Craig has the Scout - Ohio State 2020
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Who: Ohio State Buckeyes
When: 11:00 am - November 28th, 2020
Where: Home Sweet Home
**Head Coach: Ryan Day. _Ryan Day and Lincoln Riley are the two _IT guys when talking about college coaches the NFL covets. Riley gets on the list for his innovative offensive schemes. Day because he has an NFL pedigree. Day has roots in a couple of coaching trees, Urban Meyer and Chip Kelly. He played for Kelly at New Hampshire, and coached with him in both Philadelphia and San Francisco. After his playing days, he joined Urban Meyer's staff at Florida as a Grad Assistant, before moving on. He hooked back up with the Meyer tree by becoming the OC for Steve Addazio at Temple and Boston College. He was there until Chip Kelly brought him to the NFL. Urban Meyer hand selected him to be the QB whisperer after the end of the Tim Beck era, and probably did so with an eye to him succeeding as Meyer was going to retire.
_*Offensive Style: Pure Spread mixing run and pass. *_The play-calling for the Buckeyes is done by Ryan Day. The offensive gameplans come courtesy of one Kevin Wilson. Wilson, the former Indiana HC, is one of the original spread gurus. Wilson was Randy Walker's OC at Northwestern at the beginning of the Walker run, then moved to Oklahoma where he replaced Mark Mangino as OC. The beauty of Wilson's gameplans is they get plenty of weapons involved and the offense generally moves with rhythm. It makes it easier to do it with blue chip talent everywhere, but he did the same at Indiana as well.
_*Defensive Style: 4-2-5 primarily with Man Free. *_Greg Mattison is one of two DCs for Ohio State, and probably more of a game planner than play caller these days. Jeff Hafley left Ohio State in the off-season for Boston College, so Kerry Coombs has taken over as the new secondary coach and co-DC. The defense is 4 down linemen and 2 LBs up front. They have a Hybrid LB-S, 2 corners, a safety, and a Hybrid CB-S. This gives flexibility to match up opponents from 4 WR to 3 TEs in a base set, and they love to run man coverage.
_*Specialists: *_Ohio State keeps mixing up the placekickers. They are 2 for 5 on Field Goals this season and are 1 for 3 inside 30 yards. Not great.
Three Things to Watch
_*Turnover Margin. *_Ohio State has the fewest turnovers in the B1G this season, and are generally very good with ball control. Indiana proved they are not immune and forced 3 INTs. Illinois is 4th in the B1G in forcing turnovers. Illinois needs a +3 game to be in it.
_*The Buckeye passing O vs. the Illini pass D. *_Indiana made Fields uncomfortable and he struggled by only completing 60% of his passes. The Buckeyes are completing 80% for the season. Illinois is allowing opponents to complete 71% of their passes this season.
_*Illini rushing offense vs. the Buckeye rush defense. *_The Buckeyes have been up and down with the rush defense. They held Indiana to (-1) rushing yards last week, but gave up 210 yards against Nebraska. The Illini rushing attack is the best Ohio State has seen this year (and similar to Nebraska), so if Illinois can establish the run and get the ball moving they have a chance to sustain drives and keep the Illini in the game.
Scouting Review - Offense
Ryan Day was named play-caller his first day on the Ohio State staff. Day came out of the gate with a phenomenal start, and the Buckeyes put up huge numbers in the passing game. JT Barret threw for 35 TDs, and the Buckeyes increased that to 50 passing TDs his first year. Fields kept it up last year throwing for 41, and he is averaging 3 TDs a game this season. Day has earned his reputation as an offensive guru. The most impressive thing he has accomplished so far is the recruiting he is accomplishing while not being a celebrity coach.
The Ohio State offense has a few basic concepts that they run very well, and then Day add layers that makes it very complicated to defend. Ohio State is running an offense closest to an NFL offense in the B1G. Day has borrowed concepts from the West Coast offense, Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer of course, but also concepts from all over the landscape. I saw plays from the modern NFL, Lincoln Riley, and Air Raid looks.
Day's main issue for the Buckeyes is Fields' pocket awareness and his ability to work progressions. Indiana did a great job of getting in his face last week and Fields responded with three picks. The primary issue with Fields is he is not accounting for where pressure is coming from and if he doesn't see the pressure, he is toast.
Here, Penn State runs an overload blitz to the backside. Fields is in empty, but doesn't read the blitz. He is responsible for the free man on that side, and gets lit up. He has a hot route there if he throws into the blitz. Fields has improved as the year has gone on, but for a guy with aspirations to play on Sunday, he needs to improve this part of his game.
I've spent a lot of time talking about how this is Day's offense, but there are a lot of elements from Urban Meyer still involved. Kevin Wilson was an early spread adopter, and borrowed many concepts from Meyer while at Indiana. The first play I think of when thinking Urban Meyer is the Q option - where the quarterback is reading the DT with an outside run option.
This is the quintessential Urban Meyer play from Utah, and then with Tim Tebow. Ohio State still has it in the playbook, but probably won't run it against Illinois much unless the Illini start getting a ton of pressure on the interior. Still, it is fun to see it is still in the playbook.
The main item they still use is the Urban Meyer deep read on the read option.
Meyer always talks about every run play is an option play. There is the one-option, which is always a give. You have the double-option which is the read option, and then triple-option which is the RPO game. Meyer always asked his QBs to attack the line of scrimmage in his read option game to force movement in his defenders. This is most likely a single option play where Teague (#33) is getting the ball from the snap. Meyer influences from Utah still exist in this offense and the effectiveness of the plays are still there which is why Day will dial them up. This portion of the playbook is very effective against the Illini preferred defensive set ups, so Day may dust this part of the playbook off.
Ohio State this year has been using the Arc block (H back blocking back across the formation) quite a bit. RichRod and others introduced this when teams began switching assignments against the read option prior to RPO action taking over. The advantage in the RPO is the H-back can release to the flat. Here is an inside zone read with the arc block.
I decide if a run is inside or outside zone based on how close the RB stays to the center, and Teague is following his center on this one. It looks like an outside zone due to the slanting Nebraska DL.
Another arc block being used here, and the bubble action on the top side of the video. The OL is basically stalk blocking, they are opening lanes but not moving downstream. Here is the same look hitting a hitch on the RPO
They can run the same look without the arc block.
I suspect the Illini 4-man front will bring more arc block versions though.
They also run a zone blocking scheme intended to hit outside the tackle box. The Buckeyes motion a receiver across the formation on this and do it to give Fields a read.
The motion helps giving Fields a read, but also can bump the coverage on the backend changing the numbers. The offensive look has an RPO attached to it.
This is a pure pass play, the OL is in pass pro sets. The pass concept here is actually a simple Flood with layers. The interesting look here is the WR coming across the formation behind the line. Most teams will run this with a shallow cross behind the DL. This is an interesting wrinkle.
I think Ohio State has added another NFL wrinkle to the offense. I would love the all-22 tape on this to make sure, but I'm pretty sure this is Duo. Duo is Power run concepts that looks suspiciously like inside zone. The difference is that the backside OT blocks up the DE vs scraping upfield. The rest of the OL is still using the double-team rules.
The formation spread the defense out, and left 1:1 blocks across the line. The 5-man box allowed Ohio State to pound this straight up the gut. Here is another view of the play.
This might be Inside Zone with a read of the Nickel, but I think this is Duo with the read-option action attached.
The final major run action to look at is the jet sweep. Ohio State opened the Penn State game with this play.
The side to side motion forces the defense to begin bouncing assignments side to side. They use the confusion to their advantage and will run an inside zone run off the action.
This was a short yardage situation, so again this was a one-option run. I expect them to use the look for short yardage and goal line situations. The can also take deep shots out of the look as well.
This is a 2-man route, and you can see Wilson ran an out, with Olave running the go. The effect of Olave in motion at speed is basically a Wheel route on the play, and Fields took the risky throw to Olave. He had Wilson on the deep out.
A primary concern for the Buckeyes this year is giving Fields time to work his progressions. Fields has a great arm and throws a really nice ball. He is prone to mistakes with pressure or when forced to make a quick read. As a result, Ohio State uses a lot of play-action passes. Here is a play-action off of inside zone run action with the arc block.
Olave (#2) started on the bottom of the video, and runs a crossing route. This is a 2-man route, with Olave on the cross and Wilson (#5) clearing the far side defenders on a go-route. The Buckeyes use a lot of max and 70 protection schemes. Here is another 70 protection look.
Rutgers did a nice job taking the deep routes away, and Fields rolled out. Fields could have sat in that pocket for an hour if he wanted to do so. Giving Fields time is necessary, but he doesn't always work his progressions and locks onto a receiver on the snap. Here, he throws a pick against Indiana. They had 70 protection again to start (Teague leaks out when they had no pressure) with 3 receivers in a route.
Fields never picked up the Cover 3, and absolutely missed the safety tracking his eyes. Fields had time, but also had the WR as soon as the LB broke as the flat defender. Fields was late on this throw. When he has time, he still locks onto receivers at times.
The most basic play run by Ohio State in the passing game is the double-crossing routes on the mesh concept.
Fields did a nice job here reading the pressure and escaping. He is very mobile and athletic which makes him a danger to blitz. The pressure to his face helped Fields see and feel the pressure coming at him.
When Fields has time and stays in the pocket, he does do a nice job of working through his progressions. Here he hits his 2nd or 3rd read.
Again, the Buckeyes are running extra protection to provide that clean pocket for Fields. When the Buckeyes need yards, they run quicker hitting pass plays. Here they run a set of Hitches to the chains on 3rd and long.
The receivers for Ohio State are the most athletic in the B1G. They tend to lock in on two receivers though, with Olave and Wilson catching ? of the passes this season and have over 60% of the targets.
Fields likes to hit Olave and Wilson in the passing game, and they tend to run them on deeper routes (thus the extra protection so often for Fields). The Buckeyes do like to run a lot of 2x2 formation concepts though, and the shallow receiver with Wilson is often Williams (#6). Williams is the possession receiver who finds openings and puts pressure on pass defense. Here he is the underneath route on what appears to be a smash concept.
It appears that Wilson (slot near side) is the primary read on this. When the blitz comes, the rest of the Penn State defenders get depth. That left Williams open on the underneath route. Against Indiana and Rutgers, Wilson and Olave were left open on the corners and Fields took advantage with deep shots.
In this case, there is no underneath route, but the corner is isolated on the WR.
The other thing to notice with the Buckeyes passing game is the alignment. Ohio State likes to isolate defenders with spacing between the receivers on sides. Here, they give a wide alignment on the near side to isolate the DB on the slant.
Fields has an easy read on this. If Indiana is in man, he has the slant opening as the two receivers have something close to a mesh. If they remain in zone, it depends on the handoff, but the out route should open with the corner cheating in.
Day is really good at isolating players, and against Indiana and Rutgers, they took shots down the sidelines repeatedly. Illinois has been running a Cover 2 shell, along with some Tampa 2 at times. Day will spend more time attacking the middle of the field against Illinois. Here is one play they will dial up.
Again, pre-snap alignment helps this. The extremely wide alignment of the WR pulls the Safeties apart on the snap. That left Wilson isolated on the LB in coverage, and I don't know if any offensive player not named Beason can stay in a foot race with Wilson or Olave. I expect Day to utilize the wide alignments to spread the safeties at the snap.
The Buckeye offense has been churning out points. The offense is well designed to get the playmakers in space, and to expose defensive weaknesses. Teague is not Dobbins, and the run game shows this. Ohio State will run a great deal of the inside zone action to freeze the LBs. The soft zone behind will be attacked by the Buckeyes. Unlike previous opponents for the Illini, the Buckeyes don't need the run game to be successful. If Illinois rolls the safeties downhill, the Buckeyes will work the Illini DBs in single coverage on the perimeter. I think Illinois will run some bracket coverage on the top two receivers, and will probably bring more blitzes to try and speed up Fields on his reads.
Scouting Review - Defense
When Day took over, the first changes he made was to the defensive staff. Greg Schiano was shown the door, and Greg Mattison was hired away from Michigan. Following the Mattison hire, they brought in Jeff Hafley. Larry Johnson was the DL coach though, so the talent the Buckeyes were bringing in meant they would not waver from the 4-man front. Schiano stuck with the 4-3, but it was rigid and complicated and it didn't work. New DCs meant a new look. The new look was about simplifying the scheme to letting the athletes make plays. The results were immediate and apparent, as Ohio State topped the charts in defensive categories (statistically #2 nationally). Hafley took the Boston College job in the off-season, and Day brought back Kerry Coombs to fill the open spot. Coombs was the cornerbacks coach from 2012-2017 and returns after two years on Mike Vrabel's staff with the Tennessee Titans.
The defense lost a lot of the secondary, with two starters going in the first round last year. Coombs has some coaching up to do. The defensive scheme remains simple on the backend, they run a lot of man coverage with a super deep single-high safety base defense. The front seven continue to be extremely talented. The Buckeyes defensive line has not been near as dominant this season. There are no Bosas or Chase Young on this DL. The stats tell you they are 3rd in the conference in sacks, but most of that is driven by the coverage behind. The Buckeyes are only 10th in TFL this season as they struggle to get penetration. The pass defense is solid, and the simplicity helps. Teams have been able to scheme guys open though. As the players get more experience, this team will start showing dominance like previous years.
The base defense is a single high safety, and they mix man coverage and Cover 3 with it. Here is the 4-2 front with a single-high safety that presents as a Cover 3.
Rutgers took advantage of the isolated CB and ran a series of out routes against it. This is one of the few times the whole defense set up in a zone.
The thing that is most impressive about the Buckeye DL is the tight splits the DEs keep on read option. They play very flat to the line and tight to the end.
The Penn State team is running a Dart play here, but the DE is shoulder to shoulder with the DT on the EOL. This is very common in all read-option plays against the defense. The Buckeyes essentially dare teams to have the QB keep on these. They feel like the athleticism they have on defense will play if they do as the secondary can chase down runners.
The two LBs inside the tackle box are both solid and aggressive against the run. This helps clean up the reads when the Buckeyes go to man coverage. The LBs are normally used to cover the RB, and in many cases will spy the QB.
As the downfield routes don't open, the spy rushes Martinez in this play and gets the sack. Again, the Buckeyes are 3rd in sacks in the B1G but really didn't generate much pass rush here.
I used this play in the Nebraska preview, but it really goes to show the aggressive downhill play of the LBs.
The DE plays this very tight again, leading Martinez to keep. The H-back was arc blocking, and the WLB plays Martinez. I'm unsure who blew this, #5 Browning or #20 Werner. Based on the reaction I'm guessing Browning. Either way, the aggressive downhill run action allows receivers to slip out into vacated zones.
The standard defensive look though again is the single high safety, where they will run Cover 3 as plays develop. Here is the best view of the look.
They do not stay in the single high safety look all game though, as they will mix in 2-high safety looks as well. They mix in the coverages out of the Cover 2 look though, including running a Cover 1 robber look.
Hooker (#21) is the free safety here and sucks up hard on the TE on the play. He is in Robber coverage here, coming forward in coverage to defend the hook zone. Normally a robber covers a seam in traditional coverage areas, but here he covers a TE who was well covered. This is the type of defense thought that leads to picks for a QB not looking for the deep safety to come up on the seam.
The other interesting aspect of the Buckeye defense this year is the use of zone blitzes. I don't recall having seen this previously, and this is another aspect that could prove problematic for timing routes. Here is a blitz by the Nickel, with the opposing DE dropping.
The DE here is playing the middle zone, but Rutgers read it nicely and threw at the blitz. Here is the zone blitz with the MLB blitzing.
The DE here is dropping to the Flat. The Buckeyes were obviously looking for a pass on 3rd and 16, so he didn't exactly read this well.
In an effort to bring pressure, Ohio State has the usual arrays of line stunts, and LB blitzes. Here is the E-T Stunt
And here is the loop
They will also bring the LBs on blitzes. On this one, the near LB is blitzing, and the other comes on a Green Dog Blitz.
The Buckeyes are using press coverage here to try to get the blitz home.
Ohio State is not setting the world on fire defensively. They are simply putting athletes in place to make plays, and relying on them to make quick reads and play fast. The DL is above average, but not the dominant force or previous years. The LBs are similar, and the secondary is talented but inexperienced. Against Illinois, the defense will lean into taking away the Illini rushing attack and force the Illini offense to pass to sustain drives.
What does it mean?
Last preseason Ohio State was national championship caliber, one of three teams last year capable of winning the title. This is not that team. Ohio State has separated itself from the rest of the B1G in terms of recruiting, and play simple to let the athletes play fast. The simple scheme makes it hard for Ohio State to beat themselves.
The Illini need to take advantage of the youth of the Buckeye defense and get them off-guard. Indiana was able to score on the Buckeyes in the 2nd half last week by winning one on one battles. Ohio State is going to give up points, but the defense will continue to improve as the season progresses. The scare from Indiana will improve the Buckeye defense this weekend.
Offensively, the Buckeyes will pick apart Illinois if the Illini stay basic. The Illini will have to pressure Fields and win matchups along the line. The max protection looks the Buckeyes use will be a problem for an Illini secondary not used to tight coverage deep.
For Illinois to Win:
Brandon Peters has to keep Ohio State honest in the read option, and the Illini run game needs to keep rolling. The duo of Epstein and Brown have given the Illini a spark that was missing earlier in the year, and Rod Smith has started calling sustained drives. The Illini will need to keep the momentum going. To win though, the Illini passing attack will need to win individual matchups. Indiana started scoring last week when Fryfogle went off receiving. Illinois has Bhebhe to create similar victories, and the slot receivers can take advantage of overly aggressive press coverage. The inexperience of the Buckeyes on the backend can be an advantage to experienced receivers.
The Illini defense needs to get Fields progressing quick in his reads and generate turnovers. Fields threw three picks last week, and sometimes locks into his primary receiver. The Illini safeties need to read Fields and slow down the deep passing attack.
For Ohio State to Win:
The CFP committee didn't do much to help the Illini by placing Ohio State 4th. Being ranked behind Clemson who is riding with a loss will motivate the Buckeyes to move up to avoid a semifinal matchup with Alabama. Suddenly, style points matter. A close game against Indiana followed by Illinois (two noted CFB blue-bloods) are not what Ohio State will be want on the resume. Ohio State's primary issue so far has been self inflicted. This week they will need to clean up the mistakes and execute the game plan. This is easily the best offense in the B1G, so putting up points won't be an issue. The offense simply needs to protect the QB and the football.
The defense needs to slow the Illini run game. Ohio State remained committed to stopping the Indiana run game, but were torched by the Hoosiers in the air. The Illini passing attack is quite a bit behind Indiana's though, so forcing Illinois to pass should provide better results than last week.
Indiana kept it close against Ohio State by blitzing the Buckeyes with regularity, and relying on the coverage skills of the DBs. The Hoosiers gave up 42 points. They also pressured the Buckeye secondary with individual matchups, and won more than they lost. I don't think Illinois can replicate that game plan.
The Buckeyes have struggled in second halves though, especially when they have built a lead. The line has wavered between 27.5 and 28.5, which is a significant difference. Ohio State has only covered 28 points once this season, the opener against Nebraska. The question is how simple Ohio State keeps it against Illinois vs. the style points. I think they will not try to show too much this week in an effort to crush Michigan State and Michigan, two more impressive names to a committee. I think Illinois will cover (and if they don't they are losing by 40+)
YTD Against the Spread: