It is no secret that Ohio State’s offense over the past several years has been heavily scrutinized by the fanbase.
Now that Ohio State has hired a new offensive coordinator, all eyes will be on Kevin Wilson in his debut season as he tries to appease those cries for an improved offense.
But with Wilson leaving Indiana for Columbus, many are probably wondering how this new offense will look.
Calling the plays for redshirt senior J.T. Barrett, Wilson will be presented with a new style of quarterback to work with. Over his six seasons at the helm of the Hoosiers, Wilson has coached 15 different quarterbacks, who have amassed a total of 1,820 rushing yards. Barrett has 2,465 rushing yards in three seasons.
While mobile quarterbacks have never been a major part of Wilson’s offensive arsenal at Indiana, his signal-callers have always seemed to find success in the passing game. Since 2011, Wilson’s offense has led the Big Ten in passing yards three of the six seasons (2012, 2013, 2015) and finished second in 2016.
In four of Wilson’s six seasons at Indiana, the Hoosiers’ aerial attack tallied at least 3,000 yards, a feat the Buckeyes have accomplished only once in the Urban Meyer era (2014). Twice, that milestone was reached by just one quarterback (Richard Lagow with 3,362 in 2016; Nate Sudfeld with 3,573 in 2015), without the assistance of a backup quarterback.
While Wilson will likely conform a little to Barrett’s game and coach a more mobile quarterback, his track record indicates that Barrett might be counted on for a little more production in the passing game.
Since 2011 Wilson’s first season as a head coach, 80.6 percent of Indiana’s receiving yards have been tallied by wide receivers. With wideouts like now-Denver Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer and now-Jacksonville Jaguars pass-catcher Shane Wynn, the Hoosiers had for several seasons one of the more potent receiving corps in the Big Ten. This provided their quarterbacks — including Sudfeld, who now plays for the Washington Redskins — plenty of opportunities to air it out.
During Wilson’s tenure, wide receivers averaged 13.6 yards per catch. Wideouts totaled at least 2,600 receiving yards, twice surpassing the milestone of 3,000, in four of Wilson’s six years.
In Meyer’s first five seasons at Ohio State, wideouts have only accounted for 69.7 percent of all receiving yards, and just 64.4 percent of all receptions.
With a wide array of wide receiving options available next season, including redshirt junior Johnnie Dixon, sophomore Binjimen Victor, redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill and redshirt junior Terry McLaurin at his disposal, Wilson can be counted on to make the Buckeye wideouts more heavily involved than in past offensive schemes.
This season, Meyer and Wilson will feature four former four-star recruits at tight end, including trusted senior Marcus Baugh, who will have to shoulder much of the burden with redshirt sophomore A.J. Alexander out for the season with a knee injury.
And Buckeye fans should expect to see Wilson target those tight ends frequently when his offense gets near the end zone. Though Indiana tight ends tallied only 9 percent of total receiving yards during Wilson’s tenure, they accounted for 15.2 percent of the program’s receiving touchdowns over the past six seasons.
The biggest season for Hoosier tight ends came in 2015, when they were on the receiving end of 18.5 percent of the team’s passing touchdowns that season and 13 percent of all receptions.
Wilson’s tendency to distribute the ball to his tight ends might turn around a trend of reduced tight end usage by the Buckeyes over the past two seasons. After a 2014 season when the position was heavily involved, accounting for 19 percent of all touchdown receptions and 11 percent of all total yards, Barrett has not been targeting tight ends over the past two seasons, as they have only caught 4.4 percent of passing touchdowns and 9.4 percent of receiving yards.
Since Wilson took over the Hoosiers, no position has been drafted as frequently as the running back position at Indiana, with Jordan Howard going in the fifth round of the 2016 draft and Tevin Coleman going in the third round of the 2015 draft.
Despite the individual success of Howard and Coleman, a rush-based offense was never something Wilson ran on.
Still, the Hoosiers twice finished in the top three for total rushing yards in the Big Ten (second place in 2015, third in 2014). However, the ground game for Indiana dropped off a bit in 2016 as it finished 11th in the conference with only 1,979 yards (3.7 yards per carry).
Running backs have also not proven to be a featured part of the passing game at Indiana, like they have at Ohio State. The position accounted for only 15.8 percent of all receptions, 10.5 percent of all receiving yards and just 7.2 percent of receiving touchdowns over the past six seasons.
Wilson’s reluctance to fully utilize the ground game stands in stark contrast to Meyer’s track record of keeping the backs busy in both the rushing and passing game. Since 2012, 16.3 percent of all receiving yards, 21.9 percent of all receptions and 12.0 percent of all touchdown catches have come from Meyer’s running backs.
Part of the reason for this has been Meyer’s consistent inclusion of an H-back, with Curtis Samuel being the most prominent example of this role. Samuel led the Buckeyes with 865 receiving yards a season ago, and finished fourth in 2015.
It awaits to be seen exactly how Wilson features the running backs in 2017 and beyond, but Meyer’s past track record of keeping running backs heavily involved could mean Wilson will need to work on utilizing them in his offensive schemes a little bit more than in past years.