For Ed Warinner, tempo and a shared mindset among coaches are keys to Ohio State’s 2016 offense
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When you’re replacing 16 starters on your team and you’ve got less than one month to get 85 players ready for the start of the season, there’s not much time to dilly-dally.
For Ed Warinner and his Ohio State offense, the work to get his group where it needs to be — where it’s been the last four years — began immediately on Sunday.
“We didn’t waste any time. We jumped right into tempo early,” Warinner told the media on Tuesday afternoon. “We obviously, in these long practices, can’t do that the whole day, but we have certain segments where we emphasize the tempo and we mix it in there. It’s a way for us to be the aggressor on offense.
“It’s just getting into a rhythm, playing fast, trying to be aggressive on offense. Aggressive in tempo, aggressive in play calling, aggressive in throwing the ball — an aggressive mindset at a fast tempo.”
Despite replacing so many established stars and starters, J.T. Barrett’s return to the lineup as the unquestioned starter at quarterback means there’s comfort at the game’s most important position. Having Barrett running the show between the lines eases the transition that naturally comes from losing the majority of your team.
“Whether you have a veteran team or a young team, to have a J.T. Barrett, one of the best quarterbacks in the country — somebody you trust, you respect and is a great leader — that’s where it all starts. It just makes you feel good when you’ve got Pat Elflein at center and J.T. at quarterback. That’s a great starting point.”
It’s a starting point, sure, but the goal isn’t to start, it’s to finish. Barrett’s presence aside, Warinner and his offense needs to pick up a lot, and quickly.
“So we just have to pick up the system, see who can sustain through this part of training camp,” the Buckeyes offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, said. “As it goes right now, they’re gonna start to hit the wall sooner than later. Then we’ll find out who can push through that and play fast.”
Playing fast, being the aggressor — as the Buckeyes were against Michigan last November and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl in January — means not letting the defense you’re facing dictate what you do with the football, like Michigan State did to Ohio State last November.
Warinner, who was on the field with the Buckeyes for the majority of last season, moved upstairs to the press box for Ohio State’s two final games, a week after the Michigan State debacle. What happened in that seven-day stretch? The offense responded. The Buckeyes scored 42 points and collected 482 yards against a vaunted Michigan defense and 44 points and 496 yards against Notre Dame five weeks later.
“The whole thing about being removed like that, elevated, is you can process the information without it being relayed to you,” Warinner said of the offense’s instant improvement. “Someone doesn’t have to see it and tell it to you, then you don’t have to listen to it, process it and make a decision. You can do all that on your own, so that transition time is one or two seconds instead of seven or eight seconds, and you can go faster. Or you have more time to think if you don’t want to go faster.
“You can see all the nuances. You don’t have to have anybody tell you the corner is playing heavy to the field, or the boundary (weak-side) linebacker is always doing this, etc. If you’re on the field, you don’t see any of that. If you’re not on the field, you have a whole broad view of what’s going on so it’s easier to just do that. It’s less chaotic. The sideline is very high energy, loud. The weather can affect things down there.”
With roles assigned – at least among the coaching staff – Warinner and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck know what Urban Meyer wants from them and their play-calling.
“That’s the way Coach (Meyer) wanted to go so we could play faster, process faster and get the information from myself and Tim Beck down to the field as quickly as we can,” Warinner said. “It was a good working mix, because as you guys know, I worked with Tim Beck before at Kansas and we had a lot of success doing that.”
It’s a shared mindset from a core group — Meyer, Warinner, and wide receivers coach Zach Smith — that are going on their fifth year together. Experience provides consistency and a chance to innovate, and in some cases, renovate. Especially when you bring in new assistants like Tony Alford, Tim Beck and most recently, Greg Studrawa, who worked with Meyer during his two seasons at Bowling Green.
“That’s part of why you build a coaching staff. If Coach Meyer and I didn’t philosophically agree, we wouldn’t be working together. But I so believe in his philosophy, that it’s easy to work with him.
“We mesh together. Greg Studrawa, Tim Beck — those kind of guys that are all of the same mindset — so when we see something we’re all thinking the same thing. If (the other team) does this, it’s coming out of three people’s mouth the same instead of everybody seeing something different, so we have great symmetry in that regard. It’s a good flow and we are philosophically aligned in what we want to do. We were when Tom Herman and I worked together, and we are with Tim Beck and Greg.”
On a football team that has so much uncertainty personnel-wise, there isn’t much worry from the coach in charge of the offense. It’s simple, really: Play fast, play aggressive and make sure everyone is on the same page. So, despite the high expectations and bevy of questions, can working with people you believe you in make this season, just maybe, fun?
“It’s exciting, because we are very deep and skilled out there,” Warinner said. “It’s a really good situation with the offensive staff. We’re in a good place.”