Please, Woody, don’t let this one be a close game.
I don’t get it. I’ve been very clear — brutally honest, in fact — and yet it does not appear that the Ohio State coaching staff has been paying heed to the items on my weekly to-do lists this season. Against Oregon — amongst other things — I told them to sack the quarterback and slow things down for C.J. Stroud. They did none of those things.
Against Tulsa, I simply told them not to suck,,,,,,,,,, welp, that didn’t work either.
So as the Buckeyes prepare for their first primetime game of the year against the mighty Akron Zips, I’m going to mix in some tough love with my brutal honesty. Since there is a little extra time before kick, hopefully head coach Ryan Day and his underlings have a little more time to read this article and fully digest its contents so that they can be organically implemented into tonight’s game plan.
Because let’s be clear, Ohio State’s issues this year are almost solely on the backs of the coaches. Do the players deserve blame for their individual on-field issues? Of course, but it is the coaches’ responsibility to put players in the best position to succeed, and through three games, I don’t think that any unbiased observer can say that the OSU staff has done that with any consistency through three games.
I try not to get mad online, especially because there are literally millions of more important things going on in the world more important than college football, but for selfish, myopic reasons, I’m tired of watching Ohio State struggle simply because they are afraid of being Ohio State.
The coaches are more worried about deploying their specific schemes, or out-thinking the coordinator on the other sideline that they forget that they are THE Fucking Ohio State State University.
There is a time and a place for cute play-calling and playing 4D chess against your opponent, but when you are summarily getting your ass handed to you on a weekly basis by teams that have no business being in a competitive contest with you, it’s not the time.
So, hopefully the coaches have used this past week to reconfigure the roster and figure out how to utilize the talent on the team.
1) Let your freaks flag fly!
Look, I know that it’s been a difficult few weeks around the Woody. Coaches have disappointed. Players have disappointed. Day has suffered the first regular season loss of his career. There have been calls to fire assistant coaches. The starting quarterback will miss today’s game due to some vaguely defined shoulder injury.
But you want to know the good news? Everyone in that building still plays or coaches for Ohio State, which means that they are literally the best of the best at what they do. So it’s time to let them do it.
For far too long, OSU coaches have sided with experience over talent when it comes to position battles that are within shouting distance; and I get it, you think that all of that experience can make up for talent advantage that the often younger players have.
But, Ryan, since I know you’re reading this just a few hours before kickoff, stop doing that. Whether it’s against Akron today, or anyone else currently on your schedule, you are going to have the most talent on the field, so use it!
Don’t put guys into games solely because they “are a calming presence on the defense.” Don’t put guys into games solely because they “know the scheme inside and out.” Stop it. Just stop it.
When in doubt, err on the side of talent. Because if you’ve done your job properly — which I believe you are — then the athleticism of the more talented players will cover up a portion of their lack of experience, and and getting playing time will actually give those younger, more talented players experience.
So figure out what to do at safety without putting Bryson Shaw on the field. I think he has shown some sparks, but his calming influence is not yet enough to override the fact that he is not nearly the athlete as some of his secondary brethren. Start Cody Simon and don’t take him out unless he’s injured or is gasping for air. The only acceptable reason to take TreVeyon Henderson out of the game is to give him a couple of plays off after a 50+-yard run or eight consecutive rushes. Otherwise, no one else should running the ball.
Put your best players on the field, and let the chips fall where they may. That is the advantage of being Ohio State. Use it.
2) Be aggressive. Be-e aggressive!
One of Day’s common refrains in his otherwise unrevelatory press conferences is that he envisions his teams as being ultra-aggressive. We’ve seen some evidence of that during his first two+ years as Ohio State’s head coach, especially in regard to his willingness to go for it on fourth down.
But the Curse of Jim Tressel™️ has apparently befell him far sooner than it did Urban Meyer, and this season it seems like Day has almost gone further into Turtle Mode than Dana Carvey did in “Master Of Disguise” (dated reference, I know, but I’m old, what do you want?).
As I said above, coach, we know that you are going to have more talent than any team you face during the regular season — and especially against Akron today — so let those aforementioned freaks go out and make plays.
If that means that you simplify things, especially on defense, so be it. Let the bigger, faster, better athletes go out there and win. Let Denzel Burke and Cameron Brown lock down the Zips’ receivers. Let J.T. Tuimoloau, Tyleik Williams, and Jack Sawyer (remember him) rush the passer and cause problems in the backfield. Blitz on 75% of defensive snaps.
No ill-designed rushes straight into the backs of your offensive linemen. Line up on offense and get the ball to TreVeyon Henderson, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Miyan Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, Jeremy Ruckert, et al. and just let them do their thing. Whomever is playing quarterback, protect him, and let him get the ball to the playmakers in space. The sheer athleticism of this team should be more than enough to get that done at least for today.
There is never any reason for an Ohio State football team to be passive, and yet that’s what we’ve seen through three weeks. I get it, you don’t trust your team, so you are trying to minimize mistakes. But, Ryan, that’s not how this works.
There are going to be mistakes no matter what, it’s college football, but mistakes made due to aggression are much easier to accept, because they also come with the potential benefits of said aggression. But if you are passive and conservative, this team is still gonna make mistakes, but you no longer have the advantages of aggression to fall back on.
So, do what Ohio State does best: GO BIG OR GO HOME!
No literally, if you don’t do these things, you need to go home and go straight to your room and think about what you did. I’ll tell you when you can come out, and don’t you even think about turning on the TV or Playstation.