Ohio’s offense was predictable last season, with deep fades thrown frequently to wide receivers such as Sebastian Smith and Brendan Cope. The Bobcats loved to go for the big play — they were good at it too, totaling 3,026 receiving yards.
Now, Ohio will run in between tackles and through holes for potential big gains and game-breaking touchdowns.
Ohio’s pistol offense has two running backs in its backfield. Though it isn’t as electrifying as former Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly’s offenses, it has five viable running backs competing for time in its newly implemented two-back set.
Maleek Irons, A.J. Ouellette, C.J. Hilliard, Papi White and Dorian Brown are all looking to contribute to an offense that was dominated by the wide receivers last season. The receivers totaled 18 of the team’s 44 touchdowns, good for 41 percent of the Bobcats’ touchdowns.
Ohio collectively rushed for 2,352 yards last season, good for 43 percent of its 5,408 total yards. Ouellette was the team’s leading rusher with 687 yards. Brown was the team’s fourth leading rusher with 204 yards, and Irons was the fifth leading rusher with 198 yards.
All three running backs have aggressive running styles that involve barreling through tacklers and making ankle-breaking jukes against incoming linebackers.
Though some of Ohio’s running backs have aggressive styles, White is more of a speed back. When he gets into open field he can juke, spin and accelerate. Because White is more of a speed back, the flexibility of the two-back pistol offense could allow him to play as a slot receiver as well, running slant routes across the middle for solid gains.
Hilliard is a traditional running back who runs through holes the offensive line creates. He can be particularly effective in red zone and goal-line sets, as he doesn’t have stark breakaway speed like White nor strength like Irons and Brown. Further, Hilliard is a fundamentally sound running back who takes advantage of the offensive line’s blocks.
With the flexibility the two-back set brings, Ohio’s offense won’t be as unpredictable as the Oregon’s of yesteryear. But it certainly will be unpredictable in its crowded, yet talented backfield.