Clemson Notebook: Ohio State's Offensive Line Woes, Potential Staff Changes and More

By Tim Shoemaker on January 1, 2017 at 12:15 pm
Ohio State's Malik Hooker and Denzel Ward.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Pat Elflein, repeatedly, said he needed to watch the film.

Ohio State's All-American center wanted to take a second look to figure out what went wrong in his team's 31-0 blowout loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday night. 

But when Elflein was pressed again by a reporter and asked if there was anything specific he could put his finger on to help explain the Buckeyes' seemingly inexplicable performance, the 2016 Rimington Trophy winner finally offered up a simple response.

"Well, I know we didn't protect very well," Elflein said.

One could say that.

Clemson's talented defensive line of Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, Dexter Lawrence and Clellin Ferrell was all over the field Saturday night, constantly blowing up Ohio State's running plays and harassing quarterback J.T. Barrett. The Tigers registered three sacks and had 11 tackles for loss.

Starting left guard Michael Jordan suffered an injury early in the first quarter and was replaced by Demetrius Knox. Jordan would re-enter a couple of times, but it was clear he was not 100 percent after that injury. Knox struggled a bit during his snaps, as well. Ohio State's lack of depth on the interior part of its offensive line showed.

When a team can't protect, it has virtually no shot to win a game. The Buckeyes, once again, struggled up front — a spot where they have been inconsistent this season against top-tier talent — and the end result was an offensive performance to forget.

Meyer Hints at Possible Changes

The question asked to Urban Meyer was about his decision to essentially blow up Ohio State's defensive scheme following the 2013 season, and if he was at a similar point with the offense now.

The Buckeyes head coach didn't exactly say no.

"In some regards," Meyer said after Saturday's loss. "I'm going to take a hard look at some things when we get back. Obviously, there were some great things this year, some great things — I go back to Norman, Oklahoma and some other great things — but anytime you struggle a little bit, you always take a hard look."

That "hard look" likely refers to Ohio State's offensive coaching staff: Ed Warinner, Tim Beck, Zach Smith, Tony Alford and Greg Studrawa. There won't be a complete house cleaning, but a potential shake-up — or two — is certainly on the table. Meyer has shown in the past he's not afraid of change after a big-time loss.

Stay tuned.

Who's Leaving, Who's Staying?

Ohio State was hit by an avalanche of early departures following the 2015 season as nine players elected to forgo eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. The Buckeyes likely won't reach that number again, but there are still a handful of guys who have decisions on their hands.

Following Saturday night's loss to Clemson, several of those Ohio State players were asked once again about their futures now that the 2016 campaign concluded. In case you missed some last night, here is a quick rundown of what Eleven Warriors learned.

Definitely returning: Sam Hubbard, Billy Price

Still on the fence: Raekwon McMillan, Malik Hooker, Curtis Samuel, J.T. Barrett

McMillan, Hooker and Samuel each said they wanted to take time and have discussions with their families and coaches before making a decision. Barrett said, "it will be really hard for me to walk away when we just lost 31-0."

Cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley also have decisions to make, but weren't seen in the locker room following the game — at least not by Eleven Warriors. Tyquan Lewis also has the option to turn pro if he wants. Several players and assistant coaches left early before reporters were allowed inside.

The Buckeyes would obviously love to have all of these players back though that's probably not realistic at this point. It's certainly something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

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