COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — For years and years, Ohio State fans complained about the ultraconservative playcalling of coach Jim Tressel and his offensive coordinator, Jim Bollman.
Even as the wins piled up, they derisively referred to it as "Tresselball," a bland blend of not doing anything risky offensively while leaning heavily on your defense and kicking games.
Then Tressel stepped down because of NCAA problems and Bollman wasn't rehired. Now there's a new regime running the Buckeyes. Even at this early stage, after a solitary game, it's evident that there has been a dramatic change.
"The coaching staff did a very good job. I mean, you talk about 180 (degrees), it's completely different," coach Urban Meyer said of the new approach to playcalling in Ohio State's 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio). "We have a long way to go, but I'm very pleased with the first game."
Now, contrary to the clock-eating deliberation of Tresselball, something is constantly happening. The ball is snapped every few seconds. Multiple receivers and ball carriers are utilized. At times there is no huddle. Speed is of the essence.
The early returns have been favorable so far for Meyer and the man who calls the Buckeyes' plays, offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
The Buckeyes averaged 62 plays a game a year ago while going 6-7 after Tressel was forced out of the job for breaking NCAA rules. Bollman — a former tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears — called the plays but was not retained when Meyer was hired in November.
On Saturday, the Buckeyes got off to a horrible start, mustering just two first downs and punting the ball away on their first four possessions. Yet they still amassed 86 plays.
Again, it's only a one-game glimpse but the difference was startling.
"I was fortunate. I'm sitting right beside (Herman) in the press box," offensive assistant Tim Hinton said. "The playcaller has got to be really sharp on the next call, as soon as he makes the first call. As that call's starting, we're trying to identify the defense and see what the front is, the coverage and how they play it. But he's already thinking of that next call, so that it gets in and it's rolling. It's amazing because it isn't a 'slow down, look at my call sheet, here's my best third-and-1' call. It's got to be something that's very ingrained."
The Buckeyes, who had difficulty even snapping the ball in cadence during spring drills, made very, very few mistakes. They didn't have a turnover and were called for just three penalties for 20 yards.
The previous staff always said they made the calls by committee, although Tressel was always considered the offensive coordinator in every way but title. That is definitely not the situation this season.
"(Herman) coordinates the offense," Meyer said. "The good thing is (line coach) Ed Warriner is coordinator of the offense as well. And the other guys, (receivers coach) Zach Smith and (tight ends and fullbacks coach) Tim Hinton and (running backs coach) Stan Drayton are very involved."
Meyer stressed that everyone is on high alert to be prepared for any call, that Herman has the authority to go off the script and go with whatever he chooses.
"I want to make sure it's clear: In between (plays in) a series, he's not just calling plays out of right field," Meyer said. "We say when we get the ball back, 'Here's what we'd like to go with' so everybody has their guys ready. He has a lot of freedom to call that game."
Freedom was not a word associated with the old style, even though it was incredibly effective. Ohio State won the 2002 national championship with Tressel and Bollman keeping their cards (literally) close to the vest. The Buckeyes won at least nine or 10 games every year, and continually were in the discussion about the national title, playing in three championship games from 2002-'07.
Yet the 105,000 who packed into Ohio Stadium on Saturdays hated all the field goals, playing for field position and milking the clock the instant the Buckeyes got the lead. They filled the airwaves on call-in shows with their vitriol, and constantly wrote disparaging letters to the sports editor of the local newspaper.
Now the players couldn't be happier. Unlike some who privately complained that they weren't fully utilized in the old offense, now the Buckeyes flood the field with skill players and try to make every play go the distance.
"Our offense is built to keep scoring," said running back Carlos Hyde, who rushed for two touchdowns while gaining 82 yards in the opener. "That's Coach Meyer's standard — and to have fun."
Braxton Miller, who rushed for an Ohio State quarterback record 161 yards, seldom shows a lot of emotion. But he is excited about the possibilities of the Ohio State attack with Herman making the play calls.
"It's a different type of offense," he said. "We expect to get yards in this type of offense."
Even Miller's backup, Kenny Guiton, was wowed by what the offense could do once it got rolling.
"When you try to move that fast, everybody needs to know what's going on," Guiton said. "If you have one person doing the wrong thing, there's no point in moving that fast because the whole play is going to be dead. It's just communicating. As long as you communicate, everybody has the play down, get the ball snapped — and let's go."
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