Ohio State head coach Ryan Day fielded a plethora of questions from reporters about his team during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, none of which were more prevalent than the inquiries regarding his offensive line and a running game that would be better characterized as a slow crawl at the moment.
Although a second-half surge pushed Ohio State to a 37-17 win over Maryland on Saturday, Ohio State was held to just 3.2 yards per carry when not factoring in lost yardage on sacks. Coming on the heels of a win at Notre Dame in which Ohio State managed just 126 rushing yards, 61 of those yards coming on one play, the effort on Saturday was hardly encouraging as the regular season nears the halfway mark.
Despite the struggles, Day expressed confidence on Tuesday that the right pieces are in place for an eventual breakthrough in the running game.
“I think we have the personnel to do it,” Day said. “When you look at some of the plays we ran, there was probably one play that, schematically, I felt like we were going uphill. But for the most part, I felt like the schemes we ran, there were some really good looks.”
Day added there was often an extra Maryland defender (in the box), especially as Ohio State ran more sets with two tight ends on the field than it had all season. But while that may have opened up the passing game, he said it ultimately comes down to better execution and coaching if Ohio State is going to find balance on offense.
“We have to coach it better, and that starts with me,” he said. “And we gotta figure out a way, whether we’re doing too much or too little, whatever that is. But I felt like the scheme and what we were doing was very sound, and I think we have the right guys ( in the game). So, what does that come down to? We have to coach them better.”
Day wouldn’t single out a single reason for the offense’s inability to run the ball, noting he saw a combination of issues while reviewing the film that included schematic shortcomings, lack of vision from running backs, and the offensive line not moving the line of scrimmage.
Offensive line play was, perhaps, the most pressing question mark of the season for Ohio State entering the season, and through five games, little has been done to alleviate that uncertainty. With just two starters returning in guards Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones, there were spirited competitions at center and each tackle position to identify who would fill out the offensive front to begin the season.
While Josh Fryar and Josh Simmons ultimately won out at tackle, and Carson Hinzman earned the starting center job, those competitions remained competitive deep into preseason camp. Given the relatively small gaps in the two-deep roster when camp broke, Day was asked about the possibility of a shakeup in the lineup if production continues to be an issue.
“I just don’t see any of those guys pushing right now,” Day said of his second-team offensive line. “I’d like to see that. But I don’t see them pushing on the door enough to say someone deserves 20-30 snaps a game just yet. But there’s still a lot of football left to play, and those guys can feel free to make a push in practice. We want that.”
Should Ohio State continue to generate very little on the ground, perhaps the most logical answer is to lean more heavily on a passing game that, while also still developing, has proven to be formidable despite quarterback Kyle McCord still finding his way as a first-year starter.
McCord has shown increased comfortability in the weeks since his first start in the season opener at Indiana, but the passing game still hasn’t been leaned on to produce at the level that has become expected in a Day-led offense. Asked if the prolonged issues with the run game may force him to ask more of McCord in the coming weeks, Day said all options are on the table.
“Possibly, yeah. We’re looking at everything right now,” he said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.