"Abominable". "Ugly". "Apoplectic". These are quoted words from a live game blog from bucknuts.com, an Ohio State-oriented website, to describe Ohio State's performance against Purdue. The official Ohio State athletic website used the term "dismal" to describe the same game. There have been worse losses in bowl games under Jim Tressel, but the 26-18 loss to Purdue may rank as the worst regular season loss in Tressel's tenure.
Ohio State's record now stands at 5-2, 3-1 in conference play. Ohio State has remaining games with Minnesota, New Mexico State, at Penn State, Iowa, and at Michigan. It is entirely possible, based upon Ohio State's offensive performances this season, that it will only win one or two more games.
How can Jim Tressel possibly turn Ohio State's offense, and season, around? Here are some suggestions for short-term changes that Tressel and his offensive staff can implement. The next article offers some suggestions for the long-term.
Short Term Suggestions
1. Go to a four wideout set with Brandon Saine in the backfield with Terrelle Pryor: It is painfully obvious that Ohio State's offensive line, especially at the tackle positions, struggles tremendously with pass protection. Terrelle Pryor suffered through four turnovers, two of which were fumbles that took place while Pryor was being sacked. Going to a four wideout set, with WRs DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher, Ray Small, and Duron Carter, will accomplish two things for Ohio State right away.
First, it will spread out opposing defenses, leaving the opposing secondaries in one-on-one situations that perhaps Pryor can exploit. Secondly, in the event that teams blitz or pressure Pryor, he can take off running for positive yardage. That leads to my second point, which is to...
2. Let Terrelle Pryor Be Terrelle Pryor: Ohio State fans are tired of hearing about Pryor's quarterback development, or lack thereof. Any and all talk of Pryor developing as a passing quarterback need to be completely shelved. Here is the reality of Terrelle Pryor's eventual NFL future - it will not be at quarterback.
Pryor has reputed 4.3 speed and is 6'6", 240 lbs. It is time for Ohio State to use Pryor in the manner and fashion that made Pryor such a highly recruited player out of Jeannette, PA.
Using Pryor as more of a runner instead of a passer will help move the chains and maintain Ohio State's time of possession, where Ohio State is struggling. Instead of making Pryor the focal point of the offense, I would...
3. Make Brandon Saine The Focal Point Of Ohio State's Offense: While Ohio State struggled offensively against Purdue and against Wisconsin, Brandon Saine stood out to me as the only consistent offensive threat. Saine is not the stereotypical Ohio State running back Jim Tressel has typically relied upon, like predecessors Chris "Beanie" Wells, Maurice Clarett, or Jonathan Wells.
While Brandon Saine may not necessarily run people over, Saine's abilities seem to fit better into what Ohio State could be doing with Terrelle Pryor at the helm. Brandon Saine holds the Ohio high school record for the 100 meter dash (10.38) and is a dependable receiver out of the backfield.
Going back to my first suggestion, by having Saine as the lone running back in the backfield with Pryor, it opens up several possibilities. Saine could be sent in motion, as Ohio State could try to isolate Saine against a linebacker or safety. With Saine's speed, that is another mismatch for Pryor to exploit. Another possibility would be to...
4. Incorporate Lamaar Thomas More Into The Offense: While Lamaar Thomas has been used on special teams as a return specialist, Thomas was recruited out of high school as arguably one of the fastest players in the country . Using Lamaar Thomas as a slot receiver, or even in the same type of role as Brandon Saine as a receiver out of the backfield, is a mismatch Ohio State has not used yet. Another mismatch that Ohio State could take advantage of would be to...
5. Use Jake Stoneburner At Tight End More: Stoneburner has battled leg injuries so far this season, but he would be a receiving tight end along the lines of former Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum. Isolating Stoneburner on a linebacker would be another mismatch for Ohio State to exploit. Stoneburner could also be a threat on the goal line in jump ball scenarios.
These are short-term suggestions that Jim Tressel and his offensive coaching staff could possibly implement immediately. My next article will suggest some long-term changes that Jim Tressel could contemplate after the season.