Forecasting the Offensive Line in 2014

By Vico on January 30, 2014 at 11:30a
18 Comments
Ed WarrinerEd Warriner has his work cut out for him before August.

Last week's Thursday feature at this time slot drew attention to Ohio State's defensive backs and the problem of woeful performance and attrition. Ohio State's secondary is a primary concern looking ahead to the 2014 season.

Calling it the biggest question mark on Ohio State's 2014 team deflects attention from the issue of the offensive line, where attrition hit the hardest. The foundation of Ohio State's offense for Urban Meyer's two seasons in Columbus, the Buckeyes lose four of five starters to graduation. Players like Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, and Marcus Hall were multi-year starters and either solid contributors the moment they stepped foot on campus, or players that found new life in the transition from Jim Bollman to Ed Warriner. Only right tackle Taylor Decker returns from last year's team.

This feature will try to forecast the replacements for these four graduates from the program, the composition of the offensive line, and offer some conjecture about the depth chart behind them.

I start with the interior of the offensive line, where both guards and center are gone to graduation. It is also a position in which it would appear that the depth chart would naturally solve itself. Jacoby Boren was listed as backup center to Corey Linsley, even spelling Linsley when Linsley needed to come to the sideline. For as stellar as Linsley was in his blocking assignments, his snaps suffered as he nursed a foot injury. Too eager to get into his set, he was prone to firing a snap over Braxton Miller's head.

Further, Pat Elflein returns for a redshirt sophomore season. Elflein famously subbed for Marcus Hall after Hall was ejected during the Michigan game. He also played most of the Big Ten Championship Game for Hall.

While both are comfortable selections to earn more playing time as starters, saying more about the interior of the offensive line is a bit difficult. For one, Elflein was listed as backup at both left and right guard through much of 2013. Further, a guy I want to keep saying is an option at guard, Chase Farris, switched again to defensive line midway through the season. Still listed as an offensive lineman on the official website, he had three tackles and 1.5 sacks last season.

There is also the issue of switching positions. Warriner is of that mentality as offensive line coach that offensive linemen should be jacks of a few trades on the line. There would be no reason for Warriner to resort to a backup center if the starting right guard is better at it than the second-team guy at the position.

In short, Elflein and Boren could conceivably switch positions before the start of the 2014 season, even if I'm inclined to guess they ultimately will not.

If forced to guess the third starter on the interior of the offensive line, I think it would actually be Antonio Underwood. Underwood tore his ACL in Spring last year and redshirted this season. While it was unlikely he would have played that much in 2013 anyway, I believe he would have been a clear selection at backup guard, probably to Marcus Hall.

Underwood's career trajectory should mirror Bryant Browning and Marcus Hall before him. Both were rather subpar right tackles before moving inside to right guard and performing well in the position. The hope is Underwood would find his niche there as well. I still have visions of him against Purdue in 2011 that I cannot shake for the time being.

Pat Elflein Elflein should be poised for a big 2014.

My best guess now is an interior line that goes Pat Elflein, Jacoby Boren, and Antonio Underwood at left guard, center, and right guard. Ohio State will have no shortage of options behind them on the depth chart.

If Chase Farris again returns to offensive line for a second stint, I think he's a second-teamer. I wonder if Tommy Brown appears on the depth chart at guard in 2014 as well. Brown was listed as a 2B at right tackle in Ohio State's final depth chart. I still think he's more a guard than a tackle.

Beyond those names, there'll be a clear freshmen movement on the depth chart. The name to watch is Billy Price. A Ohio HS Football Division I Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, Price redshirted last season while transitioning from defensive tackle to offensive line. He would have been a good defensive tackle for Ohio State, but may be a better offensive lineman when all is said and done. I think he appears on the two-deep at the lowest come August 2014.

Ohio State will also have its choice of Marcelys Jones and Demetrius Knox in 2014 as well, though I expect Jones, at least, to redshirt his first year on campus.

What's not immediately clear is who backs up Jacoby Boren at first team center. This will be something that I intend to monitor come spring and fall camp.

I think it's safe to expect Taylor Decker will again start in 2014. However, I think the expectation is also that Decker will move to left tackle. Alex Boone had a similar trajectory between 2005 and 2006. That might be the projection I feel the most comfortable making for 2014.

If so, who is the starting right tackle? All eyes will likely turn to Kyle Dodson, the 2A at right tackle behind Taylor Decker last season. This might be now or never for Kyle Dodson, whose career at Ohio State has yet to start in earnest. The redshirt sophomore to be was the subject of a prominent recruiting battle between Bert Bielema and Urban Meyer when Meyer first arrived in Columbus, playing an incidental role in Bielema's acrimonious year in the Big Ten with Meyer and his eventual departure to Arkansas.

If Dodson does not seize this opportunity, the prospects for playing time with some of the other prospects coming to Ohio State diminish considerably.

Darryl Baldwin, Jack Mewhort's backup through 2013, should again be a backup. Like the second team at left and right guard, there will be another freshmen movement at the tackle positions.

Evan Lisle is certainly an option. The 6-6 prospect from Centerville redshirted his first year on campus. Kyle Trout, a true freshman currently on campus, is another option. If Jamarco Jones stays in this year's recruiting class, he will likely be considered as well. I expect Brady Taylor, the newest addition to the recruiting class, to redshirt in 2014.

Beyond Darryl Baldwin, every option after Taylor Decker is a freshman. No one other than Taylor Decker has meaningful game experience.

This statement is basically true for all of the offensive line in 2014. Jacoby Boren provided some relief for Corey Linsley and Elflein performed great entering a difficult situation cold in Ann Arbor. Nonetheless, Ed Warriner is basically starting from scratch after turning Ohio State's most consistently underachieving unit into the bedrock of the offense.

Whereas his first two offensive lines in 2012 and 2013 were cobbled together from previously underperforming players or players moved to very different positions, this unit will invariably feature freshmen in prominent positions on the two-deep.

How it protects Braxton Miller and creates running lanes for Ohio State's stable of tailbacks is the primary question for this year's offense.

18 Comments

Comments

mh277907's picture

Even with just one starter returning, I have a lot of faith in this group moving forward (probably because of how well the coaching staff has done in the past two years). Despite losing 80% of the starters, I will still have more confidence in them than I will with the defense.

buckeyebobcat

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Really nice article, Vico. OL is certainly the area with the most questions moving into next season. Personally, I think that Lisle is going to surprise people. I predict he will be an important contributor this year. Guy is a stud.

ab1993's picture

I'm in a class with Billy Price, who told me he plays center. I'm sure that's subject to change, but that's what I'd list him as right now.

whobdis's picture

I watched Tommy Brown play in one of the early games..kept an eye on him since we already had the game won. I thought he did quite well. Competition may have been weak but he has the tools imo
 

BoFuquel's picture

No problems here, nothing to see. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Hovenaut's picture

New faces, but I'm confident in the guys returning/stepping into bigger roles this season.
Warriner has done impressive work, his best may be yet to come.

I am not very smart, but I recognize that I am not very smart.

CHUCKMEGA's picture

Do you see Tom Herman calling more bubble screens and other quick passes for Braxton to help with the inexperience of the O-Line? Similar to what Clemson did against the Bucks in the Orange Bowl?

bafiesta's picture

Great article.  Makes me wanna go back and watch the second half of the Penn State game to see which backup OLs performed well.  

W-burgbuck's picture

I'm confident in Warriners ability, I'm not sure he is the best O-line coach in the country (Def top 3) though I am sure that Warriners with coach mick are the best thing to happen to our online since Orlando pace enrolled. That duo is the best combination for an O-line in the country.

W-burgbuck

tomcole's picture

I personally think Billy Price is going to be a stud center. Guy is remarkable bright and low keyed. would not surprise me if he surpasses Boren at center and bumps him to guard. Or vice versa. Either way we need both these guys on the field. Great move red shirting both Price and Lisle. Two future anchors. 

ToledoMan's picture

This group should be able to notch some pancakes.

Killer nuts's picture

My forecast for our offensive line as long as Ed Warriner is around

OSUnathen's picture

Personally I see Elflein as a returning starter at Guard. He played in two really big games and performed well. I think the line is set-up to be pretty solid for the next 2-3 seasons and that is not figuring in what we may recruit the next few years. No worries!

NitroBuck's picture

The Buckeyes and Coach Warriner are blessed with a deep assortment of high caliber OL studs with which to rebuild the O-Line.  I have no doubt that they will be a highly effective group, but probably not early on.  There will be a few kinks to work out in August / September, but once they gel, they will be solid.  Maybe not quite to last season's very high standards, but a very effective position group all the same.

Ferio.  Tego.

Crumb's picture

It's funny how with Ed Warriner most of us are thinking the offensive line will still be a solid unit and a strength to the team where as with Jim Bollman you didn't know what you were going to get even with plenty of returning starters and big named recruits.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

Statutoryglory's picture

I thought I read in one of the forums on this site that Chase Farris had torn his acl toward the end of the season.  Was that correct or was the author confusing him with Antonio Underwood's spring injury?  Anyone seen Farris since the season walking around campus?

Seattle Linga's picture

The future does look bright - with players and coaches alike - all thanks to UFM

buckeye4life050233's picture

 

Decker, Boren, and Elflein are going to definitely be in the rotation other two are up for grabs