COLUMBUS, Ohio — Coaches need practice, too.
When Urban Meyer tossed out the scripts during scrimmages in training camp, it was clear he and new Ohio State offensive assistants Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day were trying to speed through the learning curve. Even as decorated and experienced as those three coaches are, maybe working out any early deficiencies with the play calling simply requires a bit more patience.
That doesn’t mean any of them have offered up excuses for what happened in the 31-16 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night. They haven’t. It’s also not to suggest that some of those issues with an offense that seemingly abandoned an effective rushing attack were new for the Buckeyes. They weren’t. And considering how well they’re all compensated, that’s also not a call for sympathy — not that they would expect any.
“I don’t think the adjustments are radical,” Wilson said. “We did not have a lot of flow to the offense, we were very stagnant and we’ve got to work hard to get our rhythm back. That includes the coaches and the game planning and the structure of the practices to give those guys a great chance. We own it; I own it. Very, very, very poor job and a lot of work to do, but not radical work. We’ve got a bunch of great players, we had a great preseason and we got out of whack [against Oklahoma]. We’re going to get it back on track.”
There are more reasons to expect the Buckeyes brain trust will get the offense fixed than reasons to doubt that it won’t.
Meyer’s national championships are a fine place to start. Wilson’s record-setting offenses at Oklahoma and the exemplary work he did with less talent at Indiana suggest he’ll be fine. Day served under Chip Kelly and should be able to help push the tempo.
Of course, all of these things were true in August when Meyer forced his staff to call plays on the fly against a variety of defenses to try to work through any communication or philosophical issues before the games started counting. They were supposed to have everything in working order before the Sooners showed up at the Horseshoe, but other than in the second half against Indiana, it clearly hasn’t worked out that way.
That doesn’t mean it won’t, though. And just like any inexperienced players on the field, the offensive staff now effectively has five games to make sure everybody is on the same page before the next major test on Oct. 28 against Penn State.
“A lot of times head coaches can screw things up worse than they are, and I’m not immune to that,” Meyer said. “So I’m more conscientious than I’ve ever been. I have very good coaches on offense. … There are a lot of people in that room working on it to keep it moving forward.
“The first half of Indiana was not particularly [strong], but the second half flowed very well. And it did not flow necessarily well against Oklahoma. So I would anticipate that you will continue to see a merging of ideas and concepts. The same with Ryan Day. He’s got a very good mind, and we’re always constantly adding wrinkles to make things better.”
The tweaks probably don’t even have to be all that innovative.
J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, for instance, probably need to finish games with more combined rushing attempts than quarterback J.T. Barrett. After bumping into some problems with the short-yardage offense, maybe Ohio State will eliminate some of the designed rollout passes that don’t seem to be opening up options for Barrett. Maybe they can even dip back into the old playbook that worked so well for Barrett and the 2014 national champions, bringing back the jet sweep and the pop pass that produced so many yards and points but has seemingly vanished from the arsenal.
“I think the evolution of defenses, especially the ones that have given us trouble over the last couple of years, that’s constant because it’s the multiplicity of defenses that have given us [trouble],” Meyer said. “It’s constant change, and it’s much different than it was in 2012. So, yeah, we’re re-evaluating that.”
Between the three men who get top billing for Ohio State’s offense, odds are they will find a solution.
It might just take more than two games together to come up with it.
“The coaches have to practice calling plays,” Wilson said. “I’m sure the more we do it, the better it will be.”