Crossing routes key to Ohio State pass offense

Colin Gay, Staff Writer
Buckeye Grove
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COLUMBUS, Ohio- When determining what makes a successful pass offense, it comes down to two positions, the quarterbacks and the wide receivers. Ohio State quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said that is it very important for both to be on the same page.

“We are talking about the same timing and the same spacing, certain coverages, where the ball is expected,” Day said. “When a receiver understands where he needs to be and when he needs to be there, that makes a big difference.”

When he was hired before the 2017 season, Day brought in a set of crossing routes from his time in the NFL that have enhanced the horizontal passing game for the Ohio State offense, thus making it difficult for opposing defenses to stop.

“Rarely do you invent a play,” Day said. “Usually somebody runs it and you fit it to your offense and this seemed like a nice fit and it has been.”

One of the main goals in the preseason for Day and the offensive staff was to develop an offense was to stretch the field horizontally before going for the vertical approach. Day felt that, with opposing defenses showing man coverage against the offense as of late, this concept was a perfect addition.

“We have some really talented receivers with speed and so those guys are runners and helping us spread the field horizontally with guys going sideways,” Day said. “Getting the ball out on time is critical. Our timing has been good on that and the guys have really run with it too.”

Developing that timing and communication between the quarterbacks and the wide receivers is something that has been worked on since Day was hired.

“We watched a lot of clips on it in the spring, a little bit in the summer just to get it down a little bit,” wide receiver Johnnie Dixon said. “Him just bringing that one concept in, we just run so much off of it. It is a confusing play to people.”

Dixon has been one of the primary beneficiaries of this play for the Buckeyes. Three of his four touchdown catches this season have come off of this kind of crossing route.

In Saturday’s game against Rutgers, wide receiver K.J. Hill and Marcus Baugh crossed at about three yards from the line of scrimmage. In the middle of the cross, Baugh blocked a linebacker, convincing him to man up on Hill, leaving Dixon waiting open in the middle 10 yards out. He then used his speed and a key block from Baugh to get into the end zone for the 39-yard score.

On that play, it was not only about Dixon. Day said that quarterback J.T. Barrett has developed a good feeling for the crossing route play.

“Especially in this pass game, he was able to slide and find some throwing lanes,” Day said. “He is able to move in the pocket and I think he understands the timing of it, so that if he can slide and find a passing lane and then shoot the ball where he needs to based on the coverage, he has been making some progress in that.”

Even Dixon has seen Barrett develop when this play has become a part of his repertoire throughout the season.

“It is an amazing sight,” Dixon said. “It’s something we see every day, the progress. I’m happy for him. He’s finally back in the groove.”

Head coach Urban Meyer has high praise of the kind of offense that Day brought, calling it dynamic. Using multiple concepts of the same crossing route in the offensive playbook, Meyer said that it is a game changer for the rest of the season.

“A lot of times they get questioned about when you hire a coach, do you let them enhance your offense,” Meyer said. “Ryan Day enhanced our offense. It's been very successful.”

When asked if these crossing routes are the final piece to the Ohio State passing offense, Dixon said that the Buckeye offense may have some tricks up its sleeve for the future.

“There is still more to come,” Dixon said. “There is always more to come, but it is getting there.”

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