Ohio State’s offseason plan heading into the 2017 campaign started before the 2016 season was even over. A 31-0 loss in a College Football Playoff semifinal tends to crystallize things for you.
Urban Meyer pledged to fix his offense seemingly in the first words off his lips after that Clemson blanking, but the issue was clear long before then. In fact, Ohio State reached the Playoff in spite of their passing game, which ranked fifth nationally in efficiency over the month of September, and then slipped to 65th, 57th and 81st in the three months that followed.
Tim Beck and Ed Warinner moved on to other jobs, and Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day were quickly hired. Meyer laid out his new offensive braintrust’s objective to the Audible podcast last week.
“If you look at 2014, that’s the offense we want to be,” Meyer said. “We rushed and passed for 250. A high-scoring offense. Our play-makers were very much involved. We had a very strong vertical passing game and J.T. (Barrett) was part of it. He broke Drew Brees’s record, as a freshman, for most touchdowns accounted for. We just have to get back to that. And there’s a variety of reasons. You start with protection, always, then you go to the ability of the receivers to separate and then the accuracy of the quarterback.”
Ohio State’s running numbers have remained relatively stable in his five years in Columbus — 242 yards per game in 2012, 309 in ’13, 264 in ’14, 245 in ’15 and 245 again in ’16. But their passing output has varied wildly and struggled to keep up with their running game, averaging 181 yards per game in 2012, 203 in ’13, 247 in ’14, 189 in ’15 and 214 last season.
“The amount of time we’re going to spend on that has already started. We have to get there,” Meyer said. “Any championship-level football team, you have to have great balance. You have to have toughness and balance. When we won it all that’s what we had, and we have to get back to that.”
Meyer praised Barrett through Ohio State’s struggles, and also praised the quarterback that will eventually replace him — 5-star signee Tate Martell. Listed at 5-foot-10, Martell is small but productive. He was named the national high school player of the year by USA Today, Gatorade and MaxPreps and compiled a 43-0 mark as the starter at powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas.
It’s that last statistic that Meyer says ties all of his quarterback recruits together.
“We do not evaluate on size, on completion percentage. We evaluate on wins and losses. J.T. Barrett is a winner. Cardale Jones was a winner. Braxton Miller was a winner. And then you’ve got this guy coming in that’s a big time one. I don’t know if he’s ever lost. You can see that in his personality, the way he handles himself. He’s been here two-and-a-half, three weeks and that’s all people say… relentless pursuit of being a great player but also picking up those around him. Very impressed so far with him, too.”
While every quarterback Ohio State recruits has to have a baseline athleticism and skill, one stat — the win — ties all the other important traits quarterbacks must have (leadership, coachability, dependability, etc.) that don’t show up on stat sheets.