Dwayne Haskins
That's a mighty clean uniform you've got there. [Bryan Fuller]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Ohio State 2018 Offense Comment Count

Seth November 22nd, 2018 at 10:09 AM

Resources: My charting, OSU game notes, OSU roster, Bill C profile, CFBstats, 11W Snap Tracker

The longer a leader lasts, the more that leader's followers will take on his or her personality. Ohio State's offense is in its seventh year of Urban Meyer, and for the most part it remains a model of efficiency. Their base play is "Mesh," the play ruled the most efficient in football, which formed the basis of the Air Raid offense. Their base run is an inside zone with a bubble read that gets two yards from the offensive line and three more from a running back burrowing forward.

His roster is built with the 4- and 5-stars statistics say will most likely be ready to contribute early and round into all-conference and NFL sorts—all but one player who gets significant snaps was in the composite Top 250 out of high school, and most of these guys were Top 100. Every offensive lineman was somebody's coveted left tackle, every receiver a gamebreaker, every tight end a matchup nightmare, every back a five-tool player. While everybody's talents are out there in theory, they're rarely used because the most efficient way to move the ball is burrowing through zone gaps and outpacing linebackers on crossing routes.

Rumors of this offense's demise with the graduation of JT Barrett are unfounded: They were 7th last year to MGofavorite fancystat S&P+; this year they're 8th. But the character has changed.

The film: I charted two games—one against a bad defense and one against a good one. The bad was Indiana because I could do it while pretending to give two fucks about Indiana all last week. The good was that awful, O'Neill-officiated Michigan State game from a couple weeks ago. That went into the 4th quarter 9-6 despite Sparty QBs throwing a combined 18/48, and three Rocky Lombardi carries accounting for 49 of State's 54 (non-sack adjusted) rushing yards. I did not watch that part. I had to watch the other part, however. MSU is 4th in S&P+ defense. The only other defense in the Top 40 that the Buckeyes have faced all year is Penn State, on September 29th, and after that game they changed their approach, dumping the RPOs in favor of just letting Haskins sling it to the slots.

Personnel: My diagram:


PDF Version, larger version (or click the image)

My cyan'ing is relative, but I actually charted everybody for this game. We'll scoot through the guys you know because we'll meet them again further down: QB Dwayne Haskins is sawft Chad Henne, RBs JK Dobbins and Mike Weber are compact guys with extremely good balance and vision, and H receivers Parris Campbell and KJ Hill are videogame sprites from an early version of Madden that overdid it on the speed burst button. Like Indiana last week, OSU's offense is built on getting the slots the ball with room to YAC.

The non-slot targets are all fast and athletic but each has a pair of extra positive characteristics: WR Terry McLaurin (14 yards per target) is the most dangerous deep man and can run after the catch. WR Johnnie Dixon (10 YPT) is a plus blocker and the better route runner. WR Binjimen Victor (11 YPT) is the large, leapier dude. They're finishing the season without the burly possession type Austin Mack, playing surehanded freshman zone-slicer/former badly desired Michigan target WR Chris Olave (12 YPT) in his stead. TE Luke Farrell is a lot like Ian Bunting—a big target with skillet hands who's willing and unable at blocking. Backup TE Rashod Berry is a DE convert and better blocker, but he can get you a stiff arm and some YAC in the passing game.

As for the offensive line, we're going to have to talk after the jump.

[the talk, after THE JUMP]


So I charted the guys as I went along this time, and the grades were less than mighty. Keep in mind this is over about 186 plays (90 passes), the equivalent of about three Michigan games:

Player LT-Munford LG-Pridgeon C-Jordan RG-Knox RT-Prince
Run Blocking +11/-11 +7/-15 +8/-17 +9/-14 +7/-3
Pass Pro 91% 92% 91% 94% 96%

Those protection %s have to be taken in context: the way I scored them is to give out –2 if a guy got so beat his defender could generate a sack on his own, and a –1 if he just got beat enough to require the QB move around (if two guys get –1s on the same play the QB usually goes down) and divide by total number of pass plays. Ohio State has a quick-passing spread that doesn't usually ask the line to protect Haskins very long, and Haskins has a quick trigger when he feels anyone breathing down on him. In Michigan's offense, a 90% pass protection rate is barely hacking it.

The best player in these two games was, by some margin, RT Isaiah Prince, a favorite whipping boy who's been starting for so long that we've built up an extensive (20 pics) Flickr collection of him getting owned. LT Thayer Munford is their version of Bushell-Beatty: devastating run blocks with some targeting issues and pass pro issues against elite players (in his defense Willekes had a Brandon Graham-level game). LG Malcom Pridgeon, the top JuCo prospect a couple of years ago, actually came out better than I thought he looked on film, probably because I went easier on guys when they were up against State's Raekwan Williams. RG Demetrius Knox looks like a guard and blocks like a stone—his issues were many but almost always related to someone shooting around him.

The main issue holding the line back is C Michael Jordan does not belong there. He was rounding into a fine guard, and Ohio State's tradition of moving its best interior defender to center generated the last two Rimington winners. But Jordan seems to not know the cadence, leading to a cascade of false starts vs MSU, and killing a couple of drives with bad snaps.

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. Ohio State's standard formation as long as Urban's been there has 3-wide with a "Y-Off", ie a tight end off the line of scrimmage. The backs still occasionally start in a pistol but snap it out of a shotgun 96% of the time.

  Formation   Personnel   Playcall
Down Type 5WR 4WR 3WR Bnch 2WR Unb Avg WRs Pass P.A. RPO Run
Standard 10 14 47 14 9 7 2.94 40 5 2 52
Passing 2 19 24 5     3.24 39 2   9
Total 8% 22% 47% 13% 6% 5% 3.04 53% 5% 1% 41%

When I say "5-wide" that usually means four WRs and an RB are out there. "Bnch" is their Bunch formation. Unbalanced stuff came out often against MSU but not at all against Indiana, a sign they believed State's edge defense was weak I think. I thought it was especially interesting to compare these splits to Indiana's offense:

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Dink dink dink passing spread. Their usual personnel is two outside receivers, two from the slot/RB depth chart, and a tight end. But everybody will line up all across the field, and they'll spend most of the day in a 1-yard pistol—there were four full pistols with the RB in line with the QB and the rest were basically shotguns—so it's best to break down their formations by how many are in the tackle box.

Formation   Personnel   Playcall
Down Type 5-wide 4-wide 3-wide Bunch Avg WRs Pass PA RPO Run
Standard 6 7 22 8 3.14 21 8 4 10
Passing 6 5 13 4 3.21 20 1 2 3
Total 17% 17% 49% 17% 3.17 59% 13% 9% 19%

Ohio State is not *as* spread as IU, but they're definitely in that genre now of spread-'em to pass on 'em.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? It's a modern Urban mix. The most prominent run play is Inside Zone, with Power stuff second and about 10% outside zone. It's definitely more zone than it used to be before Kevin Wilson arrived. Options are still part of the program but the option game (including split zone and belly and stuff that works off of it) is just over 40% of the run game—in years past it was 75% or more.

Hurry it up or grind it out? They're just 44th (average) in adjusted pace but sped things up for the Indiana game, going tempo more than IU went tempo against Michigan. It's in the playbook, but not the main thing they do.

Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): So here's the thing. Dwayne Haskins can run some but I get the sense that the guy really doesn't like to get hit.

Often when the pocket collapsed he threw whatever he was thinking of throwing at that moment. When he got a chance to scramble he used it to get a pass off, or gave himself up rather than try to get around a block. When they optioned with him, he gave at the first sign of Willekes. There was just one play I captured from either of these games when Haskins went for contact. It was against an MSU cornerback. After Haskins had stepped out of bounds. After a flag everybody knew would bring it back. Such as it is, here comes the boom:

Four…except it's The Game and he had a 22-yard run last year so Five.

Frames Factor: Here's a screenshot we never thought we'd see from an Ohio State game under Urban Meyer.


Chrisman dropped that 53 yards out of bounds at the 5, and Sparty spent most of the half in the shadow of his own goal posts. This made sense in the context of the game, and no sense in the context of Ohio State under Meyer.

Dangerman: We'll get to Haskins in a moment. The four guys to really worry about are the slot receivers and the running backs. We'll start with the guy who got run out of his home state for fear of competing with Karan Higdon, even though that appears to have been the right move. Mike Weber is what our scouting always said he is: a great tackle-breaker with plus vision, acceleration, cuts, and speed.

That's an all day back for most teams. His main role is to appear late in games and salt them away.

The reason Weber isn't starting is JK Dobbins is all that plus ridiculous feet and better long speed. Dobbins seized the starting gig last year but is down to just 4.72 YPC without the attention the quarterback took from the running game. While Dobbins is a good weapon in the pass game and the open field, he mostly just turns 2-yard blocking in to 6 yards by stopping, starting, stopping, juking, and start-stopping again.

The backup slot receiver KJ Hill you remember well because you still have that nightmare from Hill outpacing Metellus on a drag last year. His acceleration is uncanny. Watch poor LB #17 here think he's got good coverage. And then out of nowhere there's three yards of separation.

As for Parris Campbell, dude should have gone to the NFL. He's all of the guys above combined.

Ohio State will get him the ball 10 times a game because that is just about the most efficient thing you can do. He has an 82% catch rate, 9 yards per target, and just 24 yards rushing because every defense freaks out when he jets.

HenneChart: I think you'll find it interesting.

Dwayne Haskins Good   Neutral   Bad   Ovr
Indiana 8 21(1) 3   1(1) 2   - 4 6* 2   73% 77.5
Michigan State 5 13(5) 1   1 3   - 2* 6** 3*   63%  

This is the chart of a future NFL quarterback: efficient, with an equal and surprising number of bullseyes and bartenders. After the IU game PFF had him their #2 quarterback prospect on the board while also pointing out—quite correctly—that his yardage and TDs are vastly inflated by quick tosses to the slot receivers who get a lot of YAC:

He also spent a good portion of the season in the Heisman race. He's probably going to be the 1st team All-Big Ten quarterback and a late first-rounder in the NFL. That means he gets a shield. But note the MSU efficiency. When he gets protection—and I mean just enough—this guy can slice you up like nobody this conference has seen since 2006.

When he doesn't, well, that's what NFL quarterbacks look like these days. PFF agrees: pressure and containing the slots is the Game:

For Ohio State, it’s not quite as simple for Dwayne Haskins: Michigan’s secondary allows the fewest amount of yards after the catch as a team, an area that the Ohio State passing attack relies on.

– Haskins’ grade drops drastically from 89.4 in a clean pocket to 49.5 when under pressure
– Haskins has just 2 touchdown passes under duress
– Michigan’s top three cornerbacks have allowed a combined 135 yards after the catch on a combined 96 targets (1.40 YAC per target)image


I'm anxious to see what Don Brown has in store, and after watching MSU's Kenny Willekes go on a one-man demolition tour of Ohio State's box I'm really hoping to see Chase Winovich out there. As good as this offense is—let's not act like a top-10 fancystats unit is anything else—they keep things simple and dare you to run something unsound because you can't possibly match a Campbell or Hill with less than NFL cornerback speed.

As mentioned last week, their base play is Mesh.


That was Indiana's play too, and the wide open receivers across the middle demonstrated how terrifying that can be. OSU OC Ryan Day's addition to the play everyone runs is to have that TE snag in the middle of it, creating a triangle read that Haskins—being tall and armed—can get to if you start crashing down second-level defenders on the crossing routes. And that back is the first read.

They also wear their weaknesses on their sleeves. The Maryland game after MSU featured Haskins running 15 times (and butt-fumbling once) for 59 yards and 3 TDs, passing his season-high of 24 yards on 2 rushes in the opener vs. atrocious Oregon State.

The Michigan State game before it featured a season high of Tate Martell appearances. Martell is definitely a Tate—he's listed at 5'11—but in Maximum Efficiency Offense Zeta™ the redshirt freshman merely gets an unbalanced run-a-lot package.

Taters gonna Tate

The turkey jive after MSU was that the Late Great Tate Hour was a message to Haskins that Meyer quarterbacks have to take a shot or two. Given how little he even threw the open bubbles in that game my sense is Haskins keeps—too—were for show by design. I tend to believe they got Martell on the field to give a flight risk a chance to play when all they needed to do was grind down the clock. I also think—like Shea—that Ohio State went into the Maryland game expecting to keep their QB running game in the barn for this week, and had to pull it out when they found themselves in a game.

What I don't believe is that Ohio State will suddenly metamorphosize this week into the Cardale Jones offense this week. This offense isn't that offense, which was downright murderous by the end of that season. Neither do they have to be. Michigan's weakest points this year have been 1) The DTs trying to play two on three, and Ohio State's running game is mostly about burrowing Dobbins into those gaps, and 2) Defending inside-breaking routes (e.g. slants), and that's the Buckeyes' bread and butter.

That's where Brown comes in. Michigan State was able to do a lot of damage in the first half by bringing a SAM (or a cornerback) off the edge, canceling the advantage Ohio State gets with their Meyer running games and putting Willekes in a position to wreck things. Ohio State adapted with quicker passing, but State held it together until their offense finally imploded. The trick, as always, is to get them off-schedule. Get to third and long and they'll throw underneath. Tackle that guy immediately and they'll punt (Drue Chrisman is a great punter by the way).

I think Michigan will certainly break out the funny business, messing up Haskins's first reads with traps and linebackers (or ends) appearing where they're not supposed to, and extending plays long enough for Haskins to feel his protection collapsing. If that eats a few chunks, it's worth it for the times it makes the engine spurtle. Ohio State's finally got themselves an NFL quarterback; it's time to show him what NFL reads look like.



November 22nd, 2018 at 10:46 AM ^

Seems like OSU is more than capable of taking advantage of Michigan's weaknesses defensively. I think Haskins will have a huge game. I also think Weber/Dobbins run the football better than some are expecting. Our offense will need to be the difference in this one. 



November 22nd, 2018 at 11:49 AM ^


This won't be the Northwestern game.  We are not winning this 20-17 where our defense holds them to 2 TDs while our offense fiddle fucks around for 2 quarters.

We have feasted on some bad offenses that let our own offense play in a shell and get away with it. 

But OSU's offense is going to score points.  We will have to keep up.

Our offense matches up well with their defense, we need to take advantage of that every way we can, because their offense definitely matches up well with our relatively untested defense.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 22nd, 2018 at 12:31 PM ^

Been saying it for weeks.  At some point Michigan is going to have to win a shoot out type game.  The way OSU's offense works, it will probably be this Saturday. 

We have not seen JH/Pep have to face play calling in a shootout this year.  Who knows what they will do.  

I think Michigan's O has the tools to win a shoot out (especially given OSU's D this year). 

But will JH/Pep adjust their play calling to the situation? Hope so.  The tools are there.  Just have to use them.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 22nd, 2018 at 10:44 PM ^

Unless the rain is a hard rain I think there is a decent chance that the winner (even both teams) scores in the mid-30s. 

It just seems very plausible that OSU would score more on the Michigan D than any team Michigan has played so far.  And it also seems plausible that Michigan will be able to score a lot on OSU's 2018 D.

Not quite Oklahoma v. [random Big 12 team], but...it could be a Big Ten style shoot out.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 22nd, 2018 at 12:37 PM ^

Could be the no.1 factor in the outcome.  If M significantly reduces the effectiveness of the drag/mesh stuff, OSU's offense will grind to a halt.

Tough to stop though, given how officials are reluctant to call pick penalties.  Hope D. Brown has been scheming and instructing for two week on how to slow this down. 


November 22nd, 2018 at 4:59 PM ^

They actually do a good job running the mesh at a depth that doesn't really come close to OPI. It's not like other teams that have one guy run a pick that kind of looks like a pattern. Both the crossers on the mess are legit options.

 That being said, Brown will break out some zone and combo schemes that will shut this down. 

Ghost of Fritz…

November 22nd, 2018 at 8:16 PM ^

I hear you on mixing in a good dose of zone and combo coverages. 

My guess is going straight man all day won't work.    I mean it will work on most plays, but could bust on too many.  Majority man (it is D. Brown) but a good dose of zone and combo coverages too.

M has to be able to hurry Haskins with just 4 rushing on certain downs, so....R. Gary in beast mode would be perfect.


November 22nd, 2018 at 11:25 AM ^

really should be a fascinating matchup... 

of course, i'll be too anxious to really appreciate the nuances that Brown brings to bear on OSU's offense's... but it do think he'll confuse Haskins enough for Michigan to win the turnover battle