Ohio State football: Day evaluating potential strengths for 2021 offense

At this point on the calendar, everyone most wants to know who is going to play for Ohio State this season.

Notebooks are filled with depth chart notes after every practice open to the media, and fans gobble up that information like a person left alone on a desert island since January might devour a loaf of stale bread.

ExploreOhio State coach in wait-and-see mode

Head coach Ryan Day is interested in position battles, too, but he had something else on his mind as the Buckeyes entered the first full week of the preseason.

How are they going to play?

“I actually woke up this morning and thought about that very thing as I was driving in,” the Ohio State head coach said Tuesday when asked what sorts of schemes might be available given his team’s personnel. “What are we going to be? Who are we on offense and what is our identity going to be? I hope by the end of the week we have a better picture than we do right now.”

With proven stars and talented newcomers — or both — at running back, receiver, tight end and all along the offensive line, Ohio State could have any number of strengths this season when it comes to moving the ball.

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With a pair of standout offensive tackles and the ability to go as many as nine deep at receiver — and senior standout Chris Olave the only scholarship receiver in the group who wasn’t at least a four-star recruit — Day could flood the field with speed and go with the Run and Shoot or its more advanced cousin, the Air Raid offense.

Sure, Ohio State will be relying on a freshman quarterback, but those are the types of offenses many grow up running these days.

Of course, that might not fly with old-school Ohio State fans.

While the lack of a burly, bone-crushing fullback might make pulling off the I-formation a challenge, perhaps Day could go back even farther in time.

The five four-star (or better) running backs coach Tony Alford is working with are more than enough to bring back Woody Hayes’ beloved T-formation.

Wouldn’t shifty Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson flanking burly Master Teague could fill out the Full House fittingly? Then it’s not hard to see the Buckeyes keeping the defense guessing and the scoreboard operator busy with a bevy of traps, tosses and off-tackle runs.

That would also set up plenty of play-action pass opportunities for the young quarterback while maintaining some of the current blocking schemes, but, well, OK — Day probably won’t be doing that.

In reality, his version of what predecessor Urban Meyer referred to as “The Ohio State Offense” is not likely to change much this season.

The Buckeyes are likely to primarily line up with the quarterback in the shotgun with one running back and three receivers (called “11 personnel”). They would like to have the ability to put two tight ends on the field at times (replacing one receiver), and it is fair to assume they will still get under center occasionally when the time is right.

That means the staff’s biggest decision likely boils down to how much playing time to give the third receiver or the second tight end, a decision that will be made largely on how much the potential person in each of those roles can do.

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There is a caveat, of course.

Ohio State could do just about anything it wanted on offense the past two seasons because it not only had talented players at the skill positions and a strong offense line but the ideal triggerman in Justin Fields.

Spring practice indicated the candidates to replace him -- C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III and Kyle McCord -- all have the basic skills needed to run any modern offense, but maximizing one with multiple facets at peak efficiency is another matter.

Rather than try to do too much, Day sounds as if he wants to hone in on a few favorite concepts then expand from there.

“What are we going to hang our hat on, and what are we going to be?” Day said. “Then you build from there. That’s the big thing. If you don’t have tendencies and get really good at something, you just become a jack-of-all-trades.

“The tendency sometimes is just to say, ‘We can do everything.’ We can do everything, but what puts our guys in the best position with the personnel we have?

“Then, when you get really good at something and they take that away, what else opens up? It’s easy to just say, ‘We can do all of this,’ but what can we get really good at and hold our hat on?

“That’s a really big part of this week.”

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