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Published: 9/7/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Meyer, OSU always have next play ready

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Tom Herman was the offensive coordinator last year for Iowa State before coming to OSU. Tom Herman was the offensive coordinator last year for Iowa State before coming to OSU.
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COLUMBUS -- High atop Ohio Stadium, the play calls bulleted from the press box last Saturday afternoon.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer figured it a formula for confusion. He had never worked alongside offensive coordinator Tom Herman -- the 37-year-old Mensa member calling the shots from the coaches booth -- or been part of an offense this fast.

A year ago, the grinding Buckeyes averaged 62 plays per game. They would run 86 in the no-huddle spread against Miami (Ohio).

Turns out, it was no sweat.

Adjusting after a scoreless first quarter, No. 14 OSU scored 56 points, amassed 538 yards, and, perhaps most impressively, only had one false start in a trial run Meyer called "very good." As for Herman, fullbacks and tight ends coach Tim Hinton said the maestro seated next to him "did a phenomenal job."

"The play caller has got to be so sharp on the next call as soon as he makes the first call," Hinton said. "We're trying to ID the defense, see what the front is, the coverage, how they're playing, but he's already thinking about the next call so that it gets in and it's rolling.

"It's amazing. It isn't slow down, look at my call sheet, here's my best third-and-1, my best third-and-2. It's got to be something that's very ingrained in how you call, a pattern in which you call."

One of Meyer's biggest questions before the season concerned the chemistry of the offensive staff. There were just so many new faces -- the first time he has ventured away from his comfort zone as a head coach.

Meyer's first year at Florida, for instance, he had worked previously with four of his five offensive assistants, including coordinator Dan Mullen. Now, the only coach from that 2005 UF staff he did not know -- running backs coach Stan Drayton -- is the only one on this staff that he does.

"I have a lot of guys on our coaching staff I didn't know," Meyer said. "And obviously I don't know them very well yet. You never know until you know."

Yet Meyer believes his staff is in lockstep, especially Herman, who spent last year as the offensive coordinator at Iowa State and is responsible for introducing the no-huddle element to the spread.

Herman won Meyer over in an interview with his vision for the Buckeyes' offense, which, not coincidentally, is word for word aligned with the boss's philosophy.

"We're not finesse, not basketball on grass, not going to throw it every snap," Herman said. "Our spread is used to equate the numbers in the run game and put the quarterback in the shotgun and make him a viable run threat, then still hold true to our basic, core tenets of two-back, off-tackle power, tight zone. We just do it with the formations and the motions to spread people out."

The synergy is important because Meyer said he and his coordinator must be able to read the other's mind. This is not a staff where a coach is offensive coordinator in title only -- think Jim Bollman under Jim Tressel. While Meyer has veto power and is intimately involved with game-planning, estimating he devotes 90 percent of his time to offense and special teams, Herman is the one scripting the plays.

"When the defense is on the field, that's when I'll ask, 'Give me the script for the next series. What are the next five plays and what are we thinking?' " Meyer said. "He'll start rattling them off, and I'll say no, let's stay on formation and stay out of that and get going.

"So the conversation is, 'Give me the personnel grouping and the play, and then I'm really the only one talking to Tom saying, 'Run the counter, run the power, run the three-level pass, take the shot, those type of things. That is the communication, but it's really fast. It's as fast as I've ever been a part of."

Fortunately for Meyer, he learned early he has a guy who can think on his feet. In training camp, Meyer and Herman would often wear headsets, with the head coach testing his new hire's instincts in various situations.

"I say, 'Take the shot,' we've got to think a lot alike," Meyer said. "We should know what that shot is. That means run the reverse. So it went very good for the first time [Saturday]."

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggs Blade.



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