When it comes to the offensive line of a football team, the responsibilities boil down to two simple tasks: protect the quarterback in the pocket, and open up the running lanes for the tailbacks. In 2012, the Ohio State Buckeyes performed well in the second part of that equation, while needing quite a bit of work in the first half.
It had been said all throughout the season that [Head Coach] “Urban Meyer has never had a 1000 yard rusher.” In 2012, Braxton Miller crushed that stereotype, and Carlos Hyde came within 30 yards of joining him. The reason that the two combined for over 2200 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground was in large part to the offensive line. While we all know that Miller can do very special things with his legs when he has to, the main reason for Hyde’s success was the 5 men up front opening up holes for him to power through.
Watch the highlight video below from last season and count how many times Hyde tears off a monster run, untouched until he hits the second line of defense. That is in large part due to the offensive line knowing exactly what their assignments are and just where Hyde will be taking the rock.
But of course it’s not all about the man they call “El Guapo.” The heart and soul of the team, Miller, needs his line to be able to adapt from play to play as Meyer runs the option. As you can see from his 2012 highlight reel, the reason that he was able to run all over creation and back was his patience in letting the offensive line create massive holes for him to run through and pick up big yardage.
And seeing as how the Buckeyes went 12-0, it stands to reason that Meyer will continue to do what works and stick with the option, even if he does lean more to the pass than letting Miller run loose. In the pantheon of great dual threat Quarterbacks from Ohio State, Miller currently ranks somewhere between Terrelle Pryor and Troy Smith. Miller can do just about everything that Pryor could do with his feet even though Braxton prefers to juke and spin away from defenders whereas Pryor simply pushed them down with his otherworldy upper arm strength.
But Miller still has some work to do in the passing game before he can reach Smith’s lofty status. WE all saw what the Heisman winner could do with the ball in his hands, but as we all watched him progress as the years went by, we saw a pass first, run later approach emerge. Braxton looks to be moving along the same mold as Smith as we have seen him take off and run when a play breaks down on fewer occasions than when the plays were designed runs for him every 1 out of 4 plays.
So while Miller develops into the Quarterback that we all know he can be, he has to gather solace in the fact that he has an offensive line (albeit a rebuilt one) that he knows can create the situations that make it to highlight reels and to SportCenter’s Top 10. But as you watch in awe of the things that he does, remember to take a look at the 5-6 men in front of him creating the space that makes it all possible.