COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s been established that Ohio State plans to return to a more tempo-based offense with new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
Up-tempo offenses take different forms, though, so it was worth asking at the Buckeyes’ first practice of the season: How fast is this particular version of fast?
During the best years of the Chip Kelly era at Oregon, television networks airing the Ducks games would put up a clock ticking away the seconds between snaps. Often, Oregon would need fewer than 10 seconds from a tackle or incompletion to the next snap, wearing down defenses and dizzying viewers.
Ohio State’s last two years were a far cry from that. The Buckeyes never quite reached Oregon speed under former offensive coordinator Tom Herman, but they were plenty fast. Then Herman left for Houston and things slowed down under new coordinator Ed Warinner. There would be glimpses of tempo, but it rarely appeared for large chunks of time.
This offseason made it clear that approach wasn’t an acceptable one. Warinner left for Minnesota, and coach Urban Meyer hired offensive mastermind Kevin Wilson, along with quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, who played and coached under Kelly.
“I think at times we got away from [tempo], and it’s part of who we are,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said Thursday.
Ohio State’s tempo will be back this fall, and it should be a consistent, uniform approach instead of the back-and-forth speeds of the past two seasons. But don’t expect ESPN or FOX Sports to put up any clocks tracking the Buckeyes’ time between plays. Both Barrett and Wilson said after the first practice of the season Thursday morning that there’s no set goal for how fast the Buckeyes need to be.
Wilson invoked the famous John Wooden quote imploring his players to be quick but not to hurry, and backed that up with a basketball metaphor to boot.
“It’s not like you’re frantic,” he said. “It’s no different than playing up-tempo basketball. You still have to execute. You can’t throw it away. What you try to do is get in a rhythm and get the defense on their heels to get those guys maybe not doing as much, but you still have to execute.
“You don’t want to rush, but you want to go fast. It’s learning how to play within yourself at a reasonable tempo.”
The Buckeyes might not be in a dead sprint to get back to the line of scrimmage in between plays, but they will be hurrying. Barrett noted the myriad of variables on any given play that could determine how quickly the ball hits his hands again, then paused and delivered the four words that summed it up perfectly.
“As fast as possible,” he said.