COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Blessed with a bundle of imminent NFL draft picks and a trio of star quarterbacks, Ohio State was expected to field no less than one of the greatest offensive seasons in college football history last year.Of course, things didnt go quite as planned. The low point came in a 17-14 home loss to Michigan State that effectively ended the teams hopes of repeating as national champions. For many, that defeat stands as the enduring memory of the 2015 Buckeyes, not their 13-1 record, No. 4 final ranking or Fiesta Bowl title.A funny thing has happened since that late November loss, however. The insuppressible Ohio State attack everyone expected to see finally surfaced.In their last four games, Buckeyes have scored 52.8 ppg, tops in the FBS during that time and more than 16 points better than they managed in their previous 10 contests. Theyre averaging 62.5 points per game through the first two games this season despite returning only three starters from last years star-studded group.Its too early and the competition hasnt yet been strong enough to suggest this Ohio State offense will surpass last years group. Well know a lot more when the No. 3 Buckeyes go to No. 14 Oklahoma on Saturday in a highly-anticipated showdown. Still this Buckeyes offense has reached dizzying heights -- in part because theyre no longer worrying about whos getting touches.Last year, I think our approach had plays designed to get certain people the ball, quarterback J.T. Barrett said. Which at times, that was fantastic. But at other times, it was really unfortunate, because the look we got in practice wasnt the same look we may have gotten in the game. That made it difficult.Now, everybody is going to get it. Im not like, Hey, Im going to throw it to you on this play. Wherever the defense tells me to distribute it to, thats where I plan on getting it. Its not like a one-person-catching-the-ball type of offense.Make no mistake, Barrett would love to still have running back Ezekiel Elliott and receivers Michael Thomas and Braxton Miller surrounding him. Who wouldnt? They were all enormous talents who went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft this spring.Its also true that the coaching staff felt an obligation to force-feed them the ball sometimes, especially Miller. The former two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year switched to receiver a few months before the season because of his damaged throwing shoulder and helped ease the logjam at quarterback. The coaches wanted to maximize his playmaking ability and showcase him for the next level. Aside from a few memorable spin moves, however, Millers production proved unremarkable. Miller had only 13 touches for 48 total yards in his final four games.This years offense entered the season with a slew of mostly unknowns outside of Barrett and All-American center Pat Elflein. None boasted of past heroics or owned immediate NFL stock considerations. They also didnt demand prioritization because of it.Right now, its more about just whats the best play to run, period, and not about trying to manufacture a certain amount of touches for people, offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. We do have thoughts in mind about that, of course, but its really about how best to move the ball. How best to attack the defense more so than distribution.Barrett noted that it became easy for defenses to read his eyes when he locked onto certain players last year. When asked who was his go-to guy this season, he smiled and said, Whoever is open.If anyone has become the Buckeyes new featured weapon, its the player who stepped into Millers old position and blossomed.Curtis Samuel was pegged for stardom early on. He dealt with some bumps and bruises and found himself buried on the depth chart behind more experienced players like Miller last season. The junior is now perfecting the art of Urban Meyers H-back role, made famous by Percy Harvin at Florida. Meyer called it a magical position when filled by the right person, but he said he hadnt found someone with the required blend of speed, strength and versatility in his first four years in Columbus.In the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Samuel, Meyer said he has exactly what Ive been looking for really since I got here. The junior has swerved all over the field in his teams first two games, while averaging 11.5 yards per touch.Hes one of the most explosive guys Ive ever been around, Warinner said.Samuels breakout has coincided with the re-emergence of Dontre Wilson as a playmaker. The speedy but slight senior was set back by a broken foot earlier in his career and lacked the bulk to handle a heavy role. Wilson has added strength -- hes no longer a hood ornament, Meyer said -- and he and Samuel are confounding defenses with their ability to line up at running back, receiver or even Wildcat quarterback. After a lackluster first half against Tulsa on Saturday, Meyer used a long halftime break caused by a lightning delay to find more ways to get the ball to his H-backs. They sparked a 28-point second-half outburst, doing so ironically during rainy and windy conditions in the Horseshoe reminiscent of last years Michigan State loss.The Samuel-Wilson combo provides seemingly endless possibilities.Theres a lot more, trust me, Wilson said after he had 68 yards and a touchdown on just six touches during Saturdays 48-3 win over Tulsa. This Oklahoma game is going to be crazy. I feel like were going to play a huge part in it, and I think weve got a lot more in the bag to pull out.Other than when Samuel splits out, the Buckeyes have not yet found a true go-target among their young wide receivers. But its a deep group bursting with potential. Add the physical running of redshirt freshman tailback Mike Weber and Barretts mobility and Ohio State has a wide menu of choices for each play. Thats arguably when Barrett is at his best.A Big Ten defensive coordinator described the junior quarterback this offseason as having a point guards mentality in 2014, when Barrett finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. The coordinator did not see that as much in 2015, as Barretts completion percentage dropped once he finally wrested the full-time starting job back from Cardale Jones.It looked to me like they were running plays, not a system, the defensive coordinator said. It looked like they were trying to get touches for different guys.The overhaul of the Ohio State offense began in earnest after last years Michigan State game. The next week, Meyer moved Warinner -- who had been working on the sidelines while also coaching the offensive line -- upstairs to the press box. That not only gave Warinner a better view of the entire field, but it also streamlined playcalling, as he had been getting input from quarterbacks coach Tim Beck from the booth while on the sidelines. That saved precious seconds in relaying the call to Barrett.I see things better, process things faster and get a bigger picture easier, Warinner said. I can also help the quarterback more from the press box. Im able to get the information to him more quickly.The move paid instant dividends, as Ohio State blasted Michigan 42-13 in the season finale and then raced past Notre Dame 44-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. Not moving Warinner upstairs earlier, Meyer said this preseason, was one of the mistakes I made a year ago.Meyer and Warinner talked on the plane ride home from the Fiesta Bowl about how they wanted to improve the offense in 2016. Warinner gave up his offensive line coaching duties, taking over the tight ends instead, so he could focus more on playcalling from the booth. They also agreed to play faster, using more tempo to take advantage of their athleticism.In the first two games of this season, Ohio State has averaged 82 offensive snaps, including a whopping 94 plays in the 77-10 blowout of Bowling Green. Thats up from an average of 69.7 offensive snaps in 2015.The Buckeyes can play faster because of Barretts mastery of the offense in his third year as a starter. Ohio State doesnt have to signal in play changes from the sidelines, which allows the defense time to reset as well. Instead, it can count on Barrett to audible into the necessary adjustments at the line of scrimmage, as he done often in the first two games this year.Theres nothing quite like that, having a quarterback with savvy and intelligence, Meyer said.Oho State will arrive in Norman with some lingering questions on offense. The offensive line, which features three new starters and a true freshman (Michael Jordan) at guard, had its struggles against Tulsas blitz package in the first half last week. Meyer said the group is farther along at this point than he expected, but it will face a serious challenge against Oklahomas physically imposing defensive front. For all their talent, many of the skill position players have never performed a hostile road environment or in a spotlight this magnified.It kind of forces us to grow up a little bit, Elflein said. If we get our job done up front and everyone blocks, those [skill] guys can ignite the flame.One things for sure: The Buckeyes offense has caught fire, even it happened later than most people thought. Playing without the burden of historic expectations helped set them free.Last year, we had so much power and explosiveness, and sometimes when that didnt showcase on Saturdays, it was like, Man, what happened? Barrett said. And we were kind of upset by that.Now, I dont think thats the case at all. Its definitely more fun, and its just exciting that everybody is getting involved. Nathan Eovaldi Jersey
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