In the aftermath of last week's game versus Utah, an interesting debate occurred. When the offense falters where should the blame actually fall? Is it squarely on the shoulders of the offensive line? On the arm of Sean Mannion? Maybe even on the wide receivers? The real truth is there is no easy answer to this question, and it will vary week by week, but excusing Mannion because of the offensive line is not correct either.
Mannion is going to be the deciding factor in every game that OSU plays unless the defense becomes dominant. That seems unlikely, so for the immediate future how he plays will decide games. The offensive line could certainly help him more, the receivers could drop fewer passes, and the coaches could try and set a new gameplan to get the ball out quicker. In the end though the bottom line comes down to the quarterback. But for the sake of fairness let's give an argument for each group being at fault.
Offensive Line: The obvious candidates. They are currently the weakest unit on the team and have trouble pass blocking and run blocking. There is very little offensive balance because the Beavs are forced into throwing more than they really should. They are the easiest group to blame because their mistakes are the most obvious, when Mannion has no time or there are no lanes being created for the running backs. They also get some terrible penalties as well, a holding call is sometimes acceptable to protect your qb, but a false start should not happen. When the Beavers lose in the trenches they lose on the scoreboard too. This problem has been masked for the last few years by Jacquizz Rodgers, but the line has had trouble run blocking for a long time, Rodgers simply created lanes that did not exist and gave the appearance of good run blocking. This is a talent issue, but the incoming recruiting class seems to have more offensive line talent coming in.
- Receivers: It seems less obvious, but this is another potential unit to blame. Some plays I choose to watch a receiver and see if he wins his individual matchup against the cornerback, but I actually rarely see them win. They need to create some sort of separation, but it seems to not happen as often as it should. That's only one half of the negatives though, there are a few too many dropped balls as well. Markus Wheaton has had a few notable ones and Brandin Cooks has juggled some passes also but got away with it. The dropped passes are tough to deal with, especially when the offense is already in a rut.
- Running Backs: The backs are guilty primarily of one thing, fumbling. We had gotten spoiled in the Quizz era, but now we have seen the ball hit the turf on real fumbles, not on a fluke of a lateral pass. It brings the offense to a screeching halt, and it generally seems that the offense cannot recover very quickly and things begin to snowball. The Beaver offense is already unstable, and extra misfortunes just further weaken the confidence of the team, the running backs are not free of blame here either.
- Coaches: There needs to be some more creativity here, the old tried and true system did work, but now that OSU has had real exposure, defenses know exactly what they are dealing with. The scheme has not changed at all, with the addition of the fly sweep a couple years ago, but even that has become mildly predictable. They had tried the Beavercat (not the Wild Beaver) and that was an interesting idea, but the whole wildcat idea has since fizzled out everywhere. The coaches really need to look at their talent and figure out the best way to utilize that talent. The most dynamic unit is the wide receiving corps, but the scheme restricts them to 3 wide receivers, it just seems like a misuse of talent. I still hold out hope that the 5 wide sets are being saved for the Civil War, but it would be a good time to maybe try some new things.
- Quarterback: In the end every other part of the offense has an effect on the game, but only one player has the ability to sway the game one way or another. This job falls to the quarterback. One could say that it's unfair to place all the blame or glory on one player, but this is the job of a quarterback, the expectations come with the job. This applies to all teams, some have the dominant defense to deal with a middling quarterback, but most teams need that quarterback and the Beavs do as well. I know Mannion is young, I know the line is shaky, but when it comes down to it he has to perform at a high level. Excuses are made, but in order for this team to win Mannion must overcome what happens around him.
In the end, it all comes back to the quarterback, he can cover up bad play by his teammates and still get OSU a victory. Other players have put out great efforts, but it will still be decided by what Mannion does.