Ohio State progression from PS to PS Pro Part 2 – Email Archives

Posted: December 28, 2019 in All Things Power Spread
*the following post is based on an email I wrote this past October
What happened in 2015- 2016 and why so successful now?

IF you guys look back at my 2016 Michigan Email you will see my infuriation at the horrible pass route design and wr execution of these routes. You will see me blaming our WR coach – which was spot on, but this wasn’t just bad teaching by the WR coach – it was a breakdown in scheme. I knew that as well. I knew the what, where and when, but misunderstood the why.

Meyer’s Power Spread Offense of the 00s was ahead of its time, but others caught on. When Urban came to OSU, after his short break from coaching, he knew he needed to evolve his Offense.

The struggle to evolve was real, but the Power Spread was still a much more powerful Offense than that of Ohio State teams of the past. Setting records and maximizing player talent covered up some issues that were brewing. After winning the National Championship in 2014, the Offense really had some struggles – a first for Urban in all his years as a Head Coach.

Now, only a couple of years removed from a lowpoint in Meyer’s career – the shutout vs Clemson in 2016 – Meyer’s Offense is as powerful as it’s ever been. So what’s the deal?

A Power Spread Evolution

Urban’s first Offensive Coordinator at OSU, Tom Herman, was a great hire. His West Coast Pro roots fit well with Meyer, while his spread experience with Tempo/R&S/AR would help evolve the Offense. But there were hidden struggles from the start.

The Meyer Reign on Offense – a struggle to evolve

So what were these struggles? How could there be struggles with a team breaking records in yardage and points right from the start?

2012-13 – Herman’s first 2 years

The first signs I saw were when Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde were racking up tons of yards running the Read Option to perfection. The OLine Coach Ed Warriner was a master of this PS Scheme and with top blocking WRS to boot, OSU was hard to stop.

But…OSU was also becoming very one dimensional. I felt that Meyer struggled letting Herman fully implement his use of the whole field – the full spread. A lot of times Meyer shut it down and just went almost exclusively Inside Zone Power with Miller/Hyde.

In the end, I’m not 100% sure if Meyer was holding back Herman or if Tom was partly to blame. Either way, it burned OSU at the end of 2013 when MSU just jammed the box and didn’t let us run. We hadn’t done enough passing spread throughout the year to be efficient at a time we needed it most.

2014Miller’s injury

Meyer was very conservative with freshman QB JT Barrett . Amazingly, after Barrett was injured late in the year and Meyer had to go to his 3rd String QB, Cardale Jones, he seemed to give up control and let Herman loose – finally. We saw the full effect of a wide open Power Spread Offense. Big passes downfield – wide screens – jet sweeps – inside power- with a rhythmic variety I like to call The Accordian Effect.  

Had Herman stayed for 2015 I think we would have seen our best Meyer Power Spread. He finally trusted Herman. It would have been interesting to see what Herman would have done with our array of talented QBs and WR and and experienced Oline.

Interestingly Herman’s Offenses at Houston and especially this past year at Texas have started to slide backwards. I do feel that Tom’s scheme is a sreal work in progress that is far from complete. PS2020

2015 – Tim Beck

I have always felt that Beck was a very creative OC and if he were the Head Coach, he may have created some cool schemes involving our 3 great QBs (Miller back from inj) in 2015. 3QB Monster – maybe all 3 in the backfield at once! – but as a new OC, there was no way he would have that kind of freedom. In fact, in both of Beck’s years at OSU, Meyer seemed to give him some freedom to experiment early on, then shut it down as the season progressed.

Early 2015, I feel we saw the effect of Beck using Miller as a Slash Hybrid Player vs VTech. Also setting up deep throws with inside power and vice versa. But Cardale Jones was never acute enough to switch into a full spread passing scheme. Especially with the WRs struggling with thier added responsibilites in an AR style of pass spread

As Meyer got more nervous, he relied more and more on inside power zone runs  – co-OC Ed Warriner’s forte – and less on the creative spread runs and passes. Barrett’s skill at the Option came to the forefront and gave us the illusion of success at Penn State and the rest of the year until the Michigan State playoff game. Once again MSU jammed the box, stopped the run and made us throw in the rain. We were too conservative in both the run and passing game and too easy to shut down – especially in bad weather.

2016Beck Year 2

The good news was Barrett was our QB. Period. Experienced known factor. Bad news is OSU lost a lot of guys on Offense due to graduation. 

In the Oklahoma game early on I saw for the first time – maybe ever – multiple shifting by the OSU Offense. This is the “Pro” aspect of Beck’s spread. Beck kept the shifts very simple…but effective, creating some nice 1on1 match ups with our talented athletes. A nice job of using pro shifts in a clear simple way for a young offense lead by a veteren QB. 

OSU was also taking shots downfield and using wide screens and runs to set up inside Power. This is Beck’s calling card. Meyer seemed to be finally implementing Beck into the offense fully for the first time.

I actually analyzed that game live and here were my notes

  • We had 3 to 4 WRs to one side of field – sometimes Short side!! Totally opened up tons of space for sweeps and passes.Make it easy for Samuel Wilson and Barrett
  • The shifts were Simple and Clean. Totally confused OU on 1st TD. Also had them misaligned for Big Runs by Weber.
  • Shifted Samuel and Wilson out of Backfield to Slotback = man coverage on safety – OPEN REPEATEDLY
  • BARRET CONFIDENT DUE TO SIMPLICITY. No heavy reading. Throw or run – simple.Then long drive with great mix of Weber / Barrett runs and pre snap shifts creating space. Picked on Walkon Fresh CB for 21-7. Then went deep after another Int by confused OU offense. Again on Fresh Walkon for another NOAH BROWN TD. 

Unfortunately the College Spread part of the Beck Offense – increasing responsibility placed on the WRs – failed miserably. Even in that OU game, the passing game confusion was apparent. Not only in mistimed routes and passes, but even lining up and running the proper plays.

  • Twice we called Timeout in 1st Qtr.
  • Used final timeout w/ 11m left in first half for Offense confusion.
  • 2 m later more confusion. Tried to call Timeout but none left.
  • OU sent safety blitz. We were totally confused. SACK
  • Slow Tempo though vs a good PS offense , not bad idea anyway UNLESS..

By the middle of the year, the struggle to evolve the Offense became real and poignant. Meyer was still using Beck’s stuff vs Wisconsin, but really started to go away from it later in the game. By the PSU game OSU was screwed. It was apparent in all the confusion and lack of imagination. This was no longer Beck’s Offense – or even an Urban Meyer offense by then.

Meyer goes back to his roots – PS Pro

The struggle to evolve started right away, but didn’t become real apparent until after Herman left. Many blamed Tim Beck, but it wasn’t that simple. The real issue may have lied with Meyer’s inability to fully give in to a PSAR concept. A philosophy where the WRs share a lot of the responsibility with the QB in the passing scheme.

By hiring Kevin Wilson as OC and more importantly, an unknown coach at the time – Ryan Day – Meyer not only rectified his Offensive Scheme, but evolved his PS Offense in a direction that the whole world of football is picking up on as we head into the next decade.

2017 – Kevin Wilson / Ryan Day

The good news about Wilson is that Urban trusted him. Wilson was one of the coaches Meyer first used to create his original PS Offense. Wilson knew some Air Raid elements from his time in Oklahoma (Mike Leach), but he had a heavy Pro background prior to his transition to the early PS Revolution.

More importantly, Ryan Day was a Chip Kelly protege. Kelly always had a few Air Raid elements in his Power Spread Offense, but his roots were also Pro Run Heavy oriented. It was only natural for him to pick up on the WCO Pro Pass Spread while coaching in the NFL.

In 2017, Wilson’s stamp on the Offense was more apparent to me. I still saw a lot of Air Raid type routes, but without all the Option Routes where there is heavy WR responsibility. Now there was also much more of the crossing, underneath horizontal type pass designs of the WCO Pass Spread.

By the Penn State game it was really coming togehter. Especially late when Barrett, who isn’t the most talented spread passer, actually was fantastic in leading a great comeback win. Again, I saw a lot of WCO crossers, but also a lot of AR route designs. It was all more simple than Beck’s PSAR/Pro designs and more importantly – easier to trust for Urban.

Without Urban holding back Wilson and Day, the Offense started to flourish later in the year. Even when Haskins took over late in the game versus Michigan. It was then that a PS Pro style of offense was starting to make an appearance.

OSU 2018 – Ryan Day

By 2018 Day seemed to have more influence. He was actually the HC the first 3 games of the season, while Meyer was serving a suspension. With Haskins having an NFL arm and arguably being the best passing QB OSU has ever had, Day was really using more of the WCO route designs now.

Haskins had his struggles at first in the Offense. The Pro Pass game can be tough for younger players, but the PS Pro is rooted in Power Spread and a simpler version of the Pro Passing game. Still, it took Haskins some time.

Again, the coming out party for the Offense, like the year before, seemed to arrive late in the Penn State game. The difference in the comeback from 2017 was in the passing scheme. It was more spread – horizontally – and all the WRs knew their routes since they didn’t have as much responsibility as in a full Air Raid scheme.

The QB Haskins had a lot of responsibility but was getting it and the comeback he led vs PSU seemed to propel him the rest of the year. He flourished late and left early for the NFL.

PS Completion – PS to PS Pro

With the help of Wilson, then Day, Meyer successfully moved OSU from a PS to PSAR to a clear and executable PS Pro offense. He just could never give over fully to the PSAR due to, what I believe, is a philosophical difference in QB/WR responsibility – first and foremost.

The PS Pro is the new kid on the block and it works. But it does need a talented QB at the helm. This type of PS Offense doesn’t help it’s QB out as much as a PSAR or pure Air Raid system. It’s simpler than the Pro Spread for sure. Even the Pro PS which is based in the Pro Spread. But it still takes a QB to understand read progressions. The responsibility is on the QB.

2019 – Ryan Day / Mike Yurcich

Welcome Justin Fields. Losing the greatest passer OSU ever had was tough, but Fields is actually more talented. Not as a passer, but as an overall ball handler, runner and maybe even leader.

Day has now fully implemented the PS Pro. Having Yurcich along keeps an element of PSAR in place. Yurcich was a disciple of Holgerson’s PSAR at OKState and actually was OkState’s OC for a few years. You see OSU stretched horizontally in the WCO route designs, but with an occasional Air Raid design. A real nice PS Pro mix by Day and Yurcich.

This year’s game versus PSU shouldn’t have been close. OSU was dominant at times, but had some bizarre situations they usually have versus Penn State that caused Day to become unusually conservative. We squeaked through that game and really that was the only time Day got conservative to any great degree all year.

The Future – 2020s

As OSU gets ready to battle in the College Football Playoffs what may the future be of OSU’s PS Pro and the PS Offenses of the 2020s?

Pro and College Reunion

For the first time since the 1930s the Pro and College game will look the same. The NFL has starting to run the QB since the start of the decade and is growing as a Power Spread league. First with a fractured Multiple WCO/PS Offense. Then with a Pro PS synthesized concept. Now we are seeing some PS Pro with Baltimore and Lamar Jackson leading the way.

This literally puts the NFL in line with College’s own version of the PS Pro Offense. The Pro’s are simplifying. College is getting a little more complicated. Both are running QBs an meeting in the middle for the first time in 80+ years. Since the Pros went to the QB Centric Modern T Offense in the 1940s.

Day, OSU and the rest of College Football

I wonder how much the PS Pro Offense will catch on and how long it will last. I think for at least the beginning of the new decade. My only concern is, again, all the responsibility on the QB with today’s dynamic defenses. Consequently, I wonder the same for Day and OSU once Fields is gone. Will Day have a QB good enough for his scheme?

I also wonder if the Air Raid is still going to be used a lot because of it’s shared responsibility ideal. More than that, I think there will be new combinations of concepts – new PS Ideas – PS2020 – that have yet to form. I still think Herman will come up with something. Kliff Kingsbury in the NFL. Manny Matsakis in Division II. Just to name a few. The innovation isn’t near finished. In fact, it’s only beginning.


  1. […] the NFL is experimenting. One team is doing it. College Teams are starting to move from PSAR to PS Pro. The beginning of this new decade is going to see very […]

  2. […] These NFL Playoffs have been dominated by two main themes in this changing Football Landscape […]

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