The evolution of the tight end and fullback has been changed drastically over the years, especially at Ohio State. We are used to seeing traditional offenses that showcase a tight end as a down lineman, and a fullback as a lead blocker. The most commonly used version of this offense is the “I-formation”. This formation has six down linemen, with one being a tight end who is an eligible receiver, two wide receivers spread out, a quarterback, a fullback, and a halfback. The fullback was used as a ball carrier under Woody Hayes whereas Jim Tressel used his fullback primarily as a lead blocker. Tight ends like Ben Hartsock, weighing around 280 pounds were standard in the “Tressel era”. Tressel’s goal was to use them as extra blockers with the option of an occasional pass. Urban Meyer plans on using his “fullbacks” and “tight ends” much differently.
When the news broke on Monday that Carlos Hyde may be kicked off the team, there were mixed reactions. Pessimists said the Buckeyes title chances dropped significantly and blamed Urban Meyer. Realists saw the value in Hyde and realized that he is probably the best running back that Meyer has ever coached. Optimists decided that it wasn’t a big deal due to Ohio State’s depth at running back and figured that someone could easily step up and take Hyde’s place. Although one could find truth and stupidity in all three conclusions, I don’t think many people truly realize how this could affect the team.
Let’s look past the fact that Hyde is a tremendous running back with power, vision, and agility. Let’s forget that he finished the game against our rivals by running with such determination that Greg Mattison’s defense could do absolutely nothing to stop him. His potential loss goes so much further than his physical attributes. Urban Meyer and Tom Herman spent their off-season developing an offense around Carlos Hyde. Their goal was to get Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Rod Smith in the backfield at the same time.
Tom Herman and Urban Meyer met with the San Francisco 49ers’ coaching staff to study the “Pistol” formation in greater detail. They decided to implement a variation of the pistol offense called the “Diamond” formation. This formation allows two running backs to be in the backfield at the same time along with Braxton Miller and another “flex” player. This offense is so scary because it will force defenses to load the box allowing Braxton Miller to throw. If the defense decides not to put eight or nine guys in the box, Miller, Smith, Hyde etc. will run up and down the field all game long.
You may be wondering why Carlos Hyde is so important to this offense. You may side with the optimists and say that Urban can simply stick someone else in there to replace Hyde, and in some instances you’re right. Meyer can experiment with different players in the backfield but Hyde and Smith give him the option of having two lead blockers. Meyer isn’t used to having 240 pound running backs in the backfield. He doesn’t use a traditional fullback in his offensive scheme but with Hyde and Smith being so dynamic because of their size and speed he technically has two guys who can play running back or fullback on any given play without the defense knowing what to expect.
Imagine the possibilities of Hyde being a lead blocker for a Miller/Smith option play or Hyde and Smith leading the way for a Braxton Miller/Philly Brown option. It has the potential to be the most electrifying offense in football. I’m sure Meyer could make some changes and use Bri’onte Dunn or Warren Ball in place of Hyde but it will defeat the primary purpose of the offense.
Running back isn’t the only position in which Meyer likes to have a versatile player who presents several different options. He prefers to have a dynamic tight end on the field as well. A 280 pound blocking tight end serves no purpose in Meyer’s spread attack. Ideally he would like a tight end that is big enough to contribute to the running game with his blocking, but more importantly Meyer wants a tight end who is quick enough to create mismatches for opposing linebackers in the passing game. Meyer’s tight ends generally play the role of an “H-back”, someone who can line up in the backfield or on the line as a traditional tight end or wide receiver.
Despite the fact that Vannett and Heuerman were recruited by the previous regime, they fit in well with Meyer’s offense. Vannett has proven to be a deep threat while Heuerman has been used primarily as a blocker in addition to running the shorter routes. Meyer’s recruits moving forward will fit the mold of an “H-back”.
Hopefully this past Monday was a wake-up call for the Buckeyes and the players involved are able to prove their innocence. This 2013 team has the chance to do something very special but in order to do so they will need to fire on all cylinders and they can’t afford to lose anyone as important as Hyde or Roby.