August 26, 2012

Ohio State offense catching up with defense

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

Entering Ohio State's third week of fall camp, Buckeyes' offensive coordinator Tom Herman said that he felt that his unit was finally catching up with its defensive counterpart. OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, however, would like to hear Herman say that to his face.

"Where's Tom Herman now?" Fickell jokingly asked. "He said that with you guys around, nobody else."

It's no secret that the Ohio State offense struggled a season ago- particularly in the passing game, where the Buckeyes ranked 115th in the nation. In an effort to return the Ohio State offense to a place where it is not only functional, but unpredictable, first-year Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is installing the same spread offense that helped him go undefeated in 2004 at Utah and win two BCS national championships at Florida.

The Buckeyes' offense didn't looking anywhere near where Meyer would have liked it to be during spring practice, but all indications out of the team's camp have been that it's made major strides in the past three weeks. And having served as Ohio State's interim head coach during that time, perhaps nobody understands the need for the Buckeyes' offense to bounce back than Fickell.

"Obviously, they had to install a completely different offense and you really see it starting to come together," Fickell said. "That's great. It's been exciting out there and it's been tough on our guys. So, I hope they are. If they are, then we'll be in good shape."

Although the Buckeyes' first game is a little less than a week away, there are numbers to support their offense's improvement. The team's last scrimmage before the start of the season, quarterback Braxton Miller completed 27-of-39 pass attempts for 358 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Meyer said that his quarterback's performance has given him faith that the Buckeyes' offense will be "fairly competent" when it takes the field against Miami (OH) on Sept. 1.

"I can't say great because I don't see that, but I see competency," Meyer said. "I see the ball being snapped quickly. I see an offensive line protecting and doing the right things. The skill's starting to improve and it didn't look that way for the first two weeks."

It's not just the Ohio State coaches that have noticed the strides made by Miller and company.

"I feel like it's getting more competitive. They're learning, they know our schemes," defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "This offense is pretty challenging, the way they're uptempo and how they spread the field, so it's a challenge for us."

One of the most improved position units on the Ohio State roster appears to be its wide receivers, which is a welcome sign for Buckeye fans who saw a mere 14 catches be good enough for three players to tie for the team lead in receptions in 2012. As somebody who competes against the OSU wideouts every day in practice, sophomore corner back Doran Grant said that the Buckeyes' receivers improvements have been noticeable.

"They're more competitive, more hungry I feel. Even like the young guys like Michael Thomas, he's bringing some more energy to the group," Grant said. "I feel like they're going to be a good group as soon as they just get it all together."

But while an improved OSU offense might make practice harder on his unit, Fickell said that all that matters is that the Buckeyes are moving forward- on both sides of the ball.

"We're a team," Fickell said. "That's the biggest thing is I think we're starting to come together as a team."


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