COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Buckeyes spring game came to an end last week, so, too did Ohio State’s spring practice schedule.
But for the Buckeyes’ passing attack, which finds itself under the microscope more than any other unit in Columbus this offseason, the real work is just beginning.
“A couple of weeks ago, I asked the tight ends, like, ‘What do you need from me?'” recalled Buckeyes offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson. “And they said, ‘We’re not working on the passing game enough in our individual work.’ I said, ‘Well that’s what the summer is for.'”
Wilson’s logic is sound. For an offense that strives to be balanced, as Ohio State’s does, it makes more sense to use the allotted practice time each spring focusing on the ground game, when unlike in the summer, the players are wearing pads.
That’s not to say, however, the Buckeyes’ ignored improving their biggest weakness from a season ago this past spring. Far from it. Ohio State tracked each deep ball thrown throughout its 15 practices, charting whether or not the ball wound up catchable and whether or not a play was made.
But for a passing attack that ranked 81st in the nation a season ago — and 100th the season before that — the reality is that 15 practices simply aren’t enough. That’s why it’s important for the Buckeyes to continue that progress this summer, when quarterbacks and receivers will have an opportunity to further develop chemistry — even if it’s not within the construct of a traditional practice.
“I’d just like to see our offense keep stacking up good days to have the momentum our offense has,” Wilson said. “To me, there’s just a little energy that you bring. And I just want to kind of keep building the energy through the summer and the preseason.”
That starts with QB J.T. Barrett, who returns for his fourth season as Ohio State’s starting signal-caller in 2017. After struggling down the stretch of the 2016 campaign, Barrett looked noticeably more comfortable in the pocket throughout the spring and appeared to exit the spring game with positive momentum heading into the remainder of his offseason.
Now it will be incumbent upon Barrett — as well as backups Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell — to continue making strides this summer while working alongside a talented but inexperienced wide receiving corps.
“When it comes to the passing game, this is where we’ll polish up those little details,” Barrett said. “For example, last year, me and [WR] Noah [Brown] worked on back shoulder fades all the time. And it came up several times in games, whether it be against Oklahoma or Wisconsin. So those are the things you work on — timing. Because that’s when you really have time for that.”
“The summertime’s where, in 1-on-1 and minor group time, these kids can really clean up some of their routes and how to get in and out of breaks. J.T. and Joe and Dwayne and Tate can get with guys and see where they like the ball to drop. There’s a lot of work they can do on their own,” the former Indiana coach said.
Four months into this offseason, it seems to be so far, so good for the Buckeyes’ passing attack. These next three months, however, will be what determines just what Ohio State’s offensive ceiling will be in 2017.