Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Football: OSU set to meld a new offense

Overhaul will test Pryor's, players' ability to adjust
Wednesday, April 1, 2009 3:08 AM
By Tim May


Spring is in the air. So is change, it seems, for the Ohio State offense.

Terrelle Pryor said he can sense it. From his interaction with coach Jim Tressel and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman as well as the teammates who must fill seven vacant starting spots on the offense, the sophomore quarterback said the Buckeyes are eager for the start of spring drills Thursday.

"I can tell you the coaches are fired up," Pryor said. "Coach Tressel is really fired up; I meet with him every day in his office and I can tell. Coach Bollman is more fired up than I can ever remember seeing him.

"I think this spring is going to be very fun. Everyone seems to be looking forward to it."

Pryor knows change is in the works, and has been for a couple of months. A year ago, OSU's offense was designed to take advantage of the talents of returning senior quarterback Todd Boeckman and tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells, with some components for Pryor, considered a passing and rushing threat. Now, it will largely feature Pryor's talents.

The offense will undergo changes that couldn't be made at midseason last year, when Tressel made Pryor the starter. But the Buckeyes apparently are looking at several options to upgrade this year's model.

That might include more use of the pistol formation, in which the quarterback lines up about 4 yards behind center with a tailback behind him. It also could include a version of the single-wing formation, in which the quarterback would line up about 7 yards behind center, but often would have a back crossing in front of him from a slot just before or just after the snap, creating options and confusion.

"From a team standpoint this spring we would like to get the communication down, because we're going to run the offense a little different," Pryor said. "We're going to run a lot of different plays with a whole bunch of different things we're putting in, like calling plays from the line of scrimmage.

"We want to leave camp as a passing team and a running team so we can just be unstoppable."

The offense is going to have a different feel no matter what, considering Pryor is the only returning starter who touched the ball last season. Gone are Wells, fullback Brandon Smith, receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline and tight end Rory Nicol.

Among those ready to step up are running backs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine; receivers DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher and Lamaar Thomas; and tight end Jake Ballard, who played as much as Nicol last year.

"I think the quarterback position is the one you give the most attention to, in regards to who you're going to become," Tressel said. "But you don't lose sight of the fact we're going to look different at running back and receiver. We're going to look different up front (with two new starters on the line).

"So it won't be all tailored to what Terrelle does well and to what (backup) Joe Bauserman does well. It will be some of what Boom Herron does well, what those wideouts do well, what Jake Ballard adds to the picture at tight end, and what Jake Stoneburner offers us now that we've moved him over to tight end."

Stoneburner, with a receiver's pedigree, could offer a stretch-the-field threat from tight end that hasn't been available for a number of seasons. So the options -- both from a personnel and a philosophical standpoint -- are there to overhaul an offense that ranked a lackluster 76{+t}{+h} nationally last year with a 342.69-yard average.

Tom Luginbill, who monitors college football and recruiting for Scouts Inc. of, said the OSU coaches did a "fantastic job" last year of not overloading their freshman quarterback, even as fans screamed for more.

Now, though, the offense will lean on Pryor now that he has experience.

"He is going to be expected to take that next step, taking on more of the responsibility of the scheme, allowing the coaches to implement more things (tailored to him) without him being overloaded," Luginbill said.

Pryor said he welcomes it, and that the key for the whole offense this spring is to waste no time.

"We want to get better every day, because these 15 practices, that's all we have until fall camp," Pryor said. "We want to use every single minute we've got."