Herbstreit diagnoses problem with OSU
Nobody has it figured out. You haven’t. I haven’t. Urban Meyer hasn’t, either.
If somebody could snap their fingers and fix Ohio State’s passing struggles, it would’ve been done by now.
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, however, took a crack at what’s been plaguing the Buckeyes’ 78th-ranked passing offense.
“I see an offense right now that’s searching for an identity. I think they exploded on to the scene in their first game against Virginia Tech and Braxton Miller was making a lot of plays,” Herbstreit said Wednesday on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. “From that point on, I think they’ve been a little bit lethargic. Their offensive line has not dominated the line of scrimmage. It’s easy to point at Cardale Jones and say, ‘What is wrong with Cardale Jones?’
“When you get back to those three games Cardale Jones played in against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, what was evident on my mind in those games is the combination of a vertical passing game to Devin Smith which opened up running lanes for Zeke Elliott.”
An inability to replace last year’s go-to deep threat, he said, has effected how Ohio State runs its offense.
“What we’re seeing this year is I don’t see anybody yet who can take the top off of a defense,” Herbstreit said. “Devin Smith is now playing for the Jets. They have a lot of H-backs. They have a lot of underneath route runners. They don’t have a lot of guys who can go downfield.”
Michael Thomas has been the best downfield option for the Buckeyes, but he isn’t the big-play threat Smith was. The Buckeyes’ lone pass play of 40-plus yards came on Braxton Miller’s first and only touchdown catch in the season opener.
Herbstreit believes teams are able to play press coverage against them because of it.
“You don’t give Cardale Jones an easy throwing windows. Try to make it as difficult as you can and I think it’s really had an impact on him,” Herbstreit said. “He looks indecisive. He’s not real sure at times where to go with the football. Zeke Elliott kind of bailed him out with a great football game and the way he ran through some arm tackles and had some big plays in the running game.
“I think they’re still searching. I think what fans and media members are maybe making a mistake on is this team can figure it out at any moment and the lightbulb can go out and it can click. It’s not as if they don’t have the potential. It’s just a matter of they need to find that continuity.”
The Buckeyes will look to get back their offensive mojo when they take on Maryland on Saturday in Columbus.
A date with the struggling Terps, Herbstreit said, could be just what the doctor ordered.
“Right now, they are searching,” he said, “and they better find it in a hurry because it’s going to get a lot tougher once they get to Penn State and some other games coming up down the road.”