Summers usually last a long time for me.
As someone who looks forward to Buckeye football perhaps more than any other event each year, the time between spring practice and the start of fall camp is the quietest on the sports calendar.
The lack of football related news to eagerly devour and discuss really makes the days drag on.
If you’re not a fan of baseball (and possibly soccer, they play in the summer, right?) you have to get pretty creative to pass the time.
My usual coping mechanism for the summer slowdown is to withdraw from thinking about sports almost entirely.
It is like going into football hibernation between April and August.
Unfortunately, my current round of football hibernation stretches back to early 2011; right around the time that bad news started raining down on Ohio State and never seemed to stop.
Sadly, the 2011 season failed to snap me out of my hibernation like usual.
Last year is a black hole in my memory and unlike when I was in college, it has nothing (or at least less) to do with how much I drank before, during, and after the games.
My vague and lasting impression from the 2011 campaign is an overwhelming feeling of frustration with the offense and the offensive play calling in particular.
Due in large part to my extreme frustration while watching the games, football as a source of enjoyment was gone and my hibernation continued.
Then Urban Meyer was hired and the light at the end of the tunnel instantly came into view.
My brain knew that I should be excited about Ohio State football once again and the offensive woes were a thing of the past, but my Buckeye pride was still hurting and I just couldn’t get back into football excitement mode right away.
I knew that I would have to wait until the season started to truly end my hibernation.
That season starts this week, and I am the most excited to see the offense take the field for the first time in the Urban Meyer era.
One of the most telling bits of information to come from ESPN’s ‘Ohio State All-Access’ series was Urban Meyer’s statement regarding how difficult it has been for him to change the attitude on offense during practice.
“We have a culture on offense right now [...] where it’s okay if you don’t make it. It’s okay. [...] We just have a culture [on offense] of accepting not making it”
For anyone that watched Ohio State football under Jim Tressel, it is easy to see where this culture comes from.
No first down? No worries. The Silver Bullets will take care of business and the offense will get to try again soon enough. Just make sure to punt the ball far enough to make it a little bit easier on the defense.
Fortunately for Buckeye Nation, that is exactly what happened more often than not thanks to the defense being so damn good over much of the past decade.
Ohio State experienced unparalleled success almost in spite of the offense, and the offensive players have seemingly developed the attitude Meyer described largely due to that experience.
When Tresselball worked, it was a beautiful things to behold.
When it failed, it got ugly in a hurry.
Despite the tremendous successes enjoyed in Columbus over the past ten years, there were some bad times and some glaring flaws in Ohio State’s strategy under Tressel.
First, the offense relied almost entirely on a few key play makers to carry the team.
Can you imagine the last decade of Ohio State football without Maurice Clarett in 2002, Troy Smith and his receivers in 2005 and 2006, Beanie Wells in 2007 and 2008, or Terrelle Pryor in 2009 and 2010?
If you are having trouble imagining that, just look at last season and you’ll get an idea of what it might have been like pretty quickly.
Braxton Miller made a valiant effort to carry the offense on his shoulders in 2011 like those that had come before him, but there were just too many obstacles to overcome.
The second flaw in Tresselball arose when the offense floundered and failed to stay on the field, as it often did either due to an over reliance on a few players or bad/vanilla play calling; or both.
The defense, no matter how good, would eventually get tired and crack after being on the field for practically the entire game.
This was especially true against teams that could shut down Ohio State’s play makers with a good defense and push Ohio State’s defense to the breaking point with a good offense.
Sometimes the other team’s defense wasn’t good enough to shut down the play makers like in the Rose Bowl against Oregon.
Sometimes the other team’s offense wasn’t good enough to break the defense, like in pretty much every victory against Penn State in the last decade.
Sometimes the breaking point on defense was extremely close but was avoided at the last moment like in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.
Sometimes the breaking point came on the last drive of the game like against Southern Cal in 2009.
Yeah, that one sucked.
And sometimes the other team’s offense and defense were both very good, and that is when the ugly games happened that I won’t mention.
When the defense cracked at the last moment it was heartbreaking; when they failed before that it got ugly.
To summarize, the offense was carried by a group of unbelievable play makers when it was working. When the offense wasn’t working, the defense bailed them out more often than not.
This led to the culture of accepting failure on offense that Coach Meyer has had to work so hard to change.
Before last season, my hopes were centered on Coach Fickell taking the best parts of Tresselball (namely the defense) and combining it with a more aggressive offense that wouldn’t leave the Silver Bullets hanging out to dry quite as much.
Those hopes were quickly and spectacularly dashed by one of the worst offenses Ohio State has fielded in a long, long time.
The problem was never the talent, however.
I have blamed and always will blame Jim Bollman and the offensive play calling for last season’s debacle.
Enter Urban Meyer, Ohio State’s new hope.
My dreams of an exciting and dynamic offense (or at least one that can get some first downs and stay on the field) to go along with the dominating defense that we have all come to expect are much closer to reality under Coach Meyer.
There may be some growing pains as the players adjust to the new system, but even with those initial bumps in the road, this season’s offense will no doubt be a huge improvement compared to 2011.
It may even be an improvement over the offenses we have seen during the good years.
Looking back, it is almost unbelievable how successful Ohio State was under Tressel: 106-22, 1 national championship, 7 Big Ten Championships, 9-1 against that school up north, 8 BCS Bowl appearances, 5 BCS Bowl wins.
All of that with an offense that was inconsistent at best and downright bad at worst.
After all those accomplishments, the fall of Tresselball and the resulting offensive mess caused me to go into almost two years of football hibernation.
It wasn’t fun.
Now there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is an amazing defense with a dynamic, high scoring offense.
Tressel was hugely successful with just one of those pieces in place. What can the team accomplish with both?
Yes, where Luke Fickell failed at bringing a new identity to the offense in 2011, Urban Meyer will almost certainly succeed this season.
Watching Urban Meyer’s offense on the field in the scarlet and gray this Saturday will be just what the doctor ordered for my ailing Buckeye pride and a decade’s worth of pent up frustration on offense (epitomized perfectly/disastrously by the 2011 season).
Oh yeah, and the Silver Bullets will be the Silver Bullets.
I am excited for Ohio State football.