BALTIMORE – Two weeks ago, the big dark cloud hovering over the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was whether or not backup quarterback J.T. Barrett would be able to fill the oversized shoes of Braxton Miller.
After Ohio State’s 34-17 win against Navy Saturday in Baltimore, it looks like the more proper concern might need to be aimed at the Buckeyes’ new-look offensive line.
“We were very disappointed, there’s a standard set of offensive line play for many, many years and it’s really been enhanced by our line coach Ed Warinner the last two years and it didn’t resemble an offensive line at Ohio State the first two quarters and I’m being hard on them,” Meyer said.
“But I think they played much better second half. We’ll evaluate the film, we have to settle in on a starting five and we have to play much better if we’re gonna make a dent in the Big Ten conference. I just think we expected the offensive line to play much better.”
The unit, which is replacing four multi-year starters in Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall, seemed discombobulated at best for the first three quarters. Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel struggled to find footing in the first half and the chaos failed to give Barrett much – if any – of a cushion from the Midshipmen’s pass rush.
“We wanted to open it up a little bit more in the first half,” Meyer said. “t wasn’t because of him, it was because our offensive line.”
Added Meyer: “It wasn’t lack of confidence in J.T. it was lack of confidence in protection.”
It’s why Meyer and the Buckeyes shrunk their playbook to quite literally a handful of calls during the second half.
“We had nine new starters on offense, that’s not a normal transition. First half was tough. We kind of settled in, we only ran about four or five plays in the second half and one was that little hand sweep to one of the H backs,” Meyer said.
In the end, Ohio State’s lineup of Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein, Darryl Baldwin, Jacoby Boren and Joel Hale (who replaced Billy Price in the first half) eased into a groove that kindled a 28-point second half.
“We really had to get the O-line going. They had a slow start. They weren’t in sync really,” sophomore speedster Dontre Wilson said.
“They pretty much put their head down and put their feet in the ground and were ready to go.”
And against Virginia Tech and its blitz-happy defense next weekend, the Buckeyes probably won't have much room for error or slow starts.