New Year's resolutions are stereotypically one of those things that people come up with but do a poor job of following through upon as the days and weeks progress. In part one of this series, I laid out a series of staff changes that Ohio State head coach Ryan Day should contemplate. Part two is going to focus on another area that would benefit the 2024 Ohio State football team...
2. Meaningful Playing Time For The Backups/Reserves
This second resolution actually relates to some of the problems listed in the first resolution/suggestion. As you reflect upon the poor performance of the Ohio State offense in The Cotton Bowl, it became painfully apparent that all aspects of the offense were ill-prepared for what the Missouri defense was unleashing upon them.
As every Ohio State fan knew heading into the bowl game, neither Devin Brown nor Lincoln Keinholz had played substantially during the regular season. Quite common during the Ryan Day era, backup quarterbacks are often inserted late into games after the contest has been decided, and then the backup quarterback is reduced to handing the ball off, instead of actually playing anything close to what Ohio State traditionally will do offensively.
For all of the Jim Tressel detractors out there, who were derisive of his conservative offensive philosophies, think back to this crucial mindset that Coach Tressel had - inserting the backup quarterback into the game, early in the contest.
As someone who was at Coach Tressel's first Ohio State game versus Akron in 2001, I recall how then-backup quarterback Scott McMullen came into the game, relieving starter Steve Bellisari (trust me when I say that writing that makes me wince from the memories). Coach Tressel's philosophy was that he wanted his backup quarterback(s) ready to go, when or if they were thrust into action, with little or no warning.
Coach Tressel had a similar philosophy as it related to the backup offensive line, rotating the entire second offensive line unit into the game, on the second or third offensive series of a game. While you may believe that is somewhat extreme, ask yourself this question - would you rather see the backups come in when the game is still early and in doubt, and Ohio State eventually pull away from their opponents, or what we all collectively witnessed in The Cotton Bowl, with the offensive line unable to protect Devin Brown or Lincoln Keinholz? How about Lincoln Keinholz looking like he had taken little to no snaps leading up to The Cotton Bowl?
Allow me to expand this concept of meaningful playing time for the backups and reserves a little further. In this day and age of the transfer portal, when players often announce their intention to transfer from a program, don't you think having players play more would actually help in player retention? I want you to think about two highly-rated wide receivers who recently entered their names into the transfer portal - Noah Rogers and Bryson Rodgers.
Both Noah Rogers and Bryson Rodgers were considered well-regarded wide receiver recruits by offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Brian Hartline when they signed with Ohio State for the 2023 season. Here are the final snap counts for Noah Rogers and Bryson Rodgers for the 2023 season-
Noah Rogers (14 snaps). Bryson Rodgers (6 snaps). Neither player recorded a reception in 2023.
As I wrote up above with the connection between my first resolution and this second resolution, I will ask you to contemplate this - what good does it do for Ohio State football to have players such as Noah Rogers or Bryson Rodgers on your roster if you are not going to play them?
And to the point that I made regarding The Cotton Bowl - is there an Ohio State fan out there who truly believes either Noah Rogers or Bryson Rodgers would have looked comfortable or confident if they had been called upon to play versus Missouri? Isn't that a fair indictment of Brian Hartline in his coaching methods, by only playing the same starters continually throughout the season, and not getting the backups more involved?
Please do not misunderstand me when I write that I want to increase backup player time as though I believe players should all get into the games, even if they are undeserving or unprepared. One of my favorite Ohio State traditions that Urban Meyer implemented back in 2012 was the black stripe removal from the Ohio State helmet, signifying that a player was now considered ready to be called upon when or if they were needed to go into a game.
Using that standard of the black stripe removal, with both Noah Rogers and Bryson Rodgers having had their black stripes removed, as well as the impact of the transfer portal, it seems to me that increasing playing time for backups and reserves in meaningful game time would be a good resolution for the 2024 season.
Part three of the series will look at another resolution Ryan Day may want to contemplate. As always, let me know what you think about these ideas.