While much of what we see on television on Saturdays and Sundays doesn’t apply to non-select youth football teams, there are a few lessons we can all take away from Urban Meyer’s 2014 Ohio State Buckeye team. Love him or hate him Urban Meyer has won and won big at every stop in his coaching adventure, Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now Ohio State.
This was a very difficult year for Ohio State, coming into the season they had a bunch of very talented players graduate. Their Heisman trophy candidate Running Back, their top Receiver, 4 starting Offensive Linemen, the list goes on and on. Then before the season even gets started, they lose to injury their record setting Heisman trophy candidate Quarterback. Along the way, they suffer a myriad of injuries including losing their redshirt freshman now starting Quarterback, who had morphed into a Heisman trophy candidate of his own.
What did Meyer do schematically to adapt to this ever moving equation? An easy one was he made it easier for his Quarterbacks. The power read and sweep read type plays some call inverted veer option plays became less and less of the offense to the point they disappeared. These plays had been a mainstay of the Ohio State offense when Braxton Miller was the starter. They require accurate and quick reads by the Quarterback and many young Quarterbacks struggle with these plays. With the offense struggling a bit early on, turnovers would be key, so would limiting negative football plays. Most of the pass plays you saw from OSU had very few reads and few if any choice routes. The passes were simple play action passes, often times with a one receiver read, then run approach.
We saw fewer zone read type plays and when you did see what you thought was zone read, most of the time it was not. The play was a called give or keep and was optimized from a blocking standpoint for whatever “option” they had called. The same was true for the Jet Sweep “read”, watch the blocking on those “keeps” they are QB Power plays all the way. The same is true for the third option on these plays, the pass. Many are simple little hitch routes, but if you look at the fake handoffs and QB “keep” portion of these “option” plays, it’s very obvious there was no intention of making any of them give, or keep options, they were designed and called passes all the way. These are great series based football plays, but they weren’t options, making the QB’s job much easier.
Another thing we saw Meyer do was try and limit some of the big hits and gang tackling of his QB’s. The very Single Wingish and HUGELY successful QB off-tackle Power, QB Power Sweep and the QB Counter with 3 lead blockers was no longer part of the offense. These plays had been a mainstay of the offense with Miller at QB, but they disappeared in year three.
The moral of the story for those of us coaching youth football? We have to adapt what we do offensively to our talent. The play mix we use may vary a bit based on that talent. We have to coach up our backups, because you never know when you’re going to need them. Lastly, if we are thin at a position we may have to rethink how we use that position or limit what we call to put that player in harms way.