Ohio State football: ‘Big 12 influence’ could have surprising meaning for Buckeyes

While remaking the defensive staff almost completely, new Ohio State coach Ryan Day added only one man on the offensive side of the ball.

That does not mean there is a shortage of questions about what Day will do with the offense, though one inquiry sums up the hiring of Mike Yurcich as passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach pretty well.

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Is Ohio State going to become a Big 12 offense?

The answer depends what you think a Big 12 offense is.

Here is Yurcich’s take:

"So what is Big 12 offense? I don't think you can just point and click at it. I think it's more of a philosophy of spreading the field and throwing the ball down the field vertically and trying to create space more or less," he said. 

Sounds simple enough, but how do those teams out on the Great Plains do that exactly?

The picture most football fans probably have in their minds is of a quarterback throwing the ball all over the yard, a dozen modern Slingin’ Sammy Baughs lighting up scoreboards every week (with defense optional).

That is the legacy of the Air Raid offense, a pass-happy attack (incidentally based off the concepts of former Ohio State player and assistant coach Sid Gillman) developed by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach in the late '90s and early 2000s.

Dana Holgerson, after working for both Mumme and Leach, brought it to Oklahoma State, where head coach Mike Gundy became a convert and later hired Yurcich, who has been part of the multi-faceted evolution of the offense over the past six years.

Nowadays there is more to the Air Raid than filling the field with receivers and the air with footballs.

In fact, the past few seasons have seen some of the most innovative spread offenses contracting — finding more ways to run the ball against defenses that adjusted to the pass-happy attacks by getting faster and more athletic but smaller.

That seems to be what made Yurcich an attractive hire to Day, who is widely credited for already overhauling the Ohio State passing attack in his three years in Columbus as an assistant.

“They do a good job in tempo,” Day said of the Cowboys under Gundy and Yurcich. “They do a good job with (run-pass options).

“In the run game, they've inserted things where they take a tight end (or) fullback and insert him in the run game, which is kind of a pro-style way to attack in 11 personnel without getting too into X's and O's. I thought they did a really good job of that.”

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In layman's terms, that means Day would like to continue to utilize a base offensive grouping with three receivers, a running back and a tight end without sacrificing the ability to run the ball — or having to rely too heavily on the quarterback's legs, a constant struggle during the Meyer years.

The bottom line, of course, is to score points. That’s why many NFL teams — perhaps most notably the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady — have adopted some of those Air Raid concepts that came to the Big 12.

“I think everybody wants to win games,” Yurcich said. “I think that's the most important thing, and I think one of the best quotes was by Tom Brady recently; the most important stat is wins, and everything else really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how many yards you throw for, it doesn't matter how many points you score, as long as you have more points than the opposition at the end of the day. And really that's what concerns us the most.”

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