Meyer: Concern No. 1 is Offensive Line

By Tim Shoemaker on September 1, 2014 at 2:35p

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.”


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Brutus1972's picture

This was my main concern coming into the season and I am sure it was a feeling shared by most fans. Unfortunately it became a lot more legit after this past Saturday. Have to get better everyday.

+1 HS
Spider1944's picture

Brutus, I always thought "most improvement is from week 1 to week 2" was a cliche. Now I realize it was because we have been playing patsies in the first 4 games for so long that it rang hollow. Hopefully, and I think we will, we will see it this year. Early money is going on VT should be a great game. Just win baby...

"There are 3 things that can happen and 2 of them are bad" - the Curse of Woody Hayes

Ashtabula's picture

I will be very interested to see the depth chart when it is released this week, especially at center and guard.

+2 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

The VT defense is very tough, but our O-line will get it together. I expect some growing pains but a better overall performance than the first half with Navy.

Citrus's picture

I hope it is something as simple as communication. It was bothersome to see Efflein let a guy blow right past him in the first half. I know he is better than that. I realize that the play calling was limited due to O-Line play but the first half play-calling hurt O-Line play too. Navy was selling out often because there was no threat to do anything deep. Hopefully the play-calling and O-Line play will compliment each other vs VT.

Of all the Buckeye coaches, including Urbz, I have the most faith in Warinner. He'll get things fixed.

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Was not communication. Elfein and Baldwin was technique. Hale was a missed assignment. 

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Would my downvoter care to comment on their difference in opinion?  The missed blocks by Elfein and Baldwin was technique. They were lunging forward. 

+1 HS
Spider1944's picture

Knarcisi, I too would be interested in the down voters opinion. If you have valid opinion go public with it.

"There are 3 things that can happen and 2 of them are bad" - the Curse of Woody Hayes

Knarcisi's picture

Run blocking looked great. Pass blocking was a huge concern. Not to make excuses, but an undersized athletic Navy gave us issues with their quickness. On 2 occasions (Elfein and Baldwin) they were lunging forward ... No balance Nd did not have their feet under them. That's technique. Another I sw was an assignment issue on the INT. Hale missed taking a guy tha crossed his face, going to the inside. Hoping we can get it cleaned up. 

BroJim's picture

It's going to be a real test Saturday, no doubt. I hope we get some good news about improvement as the week develops. 

Go Buckeyes, Beat VaTech!

I season my simple food with hunger

BUCKSOMIES's picture

They'll be fine as long as they continue with the effort. That was a first game for a lot of our guys and especially on our o line.  This is the week where we should see some real improvement.

+1 HS
THE's picture

Quick hitters and draws. Take the impetus off the line till they get their mojo. 

[[]] []-[] [] [[]]

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I agree, but they need to let JT air one out now and again, or that VT defense will stack the box, and blitz every other play. That's how we almost lost a pick-6 on that one screen. I almost shit ma drawers.



+1 HS
hetuck's picture

Going against VT's d-line will be more like going against OSU's. Familiarity will help. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Agree.  Actually think Navy's undersized quickness hurt us. 

ibuck's picture

Navy's DE's weighed 246 and 251, but their NG was 303, and his backup 305.  Their starters were all 6-1, 6-2. So they may be a little bit smaller, but not like Navy was years ago.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

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

+2 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

A lot of people are overlooking this.  Navy had some athletes out there with some size.  There was a noticeable size difference overall between the 2 teams, but they had some guys out there that could play anywhere.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

VTBUCK's picture

Actually... This year, VTs defense is smaller and probably the fastest we've had in 10 years in Blacksburg. First thing Bud Foster said after practice first day

+1 HS
JSTANBUX25's picture

I like the user name..."VTBuck".  So who are you pulling for this weekend?

How Firm Thy Friendship...O-HI-O

Bleeding-Scarlet-Grey's picture

If nothing else hopefully OSU comes out and takes control early that way there is lots of garbage time to get everybody some game experience. Cant value that enough especially later in the year if anything happens to the starters! Fingers crossed things go like the past two seasons (minus Marcus Hall's fantastic moment).

Brother man, I have MADE and LOST millions in my lifetime.... Brain cells that is! How I made those millions I do not know because the secret has been lost in the millions I have lost!!!! ~ Taco

buckeye phi's picture

Early on, the inexperienced offensive line lived down to expectations.  The Buckeye faithful who were hoping for the best from those youngsters, had their worst fears realized - until the second half.  It was evident that things were starting to click more and more as the game progressed.

They're going to need to build on that momentum - quickly.  Defensively, Virginia Tech is always tough.  Beamer and Foster must be licking their chops watching this game footage.

The bad news is they're going to blitz alot - hoping to capitalize on the situation.

The good news is they're going to blitz alot - giving the Buckeyes opportunities to break big plays.  That is, provided the o-line picks up those blitzes well enough for Barrett and company to take advantage of them.

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. - Will Rogers

+1 HS
steveoz49's picture

I have nothing but confidence that the O-Line will gell and become a strength.  I don't think that it will take very long either.  Once it happens, there's plenty of young depth as well and I believe that the O-Line will be a strength for a couple/few years.  I realize that after the Navy game, there is plenty of concern.  Let us not forget that Navy IS a damn good football team, it's not as if some sacrificial lamb had their way with the O-Line.

+2 HS
rock flag and eagle's picture

Navy as a whole is not a sacrificial lamb.  But, Navy's front seven is very weak and possibly the worst in the nation at applying pressure to OLines.  

Last year, Navy finished dead last in the nation in tackles for loss.  They averaged 3.00 TFL/game, which was also dead last in the nation.  They lost their top two players in terms of TFL production.  Last year, they never pressured QBs (122nd in the nation in sacks last season), were weak in run defense (84th) and never stopped people behind the line of scrimmage.  Yet against OSU, they got 5 TFL and caused all sorts of problems for the OLine.

buckeyedude's picture

I feel ya brotha. Navy is no Appalachian State or Jacksonville State.



buckeyeradar's picture

I think the offensive line can't take all the blame.  The play calling was conservative for the new quarterback which made their defense better against the young line.  The offense opened up the second half causing Navy's defense to look for more of a diverse play selection.  Last year's line took a while to gell.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

1MechEng's picture

Agreed! I think most people forget this. Taylor Decker got kind of owned in the Buffalo game by Khalil Mack, and the pundits were giving him the business about how he was overrated. Turned out OK, I think.

This was the first real game of the year, on the road, with a new line and new QB, against a seasoned/disciplined team that will likely finish Top-25.

Growing pains are to be expected.

+1 HS
ibuck's picture

Is it optimism or false confidence I hear in these comments? I have real concerns about whether OSU can beat VT with all this inexperience.

OSU's stuttering offense against VT's strength, their D. And the Buckeyes uncertain D vs what? Last year VT's rushing attack was sub-par and their QB graduated. VT's 2014 QB battle dragged into the last weeks of fall camp, so their QB talent may be as questionable as OSU's. I suspect VT's special teams will be equal or better than OSU's. It may come down to whether the Buckeyes have some big plays, because long scoring drives may be infrequent.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

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

+1 HS
VTBUCK's picture

Hi IBUCK, we are young also. I am not willing to put money on OSU winning, but I think OSU will pull it out. I think 2015 is a better year for an upset.

brbrbuckeye's picture

Virginia Tech pretty much has a brand new front 7 on D as well. I think people are forgetting this fact.


Tkebuck1's picture

The fact that the Bucks ended the game in such an upbeat fashion showed that the young guys listened to the scheme adjustments and those new offensive weapons really impressed. Add in those te's next el and look out. Better performance against VT. Bet on it.

Bamabucknut's picture

It will be interesting. VT will want to test our O line and newby QB....and we will be looking for opportunities to punish them...signifiigantily.

I cannot wait.

VTBUCK's picture

You will have to punish us on the ground, which i expect Meyer to do. We have 2 NFL caliber CBs, Kendall Fuller (was an OSU recruit) and Brandon Facyson. That being said, I have confidence in our CBs but truly worrying about the run game.

bakerjon's picture

I re-watched the first half fast forwarding and rewinding just focusing on line play. Elflein missed that block in pass pro that lead to a sack and another on a sweep. He had a tough game, but I'll give him the benefit as he was bouncing between 2 positions and had to practice at center some recently. He'll clean that up. Baldwin did not play all that badly. There was the sack that it looked like he gave up. If you look at it closer, he was covering for Price not taking the inside man. It was Price's man that Baldwin was reaching to help on that got by and sacked J.T. This could be a communication problem between 2 new starters, but I just think it's a missed assignment. 

Decker was solid as usual. Boren did not play bad at all, in fact I thought he played well in H1. Hale or Price on the interior depending on which one was in there was the problem, frankly. I hate to call a kid out, but there it is. We need someone to step up at guard. 

That said, Hale did a nice job on straight ahead run blocking. His strength is apparent and he could be of utility there. Pass pro for both of them is where we are really in trouble. Pulling and kicking out especially on sweeps, they were a step late to the point of attack. Now Dontre is fast, and maybe he needs to learn to wait for his block, but would rather see the OL get out there and get the block made rather than slow down the RB

"You do what I cannot do. I do what you cannot do. Together we do great things"

+2 HS
bakerjon's picture

 Watched the second half critically as well. More of the same in the third quarter, but in the fourth quarter it got better. There were fewer flat out whiffs and pass pro was actually decent the 3 times we threw the ball. Price played fairly we'll in the fourth. Elflien and Decker were stellar. Boren struggled a bit but I think overall had a good game. 

I think there is hope. Wariner will fix this.

Still, I wonder if we are putting the best five on the field. I would like to see Boren or Lindsay at Guard with the other at Center. Maybe they will play with the rotation this week.

"You do what I cannot do. I do what you cannot do. Together we do great things"

AZbucks77's picture

I will admit I don't know a whole lot about William and Mary nor did I see the VT game, but 34-9 over an FCS team doesn't seem like a real convincing win just looking at the score.  If we shore it up along the O-line in practice this week I think we will be in good shape Saturday.  I also think our defense will have a nice night on Saturday.  

Catfish Biff's picture

the OFFENSIVE line. Get it?

..Til' we wobble in our shoes!

D-Day0043's picture

I expect VT to blitz early and often. They are going to pin their ears back until we show that we can counter it.  Herman better add the quick slant to the play calling repertoire. 

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

seafus26's picture

One thing I haven't seen mentioned, is the lack of push from the middle. Boren doesn't really get any movement. In our spring game he seemed to get steam rolled by our DL, at times

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

poop's picture

Looks very small.

+1 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

6'1" and 285 is the official.  In his cleats he is that tall, but not in real life.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

+1 HS's picture

You can't underestimate what is involved in a gifted and experienced OL that works well together. Your OL, along with losing a great RB, are key factors, obv. along with Miller being out for the year. Getting back to my original point, how the OL at OSU performs is probably the most critical factor for OSU this year. This week's game, along with MSU, will tell you a lot, and it looks a bit ominous right now. With the tire fire that has been Michigan's OL for the last five years, I feel your pain.

ScarletGray43157's picture

The games are won and lost in the trenches.  If the O-Line does not improve a lot and quickly and steadily and continuously throughout the year then OSU has big issues on offense.


In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

TURD_BUCKET's picture

Technique, assignments, and toughness.

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

txbucknut's picture

I know that the O-Line got it together in the second have of the Navy game, but I've gotta wonder weather it is because they started to gel and play better, or if they simply finally wore down the smaller Navy D-line. If the latter, that's not necessarily going to happen with V-Tech and when they get into conference play, which means it be a while before they are playing up to standard.