Ohio State: What to expect from a Buckeye two-back offense


Urban Meyer alluded to using a two running back set against Maryland. What exactly would that look like? FoS looks at a few of the angles.

Urban Meyer hinted at a new look to the Ohio State offense against Maryland: a two-back set. While that hasn’t been part of the Urban Meyer playbook, it’s not a crazy idea.

With the passing game still improving and the best weapons at the running back position, Ohio State should at least consider it. So what would it look like?

First off, Meyer has relied heavily on a primary running back to carry the load and allow his quarterback to be a secondary rusher. Carlos Hyde was the focus with Braxton Miller providing some balance.

Ezekiel Elliott then took over with J.T. Barrett assuming the secondary role. This year. J.K. Dobbins has been the primary running back with Mike Weber just now being healthy enough to play consistently.

Right away the biggest benefit would be relieving Barrett from the role of a secondary runner. Barrett has been effective with his legs this season and it should not be misunderstood that Barrett wouldn’t still carry the ball. Instead, Barrett would continue to allow the progress in the passing game to be his focus and saves some wear and tear by carrying the ball so frequently. When he would carry the ball, it would be a wrinkle against an off balance defense, not one that is actively looking to box him in.

As for Dobbins and Weber, this would be an ideal situation for both of them. By deploying both on the field at the same time, there cannot be a focus on just one runner, throwing the key reads for opposing linebackers for a loop. The type of read plays that Kevin Wilson can deploy with two top running backs on the field at the same time. How does a defense prepare for that?

There could be concerns about taking away a wide receiver or a tight end from the formation as a blocker. There’s no reason to think that would deter Meyer from experimenting with a two back set. Marcus Baugh has been better as a blocker, but the run game isn’t dependent on his blocks. It’s more dependent on zone action and stretching a defense to gain a numbers advantage. With two running backs, the numbers advantage sticks since now a defense has to account not just for Barrett as a secondary runner.

As for taking a receiver away, why not factor in Weber or Dobbins as a potential pass catcher out of the backfield? Both have the ability to make plays in space, albeit in different ways. Dobbins against a linebacker is unfair as his speed and quickness are a total mismatch. With Weber, there are few defensive backs that would want Weber barreling towards them on a swing pass.

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Given that Ohio State’s passing attack is just now stretching vertically, adding another pass catcher out of the backfield to stretch the defense horizontally helps gets receivers in space, essentially since that will pull a cover linebacker or safety up in support of the pass to a running back.

There could be questions about depth if both Weber and Dobbins log too many snaps in the backfield together. That’s understandable, as both guys are capable of carrying the load as a primary runner. But Demario McCall is finally healthy and can provide a spell for either back as well as serve as another lethal pass catching option in the backfield.

There’s also the option of going back to a more traditional set with only Weber or Dobbins and Barrett serving as the secondary runner.

Next: Lessons learned from Rutgers

It’s fun to play around with the hypothetical for an offensive approach that we might only see for a handful of plays. Ohio State could run one solitary snap with both Dobbins and Weber on the field. They could run 50. The passing game is coming around and why bother with it? Either way, the potential is there for another dimension to the Buckeye offense to take advantage of its deepest and most talented position group.