Ohio State Football: A Buckeye WR's Role in Urban Meyer's Offense
To say the production from the wide receivers last season was disappointing would be a severe understatement. The Buckeyes' passing game was essentially nonexistent in 2011, which resulted in poor production and a very one-dimensional offense.
If Ohio State plans on turning things around from a 6-6 record in 2011, I highly recommend they increase the productivity of their passing game in whatever way possible.
The good news is the Buckeyes are now led by Urban Meyer, who offers an excellent offensive system that should enhance the passing game in 2012. Also, OSU returns a few very talented young receivers that earned a lot of experience this past season and should be much more equipped to make an impact this year.
Make an Impact in the Screen Game
Urban Meyer's offense is all based on getting his playmakers the ball in the best position to succeed. One of the easiest ways to get his most talented receivers the ball in space is through the screen game. If you want to be a successful WR in this offense, you better become accustomed to this type of play.
Each receiver will be looked to on short screen passes, and if these wide outs can make something out this simple play, this offense will be well on its way. While a lot of the success in a wide receiver screen is predicated on how the blocking is around him, it requires solid vision and an ability to run after the catch.
Be a Reliable Option on 1st and 3rd Downs
In the past, the Buckeyes would routinely run the football on first-down situations—so much so that fans could easily guess plays from the stands. This was OSU's style of play, and, while it was a safe option, it was also extremely predictable.
Expect Meyer to open up the playbook a great amount, which will include a greater variety of plays called on first down. As a result, these wideouts must be prepared to be a reliable option on first down in order to keep the Buckeyes out of poor third-and-long situations.
Each WR must have the ability to be a possession receiver and rack up catches throughout the game, much like freshman Michael Thomas in this year's spring game.
If these receivers fail to keep the Buckeyes out of third-and-long situations, they must be prepared to be viable options on third down and give Braxton Miller a chance to move the chains.
Some analysts have called Meyer's system a spread form of the "Wing-T" offense, and in the "Wing-T" if a wideout can't block, they can't play. Plain and simple.
Under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes' wide receivers must become exceptional blockers for the option plays, the zone reads and, maybe most importantly, the various screens included in the offense. Without solid perimeter blocking, many of Meyer's plays are useless, and, although it may not get them on SportsCenter, it could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Come Up Big in the Red Zone
One of the problems with the spread approach is that when you get down near the end zone, you run out of room. You see, the spread offense capitalizes on the space on the field, so when that space is minimized, some problems can arise.
One way to fix this problem is for your wide receivers to make big plays and get themselves open, despite the lack of space. Normally, Meyer will run the ball with his back or QB inside the 10-yard line, but when push comes to shove, a few Buckeye wideouts are going to have to step their game up inside the 20-yard line and make a big play to put six on the board.
Be a Playmaker
One thing Meyer can guarantee in his system is that playmakers will get the ball plenty, often in space. All the Buckeye wide receivers have to do is take advantage of this space and make big plays. Whether it's a big run after a catch or a deep ball snag, this offense relies heavily on big plays because it is specifically set up to put playmakers in the best position to succeed.
Although Meyer has had his doubts about the wide receiver corps at OSU, there are a few with great potential. In a new system that thoroughly benefits them, I fully expect some of them to emerge as playmakers this season. If they don't, this offense could be in serious trouble.