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No Coaching Changes Expected for Ohio State, but Something Must be Different in 2016
By Patrick Murphy
The OSU offense was stuck in second gear for most of 2015
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

COLUMBUS – On Thursday, Urban Meyer answered a question many Ohio State fans were wondering: Do you foresee any staff changes this offseason?

“No,” was Meyer’s simple response.

Defensively, the Buckeyes have already made one change by bringing in former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano to replace co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash, who is taking over the Scarlet Knights program.

This was a forced change because Ash accepted the head coaching job, but the defensive side of the ball was very good in 2015. In fact, the defense actually improved from the national championship season of 2014 and Meyer wants to keep that continuity as much as possible.

The offense is where the questions arise.

It took a few games to get it going, but during the run to the title two years ago the Scarlet and Gray offense was a juggernaut. The Buckeyes were ninth in the nation in total yards and fifth in points scored.

This last season, those ranks dropped significantly. After averaging 512 total yards per game in 2014, OSU managed just 434 this season which ranked outside the top 40 in the country. Ohio State scored points at will two years back (44.8 per game), but the offense averaged just under 38 points an outing this season.

Meyer knows something must change offensively for OSU
Photo by Dan Harker
 

With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, the Buckeyes’ rushing numbers didn’t change much. In 2014, the Scarlet and Gray finished as the fifth-best rushing team in the nation with 264.5 yards per game on the ground. This season, those numbers dropped a little to 245.2 rushing yards per game, which was 12th best nationally.

OSU’s rushing attack was fairly consistent between the two seasons, but the differential in the passing numbers is startling.

After throwing for 247.1 yards per game through the air between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones two seasons ago, the same two quarterbacks could only muster 188.8 passing yards a game this season.

There were some personnel changes for Ohio State between the two years. The deep threat of receiver Devin Smith was gone and no replacement emerged. Evan Spencer and Jeff Heuerman, two of the Buckeyes’ best perimeter blockers, graduated and there was a change on the offensive line.

All of this could point to a bit of a step back, but no one expected a drop off of these proportions.

Much of the blame has been placed on Tim Beck, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, who replaced Tom Herman after the championship season. While it would be difficult to imagine Meyer replacing someone he hired after one year, the offensive numbers speak for themselves.

Meyer did make a change that made a difference and could be the key to OSU’s offensive success moving forward, however.

After the loss to Michigan State, where the Buckeyes were held to 132 total yards, Meyer moved offensive coordinator Ed Warinner from the sideline to the booth to help Beck call plays.

Over the final two games of the season, Ohio State averaged 489 total yards, and accomplished this against two good defenses.

Michigan finished fourth in the country defensively, allowing just 281 yards per game, and they were 11th nationally in points against with an average of 17.2. In the regular season finale against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes registered 482 total yards and scored 42 points.

Notre Dame’s defense was not as stout, but still only allowed 362 yards per game against good offensive opponents. The Fighting Irish also only conceded 22.4 points per contest, but OSU slashed through their defense with ease. The Scarlet and Gray finished with 496 total yards and scored 44 points in their Fiesta Bowl win.

While motivation certainly played a factor in those final two games after the defeat, the only tangible change was Warinner’s move to the press box. Will that continue? Meyer was not sure.

“That’s still in the evaluation phase,” he said. “I thought the performance of Coach Warinner was outstanding upstairs, so was Tim Beck.”

While it would not be like Meyer to admit to any potential coaching changes at this time, it seems that Buckeye Nation should get used to the notion that this staff is sticking around. After living this season, Meyer promised a different, more balanced offensive attack next year, and with the departures on the offensive side of the ball, something will have to change.

Player profiles relevant to story:
Coach - Beck, Tim | Coach - Meyer, Urban | Coach - Warinner, Ed
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