When recruiting high school players to come to Ohio State, head coach Urban Meyer said he does not try and find players that fit the offense the team runs.
For Meyer, it’s the opposite. It’s finding the best talent and molding the offense around particular players. With that, Meyer brought together a coaching staff with the goal of building an offense best suited to highlight the specific talents of the players they have.
That idea continued with redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Haskins is taking over for J.T. Barrett, a former quarterback who specialized in the dual-threat option game, using his arm and his running ability intermittently to move the ball downfield, something the Buckeye offense built itself around.
With Haskins, Ohio State had to mold a brand new offense, something Meyer has had to do before.
“When we recruited Dwayne he had a very good skill set. So it’s our job as coaches to adapt,” Meyer said Monday. “So we’ve tried to have very good offensive coaches obviously, and they take what people can do and do what they do best.”
That’s exactly what Ohio State has done.
Instead of running an offense that leads the conference in rushing, something Barrett did in his final season with Ohio State, Meyer and his coaching staff have an offense that leads the Big Ten in passing, averaging 365.8 passing yards per game with quarterbacks completing 76.9 percent of passes for an average of 13.3 yards per completion.
For Meyer, this is a product of what opposing defenses have given the Ohio State offense. He said opposing teams are still giving the wide receivers single coverage, and that Haskins takes advantage of the coverage with the timing the offensive line gives him inside the pocket.
Leading quarterbacks like Alex Smith at Utah, Tim Tebow at Florida and Braxton Miller at Ohio State, Meyer said he rarely has a quarterback like Haskins, a pro-style, pass-first quarterback who has thrown 16-of-17 total passing touchdowns this season at the helm of his offense.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a team average over 300 yards passing in a game,” Meyer said. “It’s different. But the one thing that Ryan [Day] and Kevin [Wilson] have done is utilize the skill set we have of the offensive personnel.”
With Ohio State averaging 54.5 points per game and leading the Big Ten with 599 yards of total offense per game, Meyer will take the yardage any way he can get it.
“It’s all about equating numbers,” Meyer said. “You equate numbers a handful of different ways. And in the pro-style traditional guy like Dwayne, you equate it by throwing.”
The change does not stop in the passing game.
Without a quarterback who can run a run-pass option similar to Barrett or what Penn State redshirt senior quarterback Trace McSorley will run against the Ohio State defense on Saturday, Meyer cannot run the double option where the second option is the quarterback run.
Meyer said the Ohio State offense still runs the double option, but in a different way than in past seasons.
“The double options are, sometimes you’ll see it looks like a called pass, but that’s a run where we’re reading the second-level defenders,” Meyer said.
With sophomore J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior Mike Weber splitting series at running back, Ohio State has the No. 5 rush offense in the Big Ten, averaging 233.3 yards per game with backs averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Compared to the 17 touchdowns Ohio State has recorded in the passing game, six different backs have combined for 10 rushing touchdowns, with Weber and Dobbins combining for five scores.
However, the true read-option offense is not exactly gone. In terms of personnel, Meyer said Ohio State still has the ability to run a similar kind of offense Barrett did in his collegiate career with redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell — who has averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored two rushing touchdowns.
As Meyer has said multiple times, Haskins is not Barrett. With that, Haskins will not run a dual-threat offense that serviced to Barrett’s strengths, just like Barrett would not have run a pro-style offense that would have complemented a quarterback like Cardale Jones.
For Meyer, it’s about creating an offense that puts Haskins in the best situation to beat opposing defenses.
“When you watch the film, it’s like I said, it’s not the same,” Meyer said. “It’s a very different offense right now. One was a run first, pass second. This is a do what they give you.”