When Ohio State wrapped up spring practice, Coach Urban Meyer gave a synopsis of each position.
His overall thought of offensive line didn’t come off as glowing.
“I would put them as non-functional in January,” Meyer said of the OSU offensive linemen. “And then functional after spring practice.”
Many knew that the offensive line had much work to do this offseason considering the anchors of last year’s line, Mike Brewster, Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts, are in NFL camps, the top name on the depth chart at right tackle, Reid Fragel, was a tight end last year, and the junior guard Andrew Norwell is the only person returning to the starting position he held down a year ago.
Making matters more difficult is the recent arrest and indefinite suspension of Mewhort, along with tight end Jake Stoneburner for reportedly urinating in public and fleeing from police. It hasn’t been determined when Mewhort might be reinstated. He and Stoneburner are suspended until the issue is resolved.
Even when Mewhort is reinstated, Ohio State has some strides to make on the offensive line.
The depth chart released by Meyer after spring drills has Mewhort (6-6, 310) and Fragel (6-8, 298) at tackle, Norwell (6-6, 304) and junior Marcus Hall (6-6, 317) at guard and junior Corey Linsley (6-3, 292) at center.
The backups have very little experience. Tackle Darryl Baldwin was on defense last year, tackle Taylor Decker and center Jacoby Boren were in high school last year, and guard Tommy Brown redshirted as a freshmen. Only backup guard Antonio Underwood lettered among the primary backups.
If there is one lineman who has gotten rave reviews over the past spring practices, it’s Linsley. Said Meyer of the junior from Boardman: “He was a pleasant surprise. He has the potential to be a very good player. Very committed player.”
“Guys like Marcus, you saw huge improvements,” he said. “Antonio Underwood, Jacoby Boren … shoot … Tommy Brown has gotten a heck of a lot better.
Both Linsley and Mewhort said the change of coaching staffs, particularly the change of offensive line coaches from Jim Bollman to Ed Warriner, is not a monumental issue. Linsley said both Bollman, now coaching at Boston College, and Warriner, who came to Ohio State from Notre Dame, are both outstanding technicians.
The only difference is delivery, where Bollman comes off more as low key and Warriner, as Linsley put it, “is more of a rah-rah guy.” Added Linsley, “We’re still coming off the ball. It’s still the principle of the offensive line. It’s just a different system.” Mewhort said it is important for the offensive linemen to build on the momentum they started in spring drills. Particularly taking that to heart is Decker, the 6-8, 315-pound true freshman from Vandalia Butler who is pushing Fragel for a starting position. In addition, fellow true freshmen Kyle Dodson (6-6, 315), Joey O’Connor (6-4, 295) and Pat Elflein (6-3 285) will join the list of competitors when camp opens in August.
“Complacency kills,” Mewhort said. “Just because someone says we’ve come a long way doesn’t mean we’re there. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got to take little steps every day and eventually we’ll be there.”
When practice resumes I expect the offensive line to continue to improve, especially with more players coming in, igniting competition. With Braxton Miller being a mobile quarterback, the line will be able to get away with a few mistakes, but that certainly will not be unnoticed by Coach Meyer. Early on, I expect a little in consistency given the inexperience of the players but by the third game this unit should begin to gel.
Overall Grade: C+
The unit isn’t great, yet, but they aren’t horrible and they are young. With experience from game play, the unit will improve and should be a better line than the ones that have struggled against athletic lines in recent memory.
About the Author
Written by Jimmy Martinez
I am a recent graduate of The Ohio State University. I currently live in Columbus, OH, but am originally from Derwood, Maryland.