Hard to believe, but Meyer thinks offense can improve
This is Spinal Tap? No, this is Ohio State, but coach Urban Meyer still wants the volume on the offense cranked to 11.
Apparently, 10 is not good enough. The Buckeyes have outscored their first three opponents 169-62 and are coming off a 40-28 win over TCU in which they put up 526 yards of offense and scored three offensive touchdowns during a 9½-minute stretch of the second half.
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Quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. is fifth nationally in touchdown passes (11), eighth in QB rating (192.3), ninth in completion percentage (.725) and 13th in passing yards (890), putting him 228 yards ahead of the three-game pace set by Joe Germaine in 1998 when he set the Ohio State season record with 3,330 yards.
Did I mention 12 offensive players have already scored touchdowns, when only 14 scored TDs all of last season?
Yet volume knob is not set to full blast? This offense can get better?
“A lot better,” Meyer said this week. “Two very good running backs. We can get a lot better.”
Before you go, “Uh-oh, Urb’s obsessed with running the ball,” be assured that he’s pleased with the way Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson called the games during Meyer’s three-game suspension. So much so that Meyer said he will be more of a game manager moving forward.
“Obviously, I’ll be involved. I’ve done this before,” he said of handing the reins to assistants, before adding that a “high degree” of his decision to do so now “was the offense and how well they worked together.”
Essentially, why mess with success? And so far the success is off the charts. It’s not just the quality of the talent but the quantity. Those tailbacks Meyer wants to see more from? Mike Weber (281 yards, 6.1 per carry) and J.K. Dobbins (268, 6.0) are averaging 15.3 and 15 carries per game. Both could handle 10 more touches a game, but then what to do with the other 10 receivers who have caught passes?
Then you look at who mostly has been throwing those passes and it becomes clear that if Haskins doesn’t own the quickest, most effortless release in Ohio State history he is at least close. Germaine was a pure passer, Cardale Jones may have had a slightly stronger arm, but I’d give Haskins the overall edge on those two.
Troy Smith was tremendous, but Haskins puts the ball more on the money more often. Smith and J.T. Barrett blossomed as leaders. Haskins is getting there. And his field vision is second to none.
Where the Haskins comparisons do not hold up is as a runner. He’s not Braxton Miller or Terrelle Pryor, but he’s not Joe Namath, either. He’s quite adequate. And I count it a positive that the Buckeyes finally are relying on a quarterback whose arm is more lethal than his legs.
The Ohio State receivers are not the best Meyer has coached — the 2014 crew of Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas were better — but Haskins has them near the top of the list by putting the ball exactly where it needs to be.
If you’re still pining for Joe Burrow, just stop. Most of us figured Burrow would be successful at LSU. Be happy for him, but physically Haskins is the more NFL-ready quarterback.
And still, he is only one piece of an offense that can take your breath away with its ability to score points in a hurry. It goes beyond smart play-calling, which has been exceptional under Day and Wilson — don’t screw it up, Urban. Even the best designed offense needs playmakers to make plays jump off the whiteboard.
It is one thing to recruit talent, another to recruit players who know how to turn a basic run or catch into six points. Frankly, what we have witnessed through three games is ridiculous. It should not be this easy, Haskins playing pitch and catch with 15 receivers. And that’s just on offense. Defensively, Nick Bosa, Davon Hamilton and Dre’Mont Jones each have scored a touchdown.
Even the talent is impressed with the talent.
“Sometimes in practice I just watch everybody on our team, whether defense or offense,” receiver Parris Campbell said. “Guys like Nick Bosa, Mike Weber, J.K. Dobbins, Johnnie Dixon and Haskins. I’m grateful for the talent we have.”
So is Day, who credited Meyer and the staff for putting in the work to collect so many weapons.
“It’s not something that happens overnight. It took years to recruit the type of player who comes here,” Day said.
The work is paying off. The offense in particular is wowing college football. What’s left to prove? Time to dial it to 11 and shoot for 600 yards on Saturday against Tulane.