August 31, 2007

Shockin' Offense

ATLANTA - When you have an offense as explosive as the one Larry Fedora controls, your choices are like a tasty buffet: you have plenty of options, so do you load up on just a few items, or do you try to spread things out?

That's the biggest question Fedora has to deal with heading into the season opener against Georgia. When some of your choices include Bobby Reid, Dantrell Savage, Adarius Bowman and Brandon Pettigrew, it's probably tough to decide who gets the ball and how much.

Which is why it's a good thing he takes what defenses give him. He said he never just tries to shove a certain attack down a defense's throat.

"I've never believed that we were going to go into a game and beat our heads against the wall," Fedora said. "I'm just not one of those guys that says: 'Hey, they got eight in the box; we're going to run it no matter what.' It's just not me, it's not my philosophy. If they're giving us that situation, then we're going to take advantage of it and do it."

That's easy to accomplish when you have a unit as balanced as OSU's. Last season, the Cowboys passed and ran with the same regularity, gaining 2,623 yards in the air and 2,704 yards on the ground.

How's that for a balanced attack? Good thing, since head coach Mike Gundy believes in a very aggressive form of offense.

"We're pretty aggressive right from the start," Gundy said. "I think there's some truth in patience in some areas where you have to allow the flow of the game to place and react at some point. But our philosophy offensively has been to attack, pretty much, which I'm for."

And while the Cowboys want to "shock and awe" the competition, Fedora said that a key part of his offensive philosophy is building his system around players - not forcing them into a system they can't perform in.

"That's part of coaching - finding out the players that you have and what they can do well," he said. "Because it doesn't matter if you call something else and they can't do it, you're wasting your time. Doesn't matter if it's a great play. If it was something that I ran five years ago and that was just a great play, and if we don't have the guys to execute that, then I'm wasting my time."

Under his system, the OSU passing attack has received massive amounts of attention. National media types are talking more and more about Reid and Bowman is being mentioned as a candidate for several individual awards. But even with the acrobatics of the high-flying passing game, Fedora said the ground troops still play a big role for the Pokes.

"Yeah, the game hasn't changed," he said. "It's going to be important that we do run the ball efficiently, no doubt about it. And Dantrell will be a big part of that. We have to run the ball efficiently to give us all the other things that we want to do. We've got enough offense that if we have to just throw the football, we can do it, but it sure makes it a whole lot easier as a play-caller if you can do them both."

With Savage, Keith Toston and Julius Crosslin holding down the running game, the passing game is looking for talented - albeit unproven - receivers to step up and compliment Bowman, who will likely be a focus for opposing defenses. Fedora says receivers such as Jeremy Broadway and Tommy Devereaux have looked good so far, but will need to step up if OSU's offense is to truly stress defenses.

"We've had a good fall with those guys in camp, and now it's time for them to find out where they are," he said. "They have to come up and make plays in this game for us to be successful. Bowman's not going to do it by himself, so it's going to be somebody else that's going to be making plays. Somebody's going to do it. Somebody's going to make a name for themselves in this opening game."

And if that happens, it'll just mean another headache for opposing defensive coordinators all season long.

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