A few days ago, I turned into the Incredible Hulk via print and blasted Ohio State's offensive performance against the Nittany Lions this past Saturday. Today we'll continue our multi-series look at problems facing Ohio State, turning our attention to what has been so warmly coined "Tresselball."
I apologize if some of the thoughts correlate with that previous article, but I'm going to try to dive a little deeper into solutions today rather than angry criticism.
I don't know about you, Buckeye fan, but I'm almost tired of turning on Ohio State football now. Maybe I'm alone in this—maybe I'm not "a true fan" for saying this out loud—but watching Buckeye football these days is almost a chore.
Of course I watch, because this is the team I grew up watching as a little kid, and deep...DEEP down, I love this team. But by god, if I don't hate the way this team plays football.
And save it, everyone who wants to hate on this article, because I've already heard it a million times..."This is the golden age of Ohio State football"; "Ohio State's record is blah blah blah and five in the past blah blah years"; "Stop complaining! We're winning"...and so on, and so on...
I'm not going to stop complaining, because the recruiting prior to 2008 was mediocre, the defensive schemes have been softer than your favorite ice cream, and this "offense" has been, other than 2006, absolutely, positively unwatchable.
This is THE Ohio State University, home of six Heisman Trophy winners, rich tradition, second to none facilities, and some of the best, most passionate, and knowledgeable fans around—and we deserve better than the product that is being put on the field.
The offense we've seen ever since Jim Tressel has taken hold of this program is an offense that isn't built to win football games—it's built NOT TO LOSE THEM. "Tresselball" is built on running the football, managing, and dominating the clock...minimizing risk.
Well, I've got a newsflash for the Ohio State coaching staff. Risk leads to reward, and sometimes you have to risk things to make things happen, because right now, it isn't happening for this offense. The Buckeyes have been shut out of the end zone offensively in three games this year!
Someone needs to alert this staff that they are coaching at Ohio State and not Omaha State. Ohio State routinely recruits better athletes even in an AVERAGE recruiting class than probably 90 percent of the rest of the country. The athletes are there to make some plays for you as an offense...but to look at these numbers, you'd never know it.
Total Offense and Scoring Offense from 2003 to this year...
Total Offense Scoring Offense
2003 93rd (332 ypg) 74th (25 ppg)
2004 98th (320 ypg) 71st (24 ppg)
2005 32nd (422 ypg) 26th (33 ppg)
2006 26th (384 ypg) 8th (35 ppg)
2007 62nd (393 ypg) 31st (31 ppg)
This season 85th (372 ypg) 67th (25 ppg)
My questions to Jim Tressel would be, when are you going to trust your athletes to go out and make plays for you? When are you going to start mixing up your play calls? Maybe the best question of all would be, when are the people who sit at home NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO CALL PLAYS FROM THEIR COUCHES?
Guess what, Mr. Tressel: If Joe Schmo the plumber can figure out what offensive plays you're going to call, I'm pretty sure Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer, and Bob Stoops are gonna have a hint too.
Do you honestly think other top college programs and head coaches aren't aware of those numbers above as well? Do you honestly think they don't use these numbers and the philosophy against the Buckeyes in trying to pull in the best of the best in offensive talent?
I know for a fact that it cost us Fred Davis and Dwayne Jarrett right off the top of my head. Cordale Scott was the most recent that I could think of that chose Illinois over the home state Buckeyes because the Illini offense was viewed as more "dynamic."
Look no further than the lack of talent in the upperclassmen at the wide receiver position to see that "Tresselball" has hurt recruiting. To put it in perspective, this is the alma mater of David Boston, Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway, Cris Carter, Demetrius Stanley, Dee Miller, Michael Jenkins...great wide receivers.
No offense to Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, but can you think of a weaker WR tandem than this combination at Ohio State in recent memory? Ohio State or not, wide receivers are cocky playmakers, and they want to go where they know they are gonna touch the football and get into the end zone.
Ohio State's offense is known as a safe ground attack across the country.
"Tresselball" works when you are playing marginal, inferior competition and talent. You can throw your talent out on the field and win with better players.
But when you step up to play the best, you'd better have the offensive athletes to stretch the field, you'd better be prepared to trust the athletes you have to make plays, you'd better be prepared to open the coaching vault up and play call for the opposing coach's jugular, and you had better be prepared to take chances and risks to GO OUT AND WIN THE FOOTBALL GAME...TAKE THE GAME!
"Tresselball" hasn't done any of those things, and it's gotten hammered every time it counts since the 2002 National Championship.
What can Ohio State do to remedy this? Easy...like it or not, Jim Tressel needs to find a young, bright offensive mind from OUTSIDE the program. A young coordinator that will bring in new ideas and philosophies to this coaching staff. A coordinator who will use the Ohio State offensive coordinator position to ADVANCE to a head coaching position somewhere else!
That's right—coaching turnover within a coaching regime means that you have the best young minds in college coaching on your staff, your program is winning, and other programs want these young coaches for their program.
Florida has that, USC does too, and Texas as well. All of these schools not only have head coaches, but assistants who are young, hungry, and learning everything they can to advance in their profession.
Jim Tressel needs to find this individual that he meshes with and feels can grow that working relationship with—a coordinator that he can learn to trust to focus entirely upon the offense, focus on game planning and game calling, and who is also a good recruiter.
Hopefully taking this step will open this offense back up and improve the recruiting at the wide receiver and quarterback positions on a more consistent basis, though I do give the Buckeyes kudos for the haul of wide receivers they've gotten the last two years now—and of course, Terrelle Pryor is Terrelle Pryor.
But this momentum in recruiting needs to continue. Remember that it's not always the talent that you bring in, but how you use the talent.
I hope that a new coordinator with a new scheme will open up aspects that have been lost on "Tresselball" for seemingly years now. Maybe use the tight end in the passing game, instead of strictly as a glorified offensive tackle? How about a quick slant to the wide receivers? Or even pass routes that cross the middle of the field?
I've even been told before that you can put offensive personnel in motion prior to the snap to try to create confusion for a defense and even personnel mismatches in coverage!
All this said, there must be changes THIS offseason. I know Jim Tressel is a proud man, I know he is a good coach, and he is a good man. But the philosophy isn't working, and the stats I gave you above show as much. This philosophy has affected recruiting certain talent to Ohio State.
This team and these fans deserve to risk for victory, rather than to safely go down in defeat. As the cliché goes, "If you're going to go down, go down swinging." You've recruited better the last two years, there is more talent forming around this offense...open the playbook, trust your talent, and go down swinging.
As always, thanks for reading...please pass the word on this series and feel free to discuss and leave comments.