Ohio State football: Chip Kelly era begins with homage to Woody Hayes

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

COLUMBUS — If Chip Kelly wanted to make a good first impression as Ohio State offensive coordinator, he figured out a good way to do it Saturday.

When the Buckeyes’ No. 1 offense took the field for the first time in the spring game, TreVeyon Henderson lined up on the right wing with Quinshon Judkins and Patrick Gurd in the backfield and quarterback Will Howard behind the right guard.

That was curious because Henderson is an all-conference running back, and Gurd is a reserve tight end.

Then Howard spun to behind center and Henderson and shifted into the backfield while the ends moved in next to the tackles to create a formation familiar to football fans of a certain age: the Full House or ‘T’.

The play was a simple run over left tackle for Henderson, but a message had been sent: The Buckeyes want to do things a little different this year.

“Mr. Hayes,” Kelly replied when asked about the inspiration for the set. “There’s a looming figure over this whole program. We get to go to work every day in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, so if it was good enough for Woody, we’re gonna steal it.”

Hayes, who was born in Clifton, coached Ohio State for 28 seasons and won five national championships between 1951-78.

His offensive attacks were probably more diverse than given credit, but he was best-known for lining up in the ‘T’ and grinding down opponents, especially early in his tenure before adding the I Formation to feature tailbacks such as Archie Griffin in the ‘70s.

Don’t expect the 2024 Buckeyes to do either of those things, but Kelly said the ‘T’ will be part of their short-yardage package, as it was last year when he was the head coach at UCLA.

“Last year I think we took 21 snaps at UCLA in the ‘T’,” Kelly said. “It’s been a short-yardage formation for us, and we’ve done some different things with it. Honestly I think our players had a little fun practicing that and doing some different things.

“It’s a small part of our offense. We will not be in the ‘T’ 21 times in a game, but we will in some short-yardage situations, and I think it’s come back. A lot of schools are starting to do that. It’s really you’ve got a half a yard to get, and you’re trying to get your big guys in the game.”

Head coach Ryan Day said the overall look of the offense on Saturday might not be indicative of what the Buckeyes do this fall.

There will be time to scheme this summer after evaluating what the coaches learned about their players this spring.

“Chip got here just a couple of weeks before spring started, so we kind of got the spring going, pushed through the spring, learned about the personnel,” Day said. “I think the next couple of months will be important to figure out where we go now. What do we do? What does the install look in the preseason? And then we go from there. So like any spring, you want to identify the personnel and get guys better, and then really dive into the scheme and the chemistry as we head into the summer.”

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