OSU quarterbacks will run more, but what kind of runs?

Published 5:58 pm Sunday, April 14, 2024

By Jim Naveau


COLUMBUS — Making quarterback runs a bigger part of Ohio State’s offense has been a hot topic since Justin Fields played his final game as a Buckeye in the 2020 season.

Email newsletter signup

Seeing Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy and Missouri’s Brady Cook do some damage running the ball in OSU’s only two losses last season only added fuel to the fire.

How and when the quarterbacks might run the ball this season were subjects head coach Ryan Day and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly discussed after Ohio State’s spring football game on Saturday.

Five quarterbacks ran the ball a total of 18 times in the spring game, ranging from a high of five rushes by freshmen Julian Sayin and Air Noland to one run by Kansas State transfer Will Howard.

Howard, viewed as the unofficial front runner to become OSU’s starting quarterback, has rushed for 921 yards and 19 touchdown in his four previous college seasons and ran 81 times for 351 yards and nine touchdowns.

And last year’s back-up quarterback Devin Brown’s running skills led OSU’s coaches to put him on the field in situations that called for a quarterback run a year ago before injuries stopped that plan.

“It’s going to be a weapon for us this year because all of our quarterbacks are athletic enough to do that,” Day said about quarterbacks playing a role in the ground game.

Kelly said all of the Buckeyes quarterbacks can hurt defenses with their feet.

“Will did it when he was at K-State. Devin took off a couple times today, Air took off a couple times today. Lincoln (Kienholz) is a really, really good athlete. Julian (Sayin) can run,” he said.

Both Day and Kelly said when Ohio State quarterbacks run the ball it will usually not be a designed play.

“Most of those quarterback runs aren’t designed quarterback runs. Most of them are reading an end and aren’t hellacious hits (by the defense). They’re things where we’re going to keep guys upright,” Day said.

Kelly said, “We’re not calling designed quarterback runs here. But it’s another weapon. It also keeps defenses honest.

“I think a running quarterback causes problems for a defense. If you go back to the recent Super Bowl on that last drive the two big plays were Mahomes runs. Patrick Mahomes is not a runner. And Andy (Reid) is not calling designed quarterback runs for Pat. But when the defense matches up and turns their back to the quarterback maybe the best decision is to take off.

“If you do have a running quarterback you have to talk about the best ability is availability. You’re not lowering your shoulder and taking people on. You’re always looking for quarterbacks who have the ability to run. You’re not looking for running backs who can throw. You’re not going to see us running the quarterback 20 times a game,” he said.

When Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was asked about the value of a quarterback who can run after the spring game.

“I think it changes everything you do on defense. You see it everywhere from the NFL on down if you have a quarterback who can make plays with his feet your (defensive) scheme better be designed to take that away. It changes the way you look at everything,” said Knowles.