Hale, Price, Underwood in Heated Battle for Left Guard Spot

By Mike Young on August 11, 2014 at 10:45a
Ed Warinner coaches up his linemen at a recent Ohio State practice.
31 Comments

In many ways, the legacy of the 2011 Ohio State football team lives on.

Even more remarkable than the depths to which the program fell that season was the massive turnaround Urban Meyer and his new staff engineered only a year later. At the heart of it all: the offensive line. 

It was rightfully maligned for a poor 2011 performance, rating as the worst in the country by one metric. Many of the same players from that team returned the following season and ushered in a complete renaissance for Ohio State line play. Meyer owes much of that success to offensive line coach Ed Warinner, whose presence is a relief during this year's overhaul. 

Even with one of the best assistant coaches in the country, Meyer – unprompted –expressed concern over one position on the offensive line.

"If I had to say 'where's all the focus?' To me, it's that left guard. What are we going to do at the left guard? Left guard, left guard," Meyer said, for emphasis. "I see a good defensive line, a good group of backers, long safeties that were corners and moved inside. We're faster on the perimeter than we've been, I like our tailbacks. But, left guard." 

Ohio State's head coach made those remarks at a press conference following the first day of fall camp. Since that point, nothing and no one player has eased those worries. 

"You see the progress and you see the potential for that position to be solid. It's just got to continue to develop."– Ed Warinner

"Until we get further along in camp it's still a concern because one or two practices in pads or one scrimmage doesn't mean it's all solidified," Warinner said, Sunday. "You see the progress and you see the potential for that position to be solid. It's just got to continue to develop."

Meyer and Warinner both referenced three guys who are, at the very least, showing some promise – Joel Hale, Billy Price and Antonio Underwood. Hale and Price took reps with the first team, Saturday, according to Warinner. 

In a pair of moves that are not without precedent, both Hale and Price converted to the offensive line from the opposite side of the ball. Hale played on the defensive line in all 14 games last season, and, throughout his career, appeared in 30 games at that spot. Shortly after playing in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, Hale requested a switch to offensive line.

"Joel hadn't played a lot on offense before moving over. He's really starting to get comfortable there," Warinner said. "I like his demeanor, his energy and how he attacks things."

Unlike the senior Hale, Price doesn't have to deal with the pressure of switching to the offensive line after three years on defense. Price converted during the 2013 fall camp, shortly after committing to Ohio State as a four-star defensive tackle and a Divison-I co-player of the year at Austintown Fitch.

Now a redshirt freshman, Price is arguably Ohio State's most versatile lineman. In addition to left guard, he is competing with Jacoby Boren and Chad Lindsay at center. 

"Playing offensive line, you absolutely have to be able to know how to do everything," Price said. "I don't have a preference, but if I get on the field, whatever I can do to help the team I'm interested in doing."

While Price didn't explicitly reveal which spot he thinks he's better at, he might have offered a hint.

"I feel more natural at guard, I'll say that," he said. "At center, you have to be the quarterback of the offensive line. It's a lot more [responsibility], which can slow me down in some cases."

Underwood is the third contender at left guard. However, he missed the entire 2013 season while rehabbing a knee injury and had to take a medical redshirt. That may be the reason why Underwood is not receiving as much hype as Hale and Price.

The Shaker Heights native has one thing Hale and Price can't match, however. 

"Tony Underwood is a fourth-year guy, a veteran who knows the position," Warinner said. "Although he's coming off the knee injury, he's coming along, as well."

Even with so many questions surrounding the offensive line and, in particular, at left guard, Price doesn't want anyone to panic.

"Things are OK," Price said. "Fans, we're going to be OK."

31 Comments

Comments

jBarnes's picture

"Things are OK," Price said. "Fans, we're going to be OK."

I agree.  One word: Warinner.

The question this year is defense.  If the defense is half as good as I expect them to be they will be twice as good as they were last year.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”  ― Douglas Adams

+4 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

If my expectations for the defense were half as lofty as yours, then your expectations would be twice as much as mine!

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

+2 HS
Tater_Schroeder's picture

"Things are OK," Price said. "Fans, we're going to be OK."

I take comfort in that

I take comfort in that.

How Firm Thy Friendship

+20 HS
BTBuckeye's picture

I logged in just to upvote that.

Also, somewhere...there's a left guard.

+4 HS
Tater_Schroeder's picture

Much obliged.

How Firm Thy Friendship

+4 HS
apack614's picture

 Warinner is the man we will be more than OK, no doubt!

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

ibuck's picture

Gotta love Billy Price's attitude:

"Playing offensive line, you absolutely have to be able to know how to do everything," Price said. "I don't have a preference, but if I get on the field, whatever I can do to help the team I'm interested in doing."

He may not start this year, but he may end up as a helluva offensive lineman.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+2 HS
Young_Turk's picture

I won't feel relaxed about the O-line till we're past V-tech with a good report card.  Captain Obvious thinks it's a big deal to replace 4 starters on a unit that functions as a single organism.  The good news is they have to practice against the best D-line in the country, so flaws will get exposed in practice.

From a larger perspective, I think we're like a heavyweight boxer with a plethora of tools, knockout power, lots of footwork.  But, we have a little bit of a glass-jaw in Braxton's shoulder, knee, etc.  This will be a very interesting year, no doubt.

+1 HS
Young_Turk's picture

And speaking of O-line, Browns new guard Bitonio looked really good against the Lions.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I agree that it's a big deal to replace four guys from a nasty OL.

It's probably a bigger deal, though, if they're still taking the same approach, which last year was basically, "we're going to run Hyde straight at you, or read off that, so buckle on your chin straps." To run power as proficiently as the 2013 Buckeyes did, you need a powerful OL working in nearly perfect cohesion, etc.

Whereas, if an offense has a QB that's adept at quickly, efficiently, accurately getting rid of the ball to playmakers on the outside, in the seams, and downfield - stretching defenses and attacking their weak points - then the offense can be prolific without having a monster OL. We'll have to see if Brax can reach that level of efficiency, but I'm confident they have the playmakers. 

Young_Turk's picture

It's weird because our power largely derived from precision.  I don't think we blew people off the line so much which is typically what you think of in regards a power run game.  It's just that the moving parts knew where to attack, and our backs knew what seams to hit.  

I agree that the system is our best hope for a  minimal step back.  

chirobuck's picture

well there is no lack of talent, just inexperience.....I'm honestly not worried about the Oline at all, there will be growing pains early on but in the log run they will be fine

 
^ best post ever ^

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Charles Barkley won the battle for Right Guard...

A little early 90s humor for y'all. 

+11 HS
BuckeyeSki's picture

That joke was...uncivilized

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

+9 HS
avail31678's picture

And downright turrible.

(Well done guys  - UVs for ya.)

+4 HS
BierStube's picture

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+5 HS
KeithMC33's picture

Wow i completely forgot that Hale switched from DL to OL. I wonder if he will be able to work his way into permanent first-team reps?

cbusbuckeye's picture

I was talking with a recently graduated OSU player who I worked with this summer and he said without a doubt Warinner is the most intense coach in practice, 180 degrees from the walrus (played during both regimes). After hearing what he said (which I respectfully won't share) I for one am not worried at all. Coach will have them ready. 

+5 HS
Citrus's picture

Warinner should be the highest paid assistant in the country. I don't wanna lose this guy to a HC gig. 

+6 HS
BenArazi4's picture

This offense is going to explode with Dontre and Samuel.  Mark it down

 

 

 

+1 HS
Horvath22's picture

My money is on Joel Hale. He has a lot of experience in the trenches, albeit on the opposite side. His firsthand knowledge of what the DL is doing should be a big help as an OL. Also, I expect his learning curve would be steeper, since he has been an OL for such a short time. Maybe a Reid Fragel Part II.

+2 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

I am pulling for Hale also.  I think that he is there physically; it is just a matter of time and technique.  I think that he would also improve a lot during the season also.

Poison nuts's picture

Just curious as to people's thoughts on someone like Knox or J. Jones becoming a starter at guard...Is it unheard of for a freshman to start on the OLine? I understand that's a spot where experience counts for quite a bit but seems like there are some youthful options now enrolled. 

On a related but unrelated note, the lack of any mention of Kyle Dodson so far is interesting...

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

GVerrilli92's picture

It was said earlier, this line won't have to be as much of a game changer as last year's. 

We get some fast guys in space and get the ball outta Braxton's hands quickly.

Even the type of RBs we have make the line's job easier. Speed is a nice thing to have.

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

Mean Mr Mustard's picture

There is some truth to that.Screens and hitches work for awhile.  The screen passes are more effective when the defense has to respect the dive.  Clemson and Mich St did not respect the passing game and that hurt us, so we need an oline for pass pro.

GVerrilli92's picture

I mean obviously I would prefer to have a dominant line.

All I meant was that Tom Herman's ideal offense wouldn't put as much stress on our interior line as what we chose to run last year.

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

Mean Mr Mustard's picture

I know what you meant and like I said you are right.  I don't really want to get into an argument about how it should be articulated.  I think for this offense to work against the better defenses there needs to be a power run game and speed on the perimeter.  What happened last year, without speed on the perimeter, is just telling you how good Hyde and the O-Line were 

last year. 

I think Meyer and Herman will open up the playbook and show us some things we haven't seen early in the year but by the time we face Mich St there needs to be some real pass protection and a power run game.

+1 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

I think Meyer and Herman will open up the playbook and show us some things we haven't seen early in the year but by the time we face Mich St there needs to be some real pass protection and a power run game.

Gettin that fa'sho 

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

GreatLakesMike's picture

That's a hard-working, unselfish group fighting for the position. 

Toilrt Paper's picture

I have no concern whatsoever. For MANY years Ohio State struggled running the ball in when they got inside the 10 yardline. Since Myer(his offense) and Warriner(his coaching) have arrived at Ohio State I can't believe how easy it has been to score TDs instead of settling for field goals. Many times the ball carrier goes the last 5 yards untouched. NIGHT AND DAY compared to the past, whether it was Earl, Coop or Tress and their O-line coaches.

TURD_BUCKET's picture

The O-line probably will not be as good as last year. BUT, hopefully, better than the several years before that!!  May not have a lot of experience, but several have been in program long enough.

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”