August 19, 2013

Herman has high hopes for Ohio State offense

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Considering he's a statistics guy, you would think that Tom Herman would have a precise number of plays that he'd like his team to run on any given Saturday. But the Ohio State offensive coordinator is surprisingly pretty flexible when it comes to how many snaps that he'd like to see the Buckeyes take this season.

"Whatever it takes to win," Herman said at the conclusion of OSU's Monday practice session. "If we run 68 snaps and we've got one more point than they do, at the end of the day, we're happy. If we run 100 snaps and we've got one more point than they do, at the end of the day, we're happy ... we have no goals are far as total snaps are concerned."

In the Buckeyes' first season under Herman and OSU head coach Urban Meyer, they ranked 66th in the country in offensive plays per game, averaging 72.1 snaps per contest. For all of the talk about Herman's 'jet tempo' and no-huddle approach, Ohio State averaged fewer than seven more plays per game in 2012 than they did in 2011, when the Buckeyes ranked 107th in the country in total offense.

With one more year of experience in Meyer and Herman's spread system under its belt, Ohio State figures to only average more plays in 2013, as quarterback Braxton Miller grows more comfortable with everything about the offense he's running.

"He's head and shoulders better than he was and farther ahead," Herman said of his Heisman hopeful signal-caller. "The more he learns, the more fluent he gets, now the more we can go, and it just kind of snowballs a little bit."

Adding to Herman's optimism about his offense is the improved play of tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett. With the Buckeyes possessing two athletic tight ends like the ones that Meyer so often utilized during his national championship-winning days at Florida, OSU's second-year offensive coordinator expects his unit to be better capable of running more no-huddle sets in the upcoming season.

"It allows you to have a little freedom in the run game and pass game. The good thing about us being no-huddle is that we don't have to take those guys off the field. We don't have a blocking tight end and a pass-catching tight end. We've got two tight ends that can line up and do both things," Herman said. "It allows us to play faster, it allows us to keep the entire offense in out of one personnel group."

The progress of the Ohio State offense has also been accelerated -- literally -- by the arrival of the nation's second ranked recruiting class in 2013. Freshmen Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, James Clark, and Ezekiel Elliott have all been named by coaches and teammates as newcomers to keep an eye on this fall, as Meyer put a premium on adding playmakers to his roster this offseason.

Herman, for his part, couldn't be happier with the new weapons that he has at his disposal, but also noted that while fans can expect an expanded playbook this season, the Buckeyes won't stray too far from what made them successful during their undefeated campaign a year ago.

"We've got to be careful not to, 'Well, we've got all of these new toys, lets create a whole new offense every week or every period of practice' or anything like that," he said. "We're going to do what we do and plug those pieces of the puzzle in when we need."

Combine the Buckeyes' influx of talent with the natural progress of nine returning starters, and it's easy to see why fall camp is running much smoother for Herman in 2013 than it did a year ago. Long gone are the feelings of dread that the Buckeyes offensive coordinator endured when the mere thought of having to call a pass play crossed his mind, replaced by optimism and high hopes for the upcoming season.

"We're much faster, we're much more well oiled if you will with our jet pace and our uptempo stuff. It's running a lot smoother, definitely," Herman said. "I do know this: I sleep a lot easier at night than I did last year at this time."


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