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Fulton Analysis: What Wilson brings - Part One

At its most basic level, Urban Meyer’s charge to Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is self-evident – improve an Ohio State offense that has been plagued by inconsistency in recent years – culminating in a shutout loss to Clemson. But Wilson’s real task is more specific. It is to implement an improved passing game that allows Meyer to continue to operate his spread-to-run framework – without being overly dependent on designed quarterback runs to constrain a defense.

To see why this is the goal we must take a step back. The Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship run was enabled by a downfield passing game that prevented teams from overly focusing on Ezekiel Elliott on a variety of gap and zone run schemes. While quarterback runs remained an integral part of the offense, it was not an overarching focus.

Entering the 2015 season, Meyer wanted to build upon this same formula. But his new offensive staff of Ed Warinner and Tim Beck could not replicate that playoff success. Defenses began using a blueprint – slanting their defensive line, bringing additional linebackers or safeties to limit edge plays, and using soft coverage to limit vertical play-action throws (particularly to the wide field) that combined to cause problems for the Ohio State offense.

The defensive line slanting often short-circuited the Buckeyes’ base tight zone run play. And the edge support limited jet sweeps and other outside schemes. But most importantly, the Buckeyes could not consistently deploy a passing game that adequately responded to the off zone coverage defenses were presenting.

Meyer’s staff triaged the problem midway through the 2015 season by inserting J.T. Barrett and relying on the quarterback run game. This provided the Buckeye offense the ability to run away from the defensive slant and provide an additional blocker at the point of attack.

But – as demonstrated in the 2015 loss to Michigan State – this proved to merely be a band-aid. The same problems re-emerged in 2016.

Enter Wilson. Wilson was not only one of the early progenitors of the spread offense but he is also a coach that has succeeded with a spread scheme without the luxury of a running quarterback – both at Oklahoma and Indiana. His task will be to bring that same success to Columbus.

But as Meyer recently indicated, he will remain involved with the offensive design. It therefore helps to look at areas where Meyer and Wilson’s past offenses overlap before expounding on areas where Wilson may initiate changes. Like Meyer, Wilson has long based out of 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) – often using a Y-off [tight end off the line of scrimmage] as an additional lead run blocker.

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