Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson had good news and bad news from the Buckeyes’ first big scrimmage of the preseason.
He saw some young players step up, felt the presence of the defensive line and learned the offense needed to go longer into drives during practice to build endurance.
Perhaps most importantly, though, he concluded the running game is not quite ready for prime time.
“Not what it needs to be based on what I saw Saturday,” said Wilson, who is also tight ends coach. “It needed to be better Saturday.”
In what ways?
All of them, apparently.
“In structure — what we’re calling, scheming — and that pad level and execution and demeanor and attitude,” Wilson said. “There were a couple glitches Saturday that needed to be (cleaned up).”
As head coach Ryan Day has on multiple occasions since the end of last season, Wilson stressed the importance of pad level.
He noted the play call — as in, type of run — might not change much from situation to situation, but situations change what is necessary to execute the call.
“Whether it’s some type of ‘Power,’ or zone or whatever, we all kind of run the same variations of the same plays that are north-south plays,” Wilson said. “Maybe you’ll try a little something to trick ‘em and try to get outside once in a while, but how are you going north and south?
“Well, there’s a scheme, but there’s a demeanor of when the referee comes out says we got this much to go,” Wilson said, holding up his hands about 6-8 inches apart. “Okay, how’s that D-line playing that play vs. third-and-15? You’re on the 1-yard line coming out and they’re trying to get a safety, then how are they playing? So it’s not just the plays as we practice, but you get to situations.”
He added that sometimes the play call could be better, but it often comes down to execution and mindset.
The same goes for the so-called four-minute offense when a team is trying to protect a lead late by moving the chains on the ground to keep the clock running.
“To win those championships, we’re gonna have to close out some games when everybody knows we’re running it,” Wilson said. “I know Ryan will have a safe pass or something to keep them honest, but we got to run it and get the first down. And that’s what those great offenses that we talked about earlier are gonna do or not do. That’s when we’ll see if we’re a good offense or not.”
Aside from short-yardage situations, Wilson said he also saw execution decline once the offense got past the three or four plays it is used to running in practice before starting over with a new unit.
“So today in practice, we extended — instead of just four plays and you’re out, let’s go eight or nine or 10 plays in a row just to kind of get some of that feel as the drive goes on both sides of the ball, how to hang in there, how to communicate, how to compete,” Wilson said. “So I thought it was good, but got a little sloppy as drives went. A few turnovers. The defense created several good turnovers, which is good for them, not good for us. Got to run it better. It wasn’t our best running day. Need to run it a little bit better as we go.”
With some more established players like receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams not playing as much, Wilson saw youngsters such Julian Fleming, Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. step up at receiver with freshman Dallan Haden impressing at running back.
“Scrimmage one, we were just a little inconsistent as an offense,” he said. “Just got to be better there.”