The Formidable Scarlet Line

By Kyle Rowland on November 21, 2013 at 9:15a
Pancakes for brunch.

The 105,000 fans that pack Ohio Stadium on Saturday will erupt when Carlos Hyde and Kenny Guiton run through the tunnel for Senior Day festivities. Hyde is a yardage- and touchdown-producing monster, while Guiton is the likable backup who’s standing reached legendary status after proving he could handle the pressures of playing major college football.

There are four seniors, however, whose value to the team cannot be overstated. But when you play offensive line as opposed to a flashy skill position, anonymity is almost certain. Head coach Urban Meyer won’t let that happen, though. Not with Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall. Those four players have directed Ohio State’s two-year renaissance.

“I would take that offensive line against anybody, anywhere,” Meyer exclaimed. “I love who they are. I love who they’ve become. If I was a college kid, that’s who I would hang out with. They’re sincere, great people who work their tails off.”

Last week, that group – plus sophomore left tackle Taylor Decker – orchestrated a record-setting rushing day. The Buckeyes averaged 10.5 yards per carry, the most in school history, and Hyde’s 246 yards tied for the third-best output. Only Eddie George and Keith Byars have rushed for more yards in a single game. In the current three-game onslaught that includes 179 points, Ohio State has gained 1,194 yards on the ground.

“I think [fans] really get enamored with skill position players,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “They forget about or aren't educated on how you win football games. You win football games up front on both sides of the football.”

That’s long been a truth of football. Controlling the opposition has not been a constant for the Buckeyes. Talent on the offensive line fell off in the final years of the Jim Tressel era. When Ed Warinner was tabbed by Meyer to resurrect the O-line, no one, not even Meyer, knew just how exceptional the unit would be.

Along with coaching, sculpted bodies and a new scheme, Mewhort said an attitude adjustment served Ohio State well. They became leaders, which led to a new culture inside the locker room. 

“We did a lot of growing up, as far as maturity goes,” Mewhort said. “I think when Coach Meyer got here we realized that we were the older guys now and we had to assume some responsibility and not just take a back seat and watch other guys do it. Coach Meyer put a lot of pressure on us to do that and we accepted that, and that’s when we started to see guys thrive.”

All the production in the backfield prompted Meyer to admit the Buckeyes are a power-run team. The identity is not that of a traditional spread offense. Proof can be found in game film and stat sheets.

“The offensive line and Carlos Hyde have proven over and over again they can take over games,” Meyer said. “That’s who we are.”

“Coach Meyer gives us all the praise in the media and gives us praise after the game. Coach Warinner is the guy who keeps us level headed and keeps us working and grinding,” Linsley added, with a smile.

Despite a three-game suspension to begin the season, Hyde is just 53 yards shy of 1,000, which would make him the first running back under Meyer to accomplish that feat.

“I give all credit to my offensive line and my receivers,” Hyde said. “They [do] a great job.”

One final sendoff in Columbus. "I owe who I am to this university and this program." -Mewhort

The line’s worth is obvious, but it becomes all the more apparent when one of them is missing. Their impact was evident Saturday when Mewhort departed after the Buckeyes built a 28-point first-half lead. Earlier in the week, he hyper-extended his knee, so Meyer felt it was necessary to get him out of the game. The scoreboard made the decision much easier.

But when Mewhort exited, the Illinois defense began penetrating the offensive line. Ironically, it was Mewhort’s high school teammate, Tim Kynard, who benefitted most from his appearance on the sideline. Kynard finished with a sack and fumble recovery.

When Mewhort returned in the second half, Ohio State went back on the offensive, running over and through the Illini. Meyer took blame in his postgame press conference for taking Mewhort off the field, going as far as declaring him the best offensive player on the team.

“That’s my fault,” Meyer said. “Not just that he’s a pretty good player, but he’s the man. He’s the rallying point. He’s the leader.”

Senior Day against Indiana will be Mewhort’s 36th consecutive start. The last time he didn’t trot out for the Buckeyes’ first offensive snap was Nov. 27, 2010, when the Ohio State defeated Michigan 37-7 in Columbus.

Players often talk about the rush they experience the first time they run onto the field. The memory is also lasting for the final journey, but for different reasons. Mewhort said he’s trying to think about only the Hoosiers this week, not the series of lasts he’ll endure.

“It’s going to be a pretty emotional thing. But it’s been a great ride,” he said. “I owe who I am to this university and this program. So it’s going to mean a lot to me. I’m going to be taking it all in and looking forward to it.”

Meyer isn’t always emotional on Senior Day, but he said he will be this year because of how much the class has accomplished and their meaning to Ohio State. At the top of that list is Mewhort.

“He’s one of my all-time favorite players I’ve been around,” Meyer said. “He’s playing at an extremely high level, but that’s just part of it. It’s just the leadership value he brings and the ‘esprit de corps’ that he is a part of.”

But that quartet will play its final game in the Horseshoe Saturday. While fans worry about Bradley Roby, Ryan Shazier and Miller’s pro prospects, the graduation of four offensive linemen will have a far bigger impact on the 2014 Buckeyes.

“We are a really close-knit group of guys. Passionate, I would say. Really caring,” Mewhort said. “I’ve seen guys change over the past three years and really become selfless people. That’s something that’s really special. Seeing guys transform from ‘me’ guys into ‘team’ guys.”

Said Hall: “Honestly, I’m not really trying to think about that. It’s been a long run road – five years. I really don’t want to see it come to an end. But you know what they say, all good things come to and end.”



Hovenaut's picture

Games are still won in the trenches. 
Woody said you win with people. 
Some things never change.....nice article.

We have filled the Braxton Miller position.

mtharp's picture

The big uglies have done a great job this year.  They will be missed

jccesner's picture

Excited to see what these guys bring to the NFL.

"Nothing cleanses your soul like getting the shit kicked out of you."
Woody Hayes

Buckabroad's picture

The impact and contribution of the O-Line cannot be overstated. They are the very foundation upon which all other Buckeye accomplishments are built. My gratitude to them will last far beyond their departure from OSU. We all should honor them on Saturday.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

Clinger76's picture

I can only hope and pray the next crop of O-Linemen come in and take right over! With Decker coming back at least we will have some experience there...... Good Luck to these Seniors at the next level! Hope my hometown Falcons will take one of them!!

"If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats, But if you take no risks, you will earn no victories."

hspbuy1's picture

Nice write up.  Good to see the big guys get their props! Good luck in the future gentlemen!


avail31678's picture

Great write-up!  Man, this line has made some lanes a Cadillac could drive through this year.  They will be severely missed.  However, they seem to be such great leaders, so let's hope they've imparted their attitude and smarts onto the next guys up!

45has2's picture

And not one of these modern Eurolacs, a 1975 Eldo convertible.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

nm_buck's picture

Unheralded and indispensable.  The life of the offensive lineman.
Thanks for a great ride guys.  Let's finish with a championship... you've earned it.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

bergy22's picture

Is Decker likely to move to LT next season?

Baroclinicity's picture

8 yards and a cloud of dust.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

CALPOPPY's picture

Well said.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

bucks_4_life's picture

10.5 yards and a cloud of dust. There, I fixed it for you! ;-)

The juice is worth the squeeze

Seattle Linga's picture

I'll be keeping an eye on where Mewhort is drafted, his leadership has really helped the team jell this year, kind of like J Simon last year.

buckeyedude's picture

I would love to see this offensive line match up against arguably the best d-line...Alabama.



buckskin's picture

I'll bet the Fighting Illini DB's got tired of seeing Hyde coming through the line on Saturday.  Great line; great back going to have a great day against a BAD defense.  March on Seniors!

The Buck Guy's picture

In my opinion, this is the best offensive line I have seen at Ohio State since the 1970s. I'm going to miss seeing them at the 'Shoe and hope that they all have fantastic NFL careers. I am certain that all four of them will make it at the next level.
Sadly, I just don't see their shoes being filled in the next four or five seasons. The roster just doesn't have this level of stock on it right now. I'm sure their replacements will be well coached and do their best, but these guys are truly a special group that wont be equaled for quite some time.

~ The Buck Guy
Go Bucks!!!!