As the offensive line, receivers and running backs got set this spring, the quarterback walks toward the line. He doesn't always stop in shotgun.
In some cases, Quinton Maxwell walked up to the line of scrimmage and got under center to start the play.
This spring, Ohio has added back the under center part of its playbook. The Bobcats have ran exclusively out of the pistol since the 2010 bowl game loss to Troy, but now, the under center look of the offense is back.
“In the offseason we studied the film, there’s a lot of teams that do it, that do both," offensive coordinator Tim Albin said. "There’s some advantages to being under center, especially with the running game, so we’re trying to get some reps at it and see what it looks like in the spring."
The pistol will still be utilized, probably more so than the under center look. And there won't be much variation. The pistol is a variation of the shotgun offense where the running back lines up behind the quarterback instead of on either side. Ohio runs a three-wideout set, and that hasn't changed.
Often the flanker, or tight end, lines up on the line or just behind the tackle in the Bobcats' pistol set. Now when the team goes under center, the tight end/fullback will line up in a traditional fullback set in an offset-I Formation.
“I’ve been looking at it for a while," coach Frank Solich said. "I decided this spring to make sure we got snaps under center and devise an offense that will fit that, not every play can carry over. We have enough of an offense that can carry over that will be beneficial for us.”
Albin said the offense will try to keep the same balanced play-calling the team has used in previous years even when under center. Ohio ran the ball 53.36 percent of the time last year.
"I think the pistol, we’re a shotgun team and we’re doing what we do," he said. "But the running game always comes first. Everything goes through the running game, everything is much easier when the run game is working. If the running game is going, play-calls are a lot easier."
The new formation should give the Bobcats an added dimension on offense with its running game, as Albin hopes. A.J. Ouellette is returning from injury, and the stable of backs that includes Dorian Brown and Maleek Irons are back too.
In essence, it's small now, but has the potential to be a huge change to an offense that struggled to put up points last year. The Bobcats put up 25.5 points per game, 79th in the country, last season.
"One of the pluses is that we give great play action off of it, one thing that I think is that we’ve got big backs, big, strong, physical backs that are fast," Maxwell said. "If we’re under center and we get them running seven or eight yards downhill, they get the ball running full speed, I’ll take my chances with that, with our backs.”
It can't be expected that Ohio's offense will run exclusively, or even mostly, out of the new formation. But the new wrinkle should help the run game, as well as the passing attack with play action.
The change isn't a seismic one, but it gives the Bobcats a new look, one that they haven't had in years. Maybe that's what the offense needs.
“Last time I went under center for anything was sophomore year of high school," center Jake Pruehs said. "So at least I had some kind of prior knowledge to it. I kind of like it, it gives us a different look for the defense, I don’t mind it. Sometimes it’s a little different, but that’s just the growing pains of it.”