CLEVELAND, Ohio — For most of the season, people have wondered if the Ohio State-powered game is good enough to beat Michigan and make it to a national championship. If you watch the film and evaluate both the offensive line and the running backs, the answer is a resounding yes!
Ohio State has rushed for 2,239 yards with 405 carries and 29 rushing touchdowns. The concern of some is whether the Buckeyes can run the football in close-range situations, on the goal line, when exiting the end zone and in a four-minute situation to ice the game and seal the win.
During Ryan Day’s tenure as buckeye play caller, Ohio State has grown into one of the most explosive passing offenses in the country. This year is no exception. CJ Stroud has thrown for 2,991 yards and 35 touchdowns while completing 66.4% of his passes and is the possible Heisman Trophy leader.
Wide receiver, Marvin Harrison Jr., has 65 receptions for 1,037 yards and 11 touchdowns. Other receivers, Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming, along with tight end Cade Stover, added 112 receptions, 1,715 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Whether the Buckeyes use the pass or the run, the key to their offense is balance and talent at every position. This talent hasn’t translated into the most physical playstyle, but it does allow these incredible athletes to play in space.
Bottom line – soccer in space is more important to the 2022 Buckeyes than a traditional running game.
Here are three ways Ohio State can take football to space against Michigan:
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With all the talent as a receiver, Stover could be the key to Ohio State’s offense.
Stover can block like a true fullback or tight end and run stretches in space like a true wide receiver. This flexibility opens up Day’s entire playbook based on defense personnel.
If the Buckeyes can get strong running personnel from defense, they can pitch the football. If they get a nickel or dime look or light numbers in the box, they can run. Stroud’s accuracy makes many of his throws as reliable as a running game. If the Buckeyes succeed in either the run or pass game, they can capitalize on the pace or go fast and force Michigan to stay on the defensives they have on the field. Stover gives Day a lot of options and doesn’t let the opposing defense right.
Below is what Ohio State’s 11 employees are doing with Iowa’s defense.
Because of Stover, Iowa is in play with three linebackers to stop the run. With three receivers, safety Kaevon Merriweather is matched with Egbuka in the slot. This is a mismatch that Stroud and Egbuka turn into a 13-yard touchdown reception.
Below the images is the video clip of the same piece.
Below is an end zone look at what Ohio State’s 11 staffers can do in the run game against Penn State.
The Buckeyes will operate a non-double-team version of their zoning scheme. The defensive line orientation allows center, Luke Wypler, to rise to the #1 linebacker and right tackle Dawand Jones to the #2 linebacker. Stover will go into the defensive end, leaving him to go to the #3 linebacker.
As Stover goes in, he widens the end and creates a huge lane for a 41-yard touchdown run for TreVeyon Henderson.
Below the pictures is the video clip of the same game.
The success and precision of Ohio State’s passing game allows it to only let the ball run when the defense looks good. The Buckeyes are primarily a zone team, allowing their huge, athletic offensive line to shield defenders horizontally and create shortened lanes for the Buckeyes running backs. With just five or six defenders in the box, players who play multiple zones with their talented players can take football to space.
Michigan is first in the Big Ten in fast defense, allowing just 80 yards per game. The Wolverines’ inside front seven, led by 6-foot-3, 337-pound Mazi Smith, can match the Buckeyes’ physicality. When Ohio State runs football, limiting the number of defenders in the box and having Smith double-cast are critical to success.
Below, the Buckeyes will run their basic outside zone concept to the right, but hand the football to Harrison Jr. with a left jet sweep. Ohio State will leave the back defensive end unblocked, knowing they will push down while the offensive line blocks to the right.
This is an easy way to get the best players into space without creating a new turn. That play resulted in a 14-yard run for Harrison.
Below the images is the video clip of the same piece.
For the Buckeyes, their short passing game and crossing routes are an extension of their running game. This is the easiest and most productive way to get soccer in space to its playmakers. Again, Stroud’s accuracy makes those short passes as reliable as handing the ball to a running back.
Since stopping the run is the Michigan defense’s forte, look to Ohio State to challenge the Wolverines runners-up and use these quick passing concepts as their primary running game.
So yes, sometimes the best running option for the Buckeyes might not be a traditional running game at all.
Below is a look at a Buckeyes mesh concept.
Harrison Jr. will run a flat cross and get a pick-or-rub from Stover. This game works against all covers and allows for easy throwing and catching for the Buckeyes. This 6-yard catch looks like a running game for Ohio State.
Operated by the State of Ohio, the game is not the physical brand that made Woody Hayes famous in the 1960s and 70s. This buckeye running game has success because of its passing game.
Through the use of formations, personnel, and simple plans, Ohio State can lead the ball just enough to be successful in the game.
Lance Reisland is the former coach of Garfield Heights High School, where he spent 18 seasons as his father Chuck’s assistant and four as his head coach from 2014-2018. In 2018, his team finished 11-1 and competed in the OHSAA Division II Regional Semifinals. This team went 10-0 and made history as the first Garfield Heights team in 41 years to have an undefeated regular season and Warren G. Harding for the first playoff win in school history.
Get the latest Ohio State Buckeyes merchandise: Here you can order Ohio State soccer gear online including jerseys, t-shirts, hoodies, caps and much more.
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