NEW ORLEANS — Three simple words came to Billy Price's mind when asked to describe the difference in Ohio State's offensive line from August to now.
"Night and day," the Buckeyes' starting left guard said Tuesday at Sugar Bowl Media Day.
Coming into this season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said concern No. 1 with his team was the offensive line. The Buckeyes had to find a way to replace four starters up front, three of which are now starting as rookies in the NFL.
That's certainly no easy task and, as a result, Ohio State struggled early in the year.
"Outside of me and Pat (Elflein), who got to play in two games last year, we hadn’t really had any guys with any significant playing time so there were growing pains, definitely," Buckeyes starting left tackle Taylor Decker said. "But I think what you see now is a product of that. People always want a finished product Week 1 and that’s just not realistic.”
Back when the Buckeyes opened up the season in Baltimore against Navy, they didn't look crisp as an offensive unit. They trailed the Midshipmen at halftime before rallying to win the game in the second half.
The following week, Ohio State's offense, specifically its offensive line, got exposed in a home loss to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes allowed quarterback J.T. Barrett to be sacked seven times in the 35-21 defeat.
But it was after that game things sort of changed for the offensive line and for the team.
"Playing Virginia Tech was kind of like ‘Wow,’ you know?" Price said. "We knew we had to change some things and then Wisconsin where we really were playing well in all aspects of the game. I think it’s been a total (180) from where we were at.”
It's no surprise that with the improvement the Buckeyes have seen in their offensive line, the rest of the team has gotten better as since that loss to the Hokies they've rattled off 11 straight wins, captured a Big Ten championship and qualified for the first-ever College Football Playoff.
And when Ohio State takes on No. 1 Alabama on Thursday, the play of its offensive line will go a long way in determining whether or not the Buckeyes move on to play for a national title.
“We made vast improvements. We’ve really gotten a lot closer with each other and with Coach Warinner," Elflein said. "Guys have improved. Myself, Billy, Jacoby, we’ve all gotten a lot better. We know we’re clicking and we’re all on the same page communicating well, playing well, but we’ve also got great players around us everywhere.”