COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has a good idea who will be his starting quarterback against Western Michigan and may reveal the answer Wednesday.
“We’re going to have a really clear starter this week, at the right time,” he said Tuesday. “I kind of already know.”
Meyer said he planned to have his team’s offensive issues resolved by Saturday, when either Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett will start for the top-ranked Buckeyes against the Broncos of the Mid-American Conference.
He made that vow in the locker room of Ohio Stadium after the Buckeyes scored one offensive touchdown and settled for field goals of 31 and 24 yards during a 20-13 win against Northern Illinois.
“Anytime the head coach of the football team makes a promise like that you know he’s going to come through with it and do his part to help the offense get up to speed,” cornerback Eli Apple said.
Ohio State (3-0) ranks 75th in total offense at 411 yards per game but after opening the season with 572 yards at Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes dropped against Hawaii and Northern Illinois.
One factor could be the departure this season of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman to become head coach at Houston.
Herman had the offense humming at the end of the 2014 season when Ohio State scored 143 points while averaging 544.3 yards in wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to claim a national title.
Offensive line coach Ed Warinner was promoted to offensive coordinator this season, a position he previously held at Kansas from 2007 through 2009.
Tim Beck was hired from Nebraska to be the quarterbacks coach and Tony Alford came from Notre Dame to replace running backs coach Stan Drayton, now the running backs coach for the Chicago Bears.
“We’re getting there. It’s not as smooth (a transition),” Meyer said. “Stan Drayton was a very quality coach and so was Tom Herman, obviously. But we’ve hired two very quality guys.”
While Herman called the plays from the press box, Meyer wanted Warinner on the sideline with his players.
“Offensive line is the most critical (spot),” Meyer said. “That has to be the best coached position on your team.”
But with the offense struggling to block, missing assignments and committing five turnovers against Northern Illinois, a change may be coming with Beck, who’s been in the press box, getting more involved in the play calling.
“It’s not like it’s a demotion or something like that,” Meyer said of Warinner. “Tim’s been here long enough.”
Meyer said the shift could help as the pace increases.
“If we go jet tempo, that’s got to be from upstairs, because you can’t see anything from down there,” Meyer said. “So those are all things we’re going to get cleaned up.”
Freeing Warinner of some responsibilities may help him solve some of the problems facing an experienced line that has four returnees and a first-time starter in fifth-year senior Chase Farris.
Last week, Northern Illinois switched to a three-man front from a 4-3 to befuddle Ohio State, just as Hawaii did the previous game. The Huskies won’t be the last team to employ that scheme until the Buckeyes figure it out.
Ohio State is double teaming the block and opening holes, but in the 3-4 a linebacker often shoots through the gaps on a blitz to disrupt the play.
Ohio State left tackle Taylor Decker said Northern Illinois on film showed a 4-3 defense about 80 percent of the time but half of the plays against the Buckeyes were in a 3-4.
“You prepare for one defense, they come out in another one,” he said. “Obviously everyone is going to play odd against us now. We’ve showed that we struggled against it. It’s very frustrating. We know we’re capable of a lot better execution.”
Opening holes for running back Ezekiel Elliott is Ohio State’s forte but getting him to second line of the defense has been not been easy. In the past two games he’s averaged 4.18 yards on 50 carries after rushing for 122 yards on 11 attempts versus Virginia Tech.
“If you look historically what an Ohio State offense is for us,” Meyer said, “it’s control the line of scrimmage, best perimeter blocking in America, which we had last year, and a very good, solid play, action passing attack. That’s not what’s going on. So we’re going to get that fixed.”