Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer knows if the Buckeyes want to have a shot at beating Virginia Tech Saturday they are going to have to play better than they did against Navy.
But in particular, one group stood out to Meyer as he addressed the media Mondayweekly press conference: the offensive line.
"Concern No. 1 is offensive line," Meyer said. " ... Our offensive line did not play like an Ohio State offensive line. The standard was set many, many years ago. I think coach (Ed) Warinner, the last two years really added to the reputation of Ohio State offensive line. We did not play like that."
Not in the first half against the Midshipmen they didn't, anyway.
After losing four starters from one of the best units up front in recent memory, the offensive line was expected to experience growing pains. Add in the fact the Buckeyes are starting a redshirt freshman quarterback in J.T. Barrett and there were some real question marks surrounding Ohio State's offense as it entered the 2014 season.
The first half against Navy didn't ease anyone's mind when the Midshipmen limited Ohio State to just six points as Barrett was under heavy pressure almost every time he dropped back to pass. It was also the first time since Meyer had been the head coach of the Buckeyes they did not score a touchdown in the first half.
“With everybody being new there were some communication issues that messed up some of the plays which unless you were out on the field you wouldn’t know about communicating up front or knowing where a blitz was coming from," offensive tackle Taylor Decker, the team's lone returning starter up front, said. "We had a little bit of issues with that on a couple plays, but definitely once guys got comfortable talking we started to get in sync better and we started to execute more."
The Buckeyes played much better up front against the Midshipmen in the second half. On Saturday, however, they'll be going up against a Virginia Tech defense that is known for its heavy blitzes and stout play.
The Hokies defeated William & Mary in Week 1, 34-9, and limited the Tribe to 193 yards of total offense. Ohio State's offense will pose a much bigger threat, but a year ago Virginia Tech ranked 18th in the country in total defense, allowing just over 330 yards per game.
“We were just in there watching their first game and they blitzed like crazy, they had all kinds of blitzes. It seemed like every play they had something new coming," Decker said. "I don’t know if that’s exactly what they’re gonna do to us or not. There are spread teams that they played last year that we can watch to kind of get a good gauge on how they’ll play us, but I feel like whoever we play we usually get blitzed more than they usually would because they want to try and do something to stop us.”
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who has coached the Hokies for 246 games, has built a tradition of tough defense. Since 2000, the Hokies lead the nation in interceptions (259) and have forced the second-most turnovers (405).
In order for Ohio State to avoid having those lapses against the Hokies, the offensive line will need to play like it did in the third and fourth quarters against Navy as opposed to the first and second.
“I think we’ll be more confident because we’re playing a four-down defense which is what we’re more comfortable playing against," starting right guard Pat Elflein said. "Playing at home, too, will help and just getting those first-game jitters out of the way, we’ll come back and we’ll be ready to play.”