Oklahoma either.

What will perhaps be most interesting is how Wilson takes his tried and true philosophies and applies them to a level of talent he didn’t even consistently have while at Oklahoma back in the day.

It could be a scary marriage of talent and offensive scheming at work back in Columbus. The last time that happened? Some guy named Tom Herman transformed this offense and took OSU to a national championship.

No pressure Kevin Wilson…we’re just sayin’.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

Buckeyes Football

Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer

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Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?

We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.

Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G

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Buckeyes Football

Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation

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The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came. 

According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well. 

Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.

Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith. 

Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015. 

However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it. 

Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations. 

Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken. 

That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation. 

Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow. 

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Buckeyes Football

Report: OSU to suspend Urban Meyer

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The Ohio State University board of trustees have been verbally read in on the findings of a 14-day investigation in to the conduct of football head coach Urban Meyer. 

So, what will happen next? 

According to the Columbus Dispatch, it appears a suspension or even lighter punishment is coming for Meyer:

“Two sources connected to the investigation said the likely recommendation to university President Michael V. Drake is a suspension for Meyer. Drake and the board could also opt for a ‘time served’ punishment since Meyer has been removed from football activities for more than two weeks.”

Meyer has already been on suspension (or paid administrative leave) for the better part the month of August.

The meeting on Monday was able to take place because it was an “informational meeting” and no public business was conducted. However, there is a meeting scheduled for 9a.m. on Wednesday to discuss just what punishment would be recommended. 

Ultimately it will be the university president that makes the final decision, but the board of trustees will meet to send their recommendation to President Michael V. Drake, who is likely to adhere to the recommendation of the board. 

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Buckeyes Football

Ohio State wins Cotton Bowl Classic: The good, bad and what it means for 2018

Buckeyes defense dominates USC en route to Cotton Bowl Classic victory.

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Some may say that Ohio State had a real gripe about not being selected to the College Football Playoff this season. Whether the Buckeyes believed they were snubbed or not, they certainly took out any frustration on USC in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Ohio State used a dominating night on defense and just enough offense to beat the Trojans 24-7. Four turnovers were forced by the Buckeyes defense, resulting in a pick six and a huge shift in momentum late in the game too.

The win sends quarterback J.T. Barrett out on a high note, but it wasn’t his best effort on the field. He had just 114 yards passing and no touchdowns, while also putting up a Buckeyes-best 66 yards on the ground as well.

Luckily those 66 yards were enough to find the end zone twice in the first half for OSU.

Barrett got the Buckeyes on the board on their first possession and then put the Buckeyes up 24-0 on a 28-yard run late in the second quarter. However, it appeared momentum was shifting late in the half as Ronald Jones II put the ball over the goal line with just 1:29 to play in the first half.

That was it for the scoring though and it was a massive defensive message to the critics of the Buckeyes.

It all added up to the Big Ten coming away from a loaded day of action with a 5-0 record. Not only did the Buckeyes win, but so did Northwestern to help the Big Ten continue its banner bowl game start.

The Good

J.T. Barrett Continued to be Legendary

Few players in the history of Ohio State football have had the career that quarterback J.T. Barrett has had. Yet, it feels strange to say his career has been legendary. Maybe its the fact that he missed out on a Big Ten and national championship in 2015? Maybe it’s the fact that it somehow took until his senior season to win a Big Ten title as the quarterback?

Whatever it was, Barrett’s career just seemed incomplete. But, on Friday night Barrett added to his collegiate legend, setting the Big Ten’s total yards record that was previously held by some guy named Drew Brees.

There’s little doubt that Barrett is going to be remembered in Columbus for some time. Most importantly, Barrett was able to complete a post-season with a Big Ten championship and a win in a New Year’s Six game.

Not a bad way to go out in your college career.

Defense Got Turnover Happy

Ohio State showed it had a really good defense down the stretch run of the regular season, but it seemed to finally all come together in the Cotton Bowl. The Buckeyes forced USC quarterback and talked-about No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, Sam Darnold, to look rather average at best.

Part of Darnold’s issue came in the form of turnovers. Well, Darnold and USC in general, as the Trojans gave up the ball via turnover a whopping four times.

The last of which came as Darnold got hit from behind and let the ball fall right in to the waiting arms of an OSU defensive lineman.

It all added up to a USC offense that came in averaging 35 points per game being completely shutdown.

Let’s just say it was a great time for OSU to give its best defensive performance of the season too.

The Bad

Ohio State’s Offensive Performance

While a 24-7 scoreline would seem flattering, Ohio State’s offense really did minimal work on Friday night.

The Buckeyes amassed just 277 yards on 55 plays in the game, including just 114 yards in the passing game. Barrett getting a win in his final game was nice, but his passing game wasn’t. Barrett finished the game 11 of 17 passing for just 114 yards and no touchdowns.

Even more telling? The dynamic duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber was held to just 57 yards combined.

Given the domination of the defense all of this seems to be a bit nit-picky, but it should also be worrisome because this offense was up and down all 2017.

What it Means for 2018

It’s hard to say that this one game was make or break for any Ohio State players and their NFL draft status, but that is really the key from this game. Did Sam Hubbard’s great night make his decision easier? How many other guys will take off after this game?

Ultimately that is what is going to matter most heading in to the 2018 offseason.

However, what we can take away from the Cotton Bowl is the fact that the Buckeyes need some real work on the offensive side of the ball. Some of it is just simply growing up for young players, but we also saw what we saw most of this year in the pass game for OSU — there aren’t a lot of receiving options.

That group has got to regroup in a major way or the Buckeyes won’t be going anywhere but backwards on offense in 2018.

Dwayne Haskins is a better pure passer than J.T. Barrett, but it may not matter if no one can get open. Sure, you can give credit to the Trojans secondary, but the Buckeyes receivers did nothing to help themselves either.

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