Ohio State football assistant coaches Larry Johnson and Greg Studrawa came to the Miami Valley to spread the gospel of football on Thursday night, and they did a damn fine job of it.
Of course the audience was high school football coaches so they were preaching to the converted, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. I didn’t hear any hallelujahs, but that’s probably just because everyone was too busy scribbling down notes.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect after the clinic at Northmont High School was announced only a week ago, but I was pleased it got into my schedule because I’m a football junkie passionate about learning as much about the game as I can.
I figured they would drop in, share some knowledge for an hour or so then be on their way. That would still be well worth it as far as I was concerned.
But it turned out to be a 2.5-hour football gabfest with a message heavy on the heavies.
Studrawa, Ohio State’s offensive line coach, laid out Ohio State philosophy on making room to run and protecting the passer while Johnson, the defensive line coach, demonstrated his methods for beating those strategies.
My only regret was they spoke simultaneously at opposite ends of the Northmont gym so I couldn’t watch all of what each had to say.
I split my time between the two sides and was more than satisfied with the results though.
I can now tell you what Ohio State offensive linemen are taught both physically and mentally, how they attack a combo block and how they read and react to the defense’s alignment (it’s all a little too esoteric to get into here, but it should help me better recognize what’s going right and wrong when the Buckeyes hit the field this fall, which was my goal in attending).
Meanwhile, Johnson revealed the taekwando-inspired pass rush moves he’s taught Pro Bowlers such as Tamba Hali at Penn State and All-American brothers Joey and Nick Bosa at Ohio State.
Johnson had lots of clips of both Bosas, new Bengals rookie Sam Hubbard and Wayne grad/current Buckeye Robert Landers (among others) both honing their craft in practice and putting it to use in games.
He also brought multiple examples of Joey Bosa using the same stuff with the Chargers, emphasizing the effectiveness of the techniques at any level.
More importantly, a big group of high school coaches from all over the area — I saw logos for Bellbrook, Covington, Oakwood, Ponitz, Sidney, Stebbins, Tecumseh, Xenia and of course Northmont just to name a few — gained insight into how to teach their players how to play the game at a higher level.
Obviously, Ohio State coaches want there to be as many good football players in Ohio as possible because it makes their jobs easier, but Studrawa called on the attendees to help protect the game from the bombardment of bad press in the wake of studies about the effects of concussions on a relatively small group of players, some of whom who retired many years ago before treatment of head injuries was taken seriously at any level.
Studwara didn’t need any time to get warmed up. He jumped right in with an impassioned speech about the need to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to developing and teaching blocking schemes.
“If you make it complicated, you’re going to see and watch guys not play at a high level. They’re not going to come off the ball. They’re not going to do this, they’re not going to do that. Then you know what everybody says? All the cliches — ‘He doesn’t care. He’s soft.’ — that are used towards offensive linemen because of what? Because they don’t understand. They don’t understand what they’re doing.
“If that guy is not sure how to come off the ball, what to do, how to step, where to put his hands and do those things, or the communication that’s involved up front he’s going to look bad. He’s going to play bad and he’s going to get frustrated just like everybody else. So you have to make this simple so they can come off the ball and make a block.”
By the time I got to Johnson’s side of the gym, he had already worked up a sweat demonstrating how to line up and what to do after the snap.
(He brought a young coach with him to work against but explained usually his wife likes to join him at these types of things and is a willing participant herself.)
The passion about the game was impossible to miss from either coach.
And while head coach Urban Meyer and his staff will have to continue to walk a fine line when it comes to recruiting in-state talent and maximizing the Ohio State roster with elite players from across the country, it was an affirmation they are interested in maintaining the game at all levels back home.
Johnson gave out his contact information and said his door is always open.
“Come down and spend time watching us,” Johnson said. "See us do it. I’ll help you — because we’re in the same family. When we say, ‘O-H’ we’re talking about everybody. That’s why we’re here.”