When Urban Meyer became the head coach at Ohio State last year, he instantly inherited a quarterback that was a perfect fit for his spread offense.
From January to late August, Meyer and his coaching staff morphed a unit that ran whatever Jim Bollman called an offense into a squad capable of running his up-tempo spread. Through training, dieting and an extreme mental makeover, the team transformed into a completely different (and more athletic) version of itself.
As a result, the Ohio State Buckeyes scored an average of 37 points per game in 2012, 13 more than they averaged the year before. The Buckeyes also rushed for an average of 242 yards through 12 games this season, which ranked 10th in all of college football.
Despite all of that, the Buckeyes put together a perfect 12-0 season without one of the biggest pieces to Meyer’s puzzle.
If the Buckeyes want to kick their offense into another gear next year, they’ll need to find their own version of former Florida Gators playmaker Percy Harvin.
When Harvin joined the Gators in 2006, he raised the potential production of Meyer’s offense to heights it had never reached before. His playmaking ability combined with Meyer’s creativity was a lethal combination that helped produce two national championships in a three-year span for the Gators.
Meyer failed to bring that type of player to Ohio State with his first recruiting class.
There were a number of prospects the coaching staff targeted in 2011, and none of them would have fit that role better than Stefon Diggs out of Olney, Maryland.
Diggs, a 4-star receiver and 13th best recruit overall (according to ESPN.com), possesses the elusiveness and speed Meyer covets. The Buckeyes made a hard run at the talented receiver, but Diggs ultimately decided to stay close to home and play for the Maryland Terrapins.
After missing out on Diggs, Meyer had to work with what he had. And despite the enormous talent on hand, the Buckeyes had no one on the roster to fill the Percy Harvin role.
Meyer talked about Ohio State's lack of playmakers after his first spring practice with the team, “At Ohio State, you should walk off the field going, ‘Wow! Who are those two guys?’ I still today haven’t done that.
“There has got to be a wow factor, and we should have one (player capable), should have two. Here you should have probably more than two,” Meyer said, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Senior running back Jordan Hall emerged as the top candidate, but an offseason foot injury kept him out of Ohio State's first two games, and a partial tear to the PCL ligament in his right knee ended his season after just two and a half games of action.
Going into the 2013 season, a year in which the Buckeyes will be one of just a handful of preseason title favorites, Meyer is still searching for the new Harvin.
Hall will be back and should be healthy next year, but a more natural fit for the position might be coming to Ohio State as a freshman in this year's recruiting class.
Jalin Marshall, a 4-star athlete with incredible speed and athleticism, played quarterback in high school but projects as a wide receiver/running back hybrid at Ohio State. Watch highlights from Marshall's junior season here:
Whether Marshall, or anyone for that matter, can fill the Percy Harvin role remains to be seen. The only certainty that exists is that if Meyer can find that guy, Ohio State's offense would go from dangerous to flat-out unstoppable.
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