Maybe the first day of practice isn’t the time to make sweeping statements about a football team, but here’s one anyway: Ohio State’s offense won’t be held back by coaching this year.
New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said everything Buckeye fans should want to hear about fixing the scoring unit after day one of preseason practice.
While quickening the pace at which the Buckeyes play was a big talking point, the more important aspects of his taking over as offensive coordinator after the failures of the last two years were more subtle.
Simply put, Wilson arrived in Columbus needing to convince Urban Meyer not to worry about what he’s doing on a daily basis.
Earning the famously demanding head coach’s trust is important not just for piece of mind, though. It should allow both of them to do their jobs better.
That was a formula for success that was lacking the last two years after Tom Herman left to become head coach at Houston.
If Ohio State looked disjointed the last two seasons with Ed Warinner and Tim Beck sharing coordinator duties, there’s probably good reason for it. They were trying to run “the Ohio State offense,” as Meyer calls it, more to Meyer’s liking than their own.
They are gone, replaced by a man who not only has a long history of successfully running a versatile modern spread offense as a coordinator at a Power 5 program (Oklahoma) but also six years as a head coach on his resume.
That is something even Herman lacked when he arrived in Columbus, and it could give Wilson a head start in earning full driving privileges from Meyer.
Ohio State football: 5 takeaways from talking to Kevin Wilson https://t.co/b2tt88mdm6— Marcus Hartman (@marcushartman) July 28, 2017
Everyone remembers the way the Herman era ended — with a remade offense flourishing behind underdog quarterback Cardale Jones and previously lesser-known running back Ezekiel Elliott on the way to the 2014 national championship game — but there were growing pains for him, too.
Ohio State fans hated Herman before they loved him, and that is probably something that would not come as news to Wilson.
“Right now you’re very loved because you’ve yet to call a play that really counts, so we’re whatever days we are from being the most-hated guy around because it comes with the territory.”
Beyond this admittedly ephemeral point about gaining trust, there was something more tangible.
That was also a major issue during the past two seasons, not just for those two but for many of the Buckeyes — including a surprisingly large number of receivers earning a paycheck in the NFL right now.
Think about how many stories have been written about the OSU receivers’ struggles, look at how many were drafted the past two seasons and tell me if those two things jibe.
Talent hasn’t been an issue. It’s been plan and execution, the former often making the latter more difficult.
So while there is a lot of work to do between now and the end of the season— let alone the opener against Indiana — one big lesson came from the first day at Ohio State.
The new man in charge of the Buckeye offense removed any doubt he knows what needs to be fixed.
At the risk of sounding too much like a PSA between Saturday morning cartoons, that’s half the battle.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals begin practice today.
If they miss the playoffs again, they won’t be able to blame their schedule.
2017 NFL Strength of Schedule (Based on each team's current rosters - not that 2016 win% nonsense) pic.twitter.com/8RuhQglPWZ— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) July 27, 2017
This confirms what I already thought from going through the schedule myself.
There are not many slam dunks on any NFL schedule, but missing as many heavy-hitters as possible can sometimes make all the difference in having a good year...
If you want an example of why there is a perception ESPN has veered too far left of center politically for its own good, Darren Rovell provided an example yesterday.
National anthem protests were top reason why NFL fans watched fewer games last year, according to J.D. Power survey. https://t.co/92ipK9gZX3— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) July 27, 2017
If you have any sense of news judgement, the bigger story here is that a greater percentage of people in the survey said they watched more NFL football last year than less.
That’s interesting considering the tone of many stories last year about the decline in ratings (which almost entirely corrected itself after the Presidential election was over) was one of gloom and doom for the league, people wondering aloud if the league was just losing popularity after years of hegemony over the sporting landscape.
Instead, Rovell played up the tired Colin Kaepernick storyline that has been getting used and abused for nearly a year now.
Only 12 percent of people said they watched less NFL last year, but the fact 26 percent of them cited Kaepernick got top billing. That edged out people citing “the league's off-the-field image issues with domestic violence or with game delays, including penalties,” which got 24 percent (even though that seems like two different things).
This is all worth noting, but the choice of what to emphasize is telling given how few people it actually represents in total.
Whether the larger lesson is about an agenda at ESPN or the general ability of people there to judge news is up to you...
On the local football scene, we had two developments this week.
Fairfield five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman narrowed down his list, one that includes both Ohio State and Clemson, while Wayne four-star receiver Blue Smith shared when he plans to announce his decision.
Ohio State is also in the running for Smith, whose options include becoming the next in a long line of Warriors who became Buckeyes or join teammate Alex Reigelsperger at Kentucky...
Finally, if you’re itching for some college basketball news, we’ve got you covered there, too.
David Jablonski is all over the UD beat, where status of injured redshirt freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo is still up in the air but the veterans say the freshmen are looking good early.