Chip Kelly and Quinshon Judkins

Chip Kelly ‘Excited’ About Possibilities Of Ohio State Offense

Under Ryan Day, the Ohio State offense has annually been one of the best in college football. The same was once said of Chip Kelly in his time at the University of Oregon from 2007-2012. Now that Kelly is Day’s offensive coordinator with the Buckeyes, the possibilities are seven different shades of intriguing.

Even before Kelly was the head coach at Oregon, however, he had two successful seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Ducks — just as Day did with the Buckeyes.

In Kelly’s first season as offensive coordinator with Oregon in 2007, he installed an offense that propelled quarterback Dennis Dixon into Heisman territory until a knee injury late in the season ended it.

Still, in that first season with the Ducks, Kelly’s offense was the best in school history to that point, leading the Pac 10 in scoring (38.2 ppg) and total offense (467.5), which were both school records. The next year, with a new starting quarterback, Oregon again led the conference in both marks, again setting new school records.

A New Day At Ohio State

Ryan Day was named Ohio State’s offensive coordinator one decade after Kelly at Oregon. Day has rewritten the Buckeye record books on offense in his seven seasons. The potent Ohio State offense took a significant step back last season, leading to Day making changes on his coaching staff.

The Buckeyes were third in the Big Ten in scoring last year (30.5 ppg). It was the first time in Day’s tenure that Ohio State didn’t lead the conference in scoring. In fact, it was also the first time that Day’s offense failed to average 40 points per game over the course of a season.

And even though the Buckeyes led the conference in total yardage last year, (407.9 ypg), it was considerably lower than Day’s previous low mark of 490.7 yards in 2022.

It wasn’t a surprise that last year’s offense struggled as they moved from CJ Stroud at quarterback to Kyle McCord, but it wasn’t all on McCord. The Buckeyes had their worst rushing season since 2003 (126.1 ypg), managing just 138.9 yards on the ground per game.

Run, Chip, Run

Chip Kelly’s offenses, meanwhile, have almost always excelled running the ball, which is why he will obviously be heavily involved in getting things right this year for the Buckeyes.

“Yeah, huge, huge part of it,” Ryan Day said. “I think the great thing for he and I is that we see things the same way. He brings a background of running the football that is really impressive. And certainly we know what we need to do to run the football.”

Oregon led the conference in rushing every year of Kelly’s tenure. And upon returning to the Pac 12 in 2018 with UCLA, the Bruins made a steady climb up the rushing leaderboard, finishing second in 2020 and 2021 before leading the charge each of the past two seasons.

A Lot To Like

The Ohio State running game hit a bit of a snag this week with the departure of running backs coach Tony Alford abruptly leaving for Michigan, but the players remain.

Running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins have both rushed for over 2,700 yards in their respective careers, and the offensive line is returning four starters while also adding an experienced starter from Alabama.

“I think he’s excited about the guys that we have,” Day said of Chip Kelly. “I think some of our guys up front have had a really good offseason. So excited to see how the offensive line develops over these 15 practices. But also the running backs that we have. And all of our quarterbacks are mobile, so I think that that’s significant as well.”

The quarterback situation is still up in the air as the competition between redshirt sophomore Devin Brown, Kansas State graduate transfer Will Howard, and redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz rages one.

Brown gained experience last year as the Buckeyes’ designated running quarterback in short-yardage and red-zone situations. Howard has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in his collegiate career. And Kienholz posted over 3,000 yards rushing in his high school career in Pierre, South Dakota.

The quarterback run may not be a huge factor in the Ohio State offense, but the fact that whoever wins the job is mobile enough to contribute is a significant addition from snap to snap.

Then, of course, there are the Ohio State wide receivers and tight ends, which any offensive coordinator would love to have at their disposal.

The Thing That Matters Most

So with all of these options, what is the Buckeye offense going to look like this year?

“I have no idea,” Chip Kelly said after the first spring practice. “I think part of it is you’re trying to put the players in position to make plays. So a lot of that comes from getting to understand the players and what their skill sets are and how we feature what their skill sets are. The one thing after day one, I can tell you that there’s a lot of skill set out there. So that’s what gets you excited. That’s what you jump out of bed in the morning for and you’re excited to go to work because of the talent that you get to work with.”

Ohio State is wrapping up spring break this weekend with classes resuming next week. The Buckeyes will be back on the practice field three times next week, with a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule.

Chip Kelly got a first-hand look at the talent at Ohio State last week, but it wasn’t the talent that struck him most.

“The one thing that’s the most impressive is the work ethic that goes along with that talent. It’s not just empty talent,” he said. “You’ve got some kids who want to work. I mean all of them since I’ve been here want to work, so that’s what gets you excited. But I think assessing what the skill set is that we have available to us on the offensive side of the ball is vitally important. And then our job is to put those guys in positions to make plays.”

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