To get Buckeye Nation ready for the first Spring Game in Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State, the Buckeye Bloggers Network wanted to take an in-depth look at each position following spring practice. Be sure to check out all of the coverage!
The easy comment on the offensive line, be it at Ohio State or nationwide, is that the season will hinge on their performance.
Again, that’s the standard answer, but I have to believe that this year it bodes more true than ever in Columbus. There are playmakers elsewhere on Offense, and the Defense (while thin in places) has the potential to be terrifying for opposing offensive coordinators.
But the Buckeye Offensive Line is a mystery at this point; which was evidenced merely looking at Coach Meyer’s emphases on the recruiting trail beginning last season. It’s not enough that they are replacing both tackles and their four year starter at center. It’s not enough that they are now “loaded” with talent amassed by James “Meh, one guard a year is all we need” Bollman, who annually defined the word “reach” with the recruiting offers he seemed to facilitate.
Nope, in addition to those obvious concerns comes this- the team’s offensive identity is taking a major shift. Gone are the days of “Dave, Dave, Draw, Punt”; we now have an offensive scheme that requires linemen to a) be in top cardiovascular shape and b) pass block as effectively as run block. In other words, there’s some coachin’ to do.
So, if you’re like me (my condolences), you’re incredibly interested in seeing how the anchor of the team’s successes will look on Saturday. Will Braxton’s runs in the fall be designed or out of necessity? Will long runs be due to Jordan and Carlos and Rod and Brionte’s talent, or due to the gaping holes that are waiting for them? Will my summer be spent in quiet confidence or wondering instead how what the record for most “three and outs” by a Buckeye team might be?
Saturday gives us our first clue. Onward.
What will be most different this year than last?
We’ve talked about the tempo and scheme being gently called “the polar opposite of Tresselball”, let’s take a look at the new faces in the new places. First, the team lineups:
Team Scarlet: Darryl Baldwin, Reid Fragel, Marcus Hall, Eric Kramer, Corey Linsley, Jack Mewhort, Tim Trummer
Team Gray: Brian Bobek, Tommy Brown, Taylor Decker, Andrew Norwell, Ben St. John, Antonio Underwood. Ivon Blackman and Jacoby Boren also, but neither is expected to play based on injury.
On paper, the Scarlet Team would be the one with a seeming advantage here, as projected starters Reid Fragel, Marcus Hall, Corey Linsley, and Jack Mewhort will be protecting Braxton against Coach Fickell’s squad. However, it’s key to remember that, of these players, only Mewhort and Linsley have significant game time- Hall has been in on spot duty, and Fragel’s previous action was solely from the tight end position. With Mewhort also in transition to his new position at tackle, this group will more than likely experience some growing pains.
The Grey Team will be anchored by Brian Bobek at center and Andrew Norwell at Guard, with new freshman Taylor Decker on one edge and Tommy Brown on the other. Again, this looks to be a bit of a hodge podge group… but at least Simon’s on their sidelines.
What are you excited to see at each position? What are you concerned about?
I loves me some tackle play, and think that Coach Meyer’s offense offers some great opportunities for athletic offensive linemen to do some creative things in their blocking schemes: Pulling tackles, ahoy! I also think the pace, once the team gets used to it, might be a huge asset- the linemen will have the privilege of blocking fatigued defenders who aren’t able to legally substitute. That might, for the record, actually be able to compensate for some of the growing pains that I think this group will go through.
Oh, and can I get excited now about the dearth of false start penalties that I’m certain will be a part of the Ohio State experience moving forward? No, not (only) for the obvious reasons…did you know that T. Boone Pickens University uses the no-huddle hurry up, and their team didn’t false start until (I believe) the eighth game of their season last year. Did I just jinx it? Crap.
What concerns me? Well, how much time to you have? I’m concerned that we’re about one or two injuries from having a line that’s begging for a Barkley. I’m concerned, as you may have noticed, that the team is asked to run an offense built for Ferraris and we’ve still go some decent Yukons (although not as awesome as ‘Bama, right Trent?). I’m concerned that the answer to my next question might be an eventual starter as a freshman. Yeah, this isn’t helping my ulcer at all.
Who will stand out? Who’s a “rookie” you’re keeping your eyes on?
Believe it or not, I believe that Reid Fragel will excel this year, and we might see glimpses of that on Saturday. As I mentioned, the offensive line play that Ohio State will be implementing moving forward requires great footwork and quickness, and we’re well aware that Fragel Rock doesn’t refer to his plodding gait.
On the “n00b” front, I was really excited to watch Jacoby Boren in action, and am bummed that he will be on the shelf. You can’t grow up as the youngest male in that household and not be a hard nosed player- if only for sheer survival.
So, I’ll be watching for Taylor Decker- we’ve been hearing good things, particularly since he just enrolled early and is still learning the offense. People point to him as being the next great tackle at Ohio State (which is saying something); perhaps we’ll see flashes of that in the ‘Shoe on Saturday.
Hey! Wait a minute! Longsnappers are linemen, right? Alrighty then- I believe that Bryce Haynes will tear it up this Saturday and this season, although I’d be perfectly fine if his only action was on extra points.
Be sure to check out the rest of the Buckeye Bloggers Network for complete coverage of the Ohio State Spring Game, and join us on Saturday for the BBN Livechat.