When discussing the 2014 and 2015 Slobs, a lot of the credit and props go to guys like Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein and perhaps Jacoby Boren. But two-year starter Billy Price is returning for 2016 and may be turn out to be one of the better linemen in the Big Ten this season.
Price came to Ohio State in 2013 out of Austintown Fitch High School, where he was a two-way player seeing time on the defensive line as well as at offensive tackle. Rated the No. 17 defensive tackle nationally by 247Sports, Price was known more for his defensive efforts, earning Associated Press 2012 Division I co-defensive player of the year honors in Ohio — an accomplishment he shared with current teammates Gareon Conley and Tracy Sprinkle — and was named first-team all-state.
After a redshirt year in 2013, Price became a regular on the offensive line in 2014, where, as a redshirt freshman, he was already considered the strongest player on the team. In fact, in the spring of 2014, Ed Warinner said Price was “maybe the strongest guy coach Mick’s ever trained. Those are his words, not mine.” That’s high praise indeed for a redshirt freshman.
In his first season of college football, Price started all 15 games for a national championship-winning team. Sharing the left side with Taylor Decker, Price helped create huge rushing lanes with his in-line run blocking and combination blocks. After three games at right guard, Price swapped sides and finished the season with 12 straight starts at left guard.
It wasn’t an overnight success. Price (among other members of the line) struggled against Virginia Tech in Ohio Stadium in the team’s only 2014 loss. The line was ill-prepared for the Hokies’ bear front and slow to recognize Tech’s blitzing. Price wasn’t the only one, but he was exposed that night.
He (and they) got better.
By the postseason, Price was helping pave the way for three consecutive 200-yard games by his running back. He helped lead Ohio State to the ninth-best average rushing yardage in the country (264.4 yards per game) and was named a second-team freshman All-American by both Phil Steele and Athlon's.
When The Chase was over and The Grind began, Price’s strength and athletic ability was still being talked about early in the 2015 preseason camp. He even threatened to enter the QBgeddon race.
In 2015, Price, like the rest of his teammates, struggled at times to maintain the level the Buckeyes had reached in 2014. Teams were sometimes able to exploit his weaknesses, such as lapses in technique, recognition in pass protection, and getting beat by good speed rushers who disguised when they were coming or where they were coming from. Still, he got in another 13 collegiate starts and a second year of experience, which he’ll bring with him into his redshirt junior year in 2016.
Still the strongest guy on the team, Mickey Marotti said it’s “not even close” during recent winter workouts.
Marotti didn’t say exactly how much iron Price has been throwing around, but he didn’t hesitate to point to him as the player setting the tone in the weight room as he prepares for a crucial junior season as one of the team’s few returning starters.
“The strongest in the weight room? It’s not even close -- Billy Price,” Marotti said. “You can ask any player, he’s a whole other level, strength-wise.”
It's time for Price to get his due. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound redshirt junior-to-be will see his third season as a starter and there won't be much that opponents can throw at him that he hasn't already seen.
Price will be one of the few veterans on the line in 2016, lining up next to guard-turned-center Elflein. With two of Ohio State’s best linemen in recent years returning to anchor the middle, the Buckeyes should do just fine on runs up the gut. It’ll be up to Price and Elflein to lead and shape the team’s next generation of Slobs.