The Warinner Line: Ohio State's Most Improved Unit

By Kyle Rowland on February 27, 2013 at 10:00a
Ed Warinner has worked magic at Ohio State

It was a Babe Ruth kind of year in 2012 for Urban Meyer. Every time you turned around the Ohio State head coach was hitting a home run. But perhaps the best swing Meyer took all year was hiring offensive line coach Ed Warinner. 

Replacing the embattled and unpopular Jim Bollman immediately thrust Warinner into a favorable light. But once the season began, he became Mr. Popular. Warinner did yeoman’s work, transforming Ohio State’s offensive line from a maligned unit into one of the team’s strengths. 

So how did he take a ragtag group and mold them into a confident, reliable bunch? Tough love.

“My vision of a line coach is the toughest guy on your staff,” Meyer said.

That objective held true. The offensive linemen quickly found out that Warinner rarely talked in an inside voice. An in-your-face, demanding presence, Warinner can also be uplifting.

“He was a cool guy – easy to talk to, good dude – when I first met him,” center Corey Linsley said. “Then (the coaches) kind of found out about the offensive line, not that they didn't know coming in, but Coach Meyer really exposed our reputation as being soft and lazy and not playing up to our ability.

“Then the true Coach Warinner came out as a motivator and a screamer and a yeller. But you grow to love Coach Warinner. He’ll scream and yell at you out on the field, but that's only because he loves you and wants you to get better as a player. It’s made us all better.”

The Buckeyes’ offensive line resembled the Island of Misfit Toys. Linsley and Marcus Hall had played multiple positions at Ohio State and spent time in the previous regime’s doghouse, Reid Fragel spent his career at tight end, and even Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell, the most experienced members of the unit, had slid up and down the line.

Put them all together, though, and the pieces fit in concert with precision. The 2011 line allowed 46 sacks – more than 3.5 per game – and that unit included three players on NFL rosters, one of whom was drafted in the second round. Sprinkle some Warinner into the equation and an entirely new picture emerges.

The Buckeye Five limited the sacks to a more modest 30 last season and opened up gaping holes for quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde to shoot through like cannonballs. Ohio State had nearly 3,000 total rushing yards, up almost 500 yards from the previous season. The Buckeyes ranked 10th in the nation in rushing and had the 21st-ranked scoring offense.

Ed Warinner drills his troops at Ohio State's 2012 spring campWhat are these? Sleds?

And this came from a group that at one time was called “nonfunctional” by Meyer.

“We’re not going to get pushed around,” Warinner said.

Hall, who bounced from various spots on the line during his first three seasons in Columbus, found a home at right guard last year. He credits Warinner’s perfectionist ways and energetic personality with improving his overall play.

“Coach Bollman was a lot more technique sound and low energy and he liked to teach you a lot,” Hall said. “Coach Warinner, I’m not saying he’s not technique sound, but he’s a high-energy guy. He’s always loud and screaming, so we’re always pumped up around Coach Warinner. He has a demanding attitude and he always tells us we’d better be ready to go when we leave that meeting room for practice.”

It wasn’t just on the field where Hall straightened himself out last season. He redshirted his sophomore season due to academic issues and received a one-game suspension in 2011 for his involvement in the Bobby DiGeronimo case. 

Those problems have since evaporated for Hall.

With spring practice less than a week away, Ohio State’s offensive line returns almost entirely intact. The lone missing piece is Fragel, and it’s a significant blow. He evolved into a stout lineman after just one season at the position, having shifted over form tight end. But Taylor Decker is there to fill in. The then-freshman battled Fragel leading up to last season, before eventually losing the competition.

Mewhort, a 2012 second-team All-Big Ten selection, will anchor the unit.

”He’s already a leader,” Meyer said. “We’re asking him to take over a position that maybe a (John) Simon took, the overall heart. I love him. He’s a tough guy.”

The “quarterback” of the group is Linsley, who made a seamless transition to center. After four years of Mike Brewster, that position was expected to have a falloff, but it was anything but. Guards Hall and Norwell also return.

“Ed was the offensive coordinator when Kansas went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Think about that for a minute.”

With a year in a new system, the coaches and players are through the feeling out phase. Now Ohio State enters Year 2, a Meyer specialty. The Buckeyes are a national championship contender, and the offense is the primary reason for the high hopes. Physical play up front should be Ohio State’s friend, especially with weapons at quarterback and the skill positions.

There is one big but, though – depth. In Meyer’s first two recruiting classes there has been quality on the line but not quantity. One injury could significantly affect Ohio State’s title hopes. It was a situation the Buckeyes didn’t have to worry about last season, as the same five starters were available every game. The hope is that history repeats itself.

Warinner is entering his 30th season coaching college football. He’s worked almost exclusively on offense, with the line, running backs and quarterbacks. It’s no surprise that Warinner contains a wealth of football knowledge. He’s coached under George Perles, Nick Saban, Mark Mangino, Brian Kelly and now, Urban Meyer. He’s also held positions on the staffs at West Point and the Air Force Academy.

The information started pouring in during Warinner’s playing days at Mount Union. His offensive coordinator was a guy by the name of Larry Kehres. Warinner has been a sponge, soaking up tidbits of coaching knowledge from high school all the way up to his position at Ohio State. His level of football intelligence affords him the ability to teach offensive players every nuance there is to be known.

“Ed was the offensive coordinator when Kansas went (12-1 in 2007) and won the Orange Bowl,” Meyer said. “Think about that for a minute. I think Kansas is a great place, but that was a heck of a football team.”

Warinner was the brains behind quarterback Todd Reesing’s record-setting season and, eventually, career. For his part, Warinner was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, giving annually to the top assistant coach in the nation. In 2007 Kansas, a football program short on a winning tradition, had its best season in school history and fielded the highest scoring offense in the country – 42.8 points per game.

Tagged with the job title co-offensive coordinator at Ohio State, Warinner doesn’t call plays – that job rests with Tom Herman – but he does offer input.

“I wanted to hire a tough guy that’s very involved in the game-planning, because sometimes line coaches just go live in their world,” Meyer said. “The thing I liked about Ed Warinner is he was the offensive coordinator at Kansas when they went to the Orange Bowl.

“He’s got a great concept of the big picture.”


Comments Show All Comments

OSUnathen's picture

So why do all the top OL recruits not want to play for this guy? Is it solely because we run a different blocking scheme than most NFL teams and recruits would rather work in that style and be NFL ready? He sounds like a great coach to want to play for. 

Boxley's picture

Until last year we had a bad reputation in developing OL for the NFL. That is set to change, but it might take one more year before the HS kids start to see a much more positive pattern of development of OL at tOSU.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

northcampus's picture

Bollman's ability to allow OL recruits to regress the past few years may be a factor.  However, Notre Dame hasn't had an issue bringing in OL recruits in the past two classes (after EW came to OSU, ND still continues to out-recruit OSU on OL slots).  I wouldn't consider ND a pipeline to the NFL for OL's any more than OSU is/has been.  Hopefully this trend changes moving forward.

OldColumbusTown's picture

Not that Warriner doesn't have other success stories to tell, but the best and greatest example I'm sure he could use is that of Reid Fragel (assuming Fragel is drafted, and after his combine performance I think he's a mid-round pick).  Warriner was able to take a guy with zero real offensive line experience, mold him in one offseason into a starter at tackle for an undefeated team, and allow him to be drafted as a mid-round NFL pick.
THAT is something, and I think it is something to which high school prospects will begin to respond.

Rizzoni's picture

The OL recruiting was solid for 2012 and below-par for 2013. I think you are reading too much into a small sample size (n=2). I would be worried if the trend holds after another 2 to 3 years.

dubjayfootball90's picture

GIVE ME FOOTBALL NOW!!!! Damn we are lucky to have him. This year is going to be special.... I cant wait for spring practice, haha.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Boxley's picture

I just hope we can hang onto him for a while. What he did with the existing players in one season, not a full year with them, was unbelievable.
Great job, great coach!

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Citrus's picture

The combinaton of Marrioti's strength program and Warinner's coaching is going to give these prospects the best chance of becoming studs.

I don't think the sack numbers fully highlight the difference in O-Line after Warinner took over. 45 sacks in 2011 and we barely threw the ball. Far more passing attempts in 2012 and 15 lesss sacks. In year two of this system, year two of building strength and learning proper technique, this unit is going to be great.

rdubs's picture

Also the sack number was inflated by Braxton's hesitation at times.  He wasn't actually that strong of a scrambler and took more sacks than necessary.  As he progresses as a passer, I expect the number of sacks to go down (even if we start passing more).

Citrus's picture

I completely agree. It is nice that he keeps his eyes down the field but he has to learn when to get out of there. Many of those sacks were on Brax.

rdubs's picture

Love this guy.  His brother was one of my high school math teachers, so I met him once or twice and always a great guy.  Also (remember Kansas fan here) his time at KU was practically wizardry.  I am surprised this guy hasn't had a shot at a head coaching position (oops I'll hold my tongue so that no one gets any bright ideas and steals him away).

cinserious's picture

Bollman dragged OSU's offensive line reputation down for so many years, it will take this year's inevitable success to attract the attention of the nation's best h.s. linemen. 2014 linemen are a staff priority and i'm sure we end up with several four and five * O-linemen.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

German Buckeye's picture

Bollman at Purdue now - got to wonder about Hazell's ability to pick coaches....

Findog5's picture

I think these coaches stay together for a while.  They are home and want to build a dynasty...and are well on their way!!! 

Raleigh Buckeye

rdubs's picture

I wish it were that simple.  I just think guys like Withers and Herman have their own ambitions and aren't have few direct ties to OSU to keep them here if they have better opportunities.  Warriner actually does have ties to the area, since his brother lives in the area and their families can hang out together there might be more an impulse to stay unless there is a perfect opportunity elsewhere.
That is why I am hoping that we win a championship this year, so that if a couple coaches leave, we will at least have gotten a championship before needing to rebuild a staff.

cinserious's picture

Good thing is, under Urban Meyer we won't have to rebuild an entire staff but a coach here and there as OSU is a 'destination' job. When we do need a coach, Urban knows exactly what he is looking for and has a good chance of landing his man just like recruiting players. I'm more worried about finding a replacement for XBrax in a couple years.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

BuckeyeMike2002's picture

As fans we tend to get real emotional. Bollman was pretty stale and it wasn't a good fit by the time things went down with Tress. Yet Bollman is still on a division I college staff. You don't get hired to those jobs if you aren't qualified.
Thing is that Warriner is a better fit for the O-Linemen we have right now. Who the best fit is, is the telling thing in many ways.
Warriner comes in with a different perspective, coaches like his 'hair is on fire' and the kids buy in. That was the difference in 2012. Kids bought in to everything this staff asked of them and it paid huge rewards in a 12-0 season.
I sure want us to go 14-0 next year but winning 26 in a row isn't easy. If this group of players buys in and works in this off season like they did last off season, they have a chance. That is why it is so exciting right now, you're talking about it and isn't just fans being fans, they have the quarterback and the O-Line, if the receivers get better (they should) and the defense gels early, it isn't unrealistic that you could see them win 26 and a row with a national title.

Q: What is the difference between the Michigan Football Team and a bag of crap. A: The Bag.

cinserious's picture

Ok, Ok, its one thing to defend Tressel because he's earned his stripes but BOLLMAN!?!? He's done nothing over the last ten years but pretend to be an offensive coordinator and O-line coach. Early on he brought in alot of good players and even blue chip talent only to squander it all away with an underperforming unit.  His lines were lazy, soft, undisciplined and had no passion. It got so obvious that it culminated in a 2011 class of scrubs in a  desperation move by the staff to get 'bodies' on the O-line. Bollman hasn't coached-up anybody over all those years and did a horrible job of scouting and offering the right players for the line. Rant over.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

GoBucksToledo's picture

Just love Ed Warinner as a coach and scratching my head why we're not getting more top level recruits wanting to play for him.

ajbosu1's picture

As stated above I think this year is the true litmus test on our OL recruiting.
We already have two commits and I am VERY optimistic we have a huge haul in this area.

gobucks96's picture

the offensive line was biggest key to this team going 12-0 last year... They sealed the MSU and UM game.

WolverineKiller's picture

Bump.  Also how about the gaping holes all game against Nebraska.

Just Win.

3technique's picture

I was more worried about the Oline before last year. Warriner gives me hope that he will develop the kids on board, and recruit well this off season.. I want my Oline with a mean streak, and the Walrus was unable to bring that to his players.

Timotheos's picture

My father has been complaining about the O-line for as long as I can remember. Glad to see change. Sorry Bollman, but his units were not up to speed.

ARMYBUCK's picture

I really like Warriner.  He really puts me to mind of my former wrestling coach.  One of those guys that doesnt have an inside voice,is very demanding,but you know he cares about you and expects your best. Coaches like him have the upper hand in the sense that first and foremost you dont want to disappoint them. This article alone has me motivated.  Lets play!

MediBuck's picture

We are unbelievably lucky to have Warriner. His ability to singlehandedly alter the reputation of an entire position group (working with arguably less than his predecessor) is nothing short of a miracle, and I suspect that if we do well next season as expected, he'll be headed off to a HC position somewhere. I sadly hope that won't be the case, but the man is a hot commodity.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

osubuckeye4life's picture

Amazing what he was able to do with one year. I can't wait to see the leap the line makes this year!