Ohio State Football: Blueprint for Buckeyes Run Game Will Rely on Zone Read

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IMay 1, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 8: Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes hands the ball to teammate running back Jordan Hall #7 during their game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium October 8, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

It may be the most used play among spread teams in college football, made most popular, of course, by the Oregon Ducks, who made it into an art form.

The zone read is among the hardest plays to stop—if done properly—in college football.

And new Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman is bringing the play to Columbus and making it a focal point of the offense.

The biggest difference between the Buckeyes' new read game and most others is that it will primarily target the middle of the field, as opposed to the outsides.

Ohio State doesn't yet have the speedy, explosive back to be able to press the outsides, but they have the power backs like Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith to work the middle of the field.

Jordan Hall is more shifty and quick than pure speed, but should still be a very good back this year.

And they also have a great running QB in Braxton Miller who has not only shown the ability to run up the middle, but also the speed to take plays to the outside.

Herman believes that the Ohio State power run game is the way that the offense will operate, even in the shotgun.

His track record of producing strong run-oriented offenses at Rice and Iowa State bring a familiar mindset to an Ohio State program that grew into a powerhouse based on "three yards and a cloud of dust."

Woody Hayes might roll over in his grave if he not only saw that the Buckeyes will run almost exclusively out of the shotgun, but also at the tempo that Herman's offense is expected to run.

But when you look at the way Ohio State plans to run the football, many of Meyer's and Herman's philosophies have roots in the power run game.

The O-Zone.net's Ken Pryor detailed what Herman's offense borrows from the previous offensive scheme but also gives it another dimension.

Here is an excerpt:

Urban Meyer’s offense will still have the same major concepts in the run game.  He will run Power (Dave) just as Fickell and Tressel did before him just as Cooper and Bruce did before them as did Woody Hayes before all of them.  He said as much in the press conference. Some have declared his offensive style to be more of a “spread option” but actually it is more spread than option.  We could see an entire game coached by Meyer and never see the option. 

The Urban Meyer style offenses wear down the defense. He will still pound the defense with some I-formation under center, and with some Iso and Counter, etc. He will also stress the defense even more by forcing defenders to run sideline to sideline with QB Power out of the shotgun, option, then with the passing game. He will punish with speed, quickness and elusiveness by getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers in areas where they can really put their skills to work. 

Power, however, will not go away. It means too much to the identity Ohio State has established over the course of more than 100 years of football. It screams smash-mouth, physical strength and superiority. These are the tenets Ohio State has always been about. The football program was built on these principles.

Herman believes that they will be among the better running teams in college football.

That's something that should make even traditional Buckeye fans happy, even if it looks a little different from the running plays they've grown up on.

The zone read is the way of the future in college football today.

Ohio State may be a little late to the party, but they could be catching on pretty quickly.


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