Devin Brown Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterback

QB Run ‘Going To Be A Weapon’ For Buckeyes This Year

You rushed for 77 yards more than Ohio State’s starting quarterbacks last year.

If you don’t remember doing so, it’s because it didn’t require you actually having to do anything.

Just by sitting down and avoiding any activity whatsoever, you moved the ball on the ground better than the Buckeye quarterbacks.

You see, Kyle McCord rushed for -65 yards in his 12 starts last season, and Devin Brown rushed for -12 yards in his lone start against Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

The inability for the Buckeye quarterbacks to help out in the running game last year contributed to Ohio State’s worst season-long rushing performance in more than two decades.

The Buckeyes finished eighth in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game last year (138.9), and seventh in yards per carry (4.2). It was the first time in Ryan Day’s head coaching career that his team didn’t finish first or second in the Big Ten in yards per carry.

Ohio State hasn’t actually won a Big Ten rushing title since 2020 and 2019, however, which were the last two years the Buckeyes had a quarterback who was part of the running game.

Justin Fields carried the ball about 10 times per game in his two-year Ohio State career. That includes called runs, scrambles, reads, and sacks.

There are no quarterbacks like Justin Fields on this year’s Ohio State roster, but there are five scholarship players who are all mobile enough to be a factor in the running game. And that’s the plan this year for Day and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.

“When you have a quarterback who can run, it does change the numbers,” Day said this spring. “As we all know, you guys have seen that over the years, and it’s going to be a weapon for us this year because all of our quarterbacks are athletic enough to do that.”

Justin Fields’ first carry as a Buckeye went for 51 yards. Over the past three seasons, Ohio State quarterbacks have rushed for a total of 36 yards. That’s only 12 more yards than OSU punters managed in that same time.

The Buckeyes aren’t necessarily looking for the quarterback to run the ball 10 times per game this year, they just want it to be another factor for the defense to worry about.

“I think that just makes the offense even more balanced,” senior left guard Donovan Jackson said recently. “The defense has to play 11 on 11, so it’s just another guy to account for, or another guy you have to move outside the box, or you have to spy on him. That means the rest of the defense is open for more options offensively, and so it’s an awesome thing.”

Over the past three years, when the Ohio State quarterback was showing hand-off, the defense could trust that the ball was actually going to be handed off. They were able to focus on the running back and were never really forced to pay for that belief. This year, the intention is to make the bills come due.

“A running quarterback causes problems for a defense,” Kelly said this spring. “We are always looking for quarterbacks that have the ability to run. We’re not looking for running backs that can throw. So you’re not going to see us 20 times a game, we’re running the quarterback.”

Kelly stressed that the Buckeyes won’t be going to a single wing offense or running quarterback ISOs or powers, but QB mobility will be another weapon for the offense, regardless of who ultimately wins the starting job.

They showed it in the spring game, and both Will Howard and Devin Brown have shown it in the past. Howard has had many more opportunities thanks to his days at Kansas State, but all five quarterback options have the ability to option.

“If your defensive end is going to continue to bend and the quarterback pulls and he’s on the edge and he’s gaining first downs, well then the defensive end has to stay outside and contain the quarterback,” Kelly explained. “Well, then we can run the ball up and hand the ball off. Sometimes in our running game, our quarterback really is a blocker. He’s responsible for a defender. If the defender is cheating and fitting in on the run, well then his responsibility is to make make the defense be honest.”

An offense that has a running aspect to the quarterback changes everything a defense does. Every single play has to factor the quarterback in, because if it doesn’t, very bad things can happen.

For the defense, preparation starts early in the week.

“Yeah, it’s a ton. You know it. I think it changes everything you do on defense,” OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “You see it everywhere from the NFL on down. If you have a quarterback who can make plays with his feet, your scheme better be designed to take that away and to account for it. So it changes the way you look at everything when you’re game planning.”

With talented running backs like TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins on the roster this year, the Buckeyes are definitely going to be handing the ball off a ton.

It’s the times they don’t hand it off, however, that will make the running backs even more effective this time around.

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