2016 Season Preview: Ohio State Searching for Depth on Offensive Line Under New Coach Greg Studrawa

By Eric Seger on August 18, 2016 at 2:15 pm
Ohio State 2016 Season Preview: Offensive Line.

For the first time in what will be Urban Meyer's fifth season at Ohio State, his team's offensive line will not be coached by Ed Warinner in 2016.

It took Meyer 11 games and one painful loss a year ago to realize he needed his current offensive coordinator in the press box alongside quarterbacks coach Tim Beck to call plays and ensure the Buckeye offense played with tempo. Romps over Michigan and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl followed, which forced the head coach to make adjustments to his staff both with the hire of Greg Studrawa as Warinner's replacement and the move of the latter to tight ends coach. Former tight ends coach Tim Hinton is now a special assistant to Meyer.

"Our offense was as good as it was all year with coach Warinner and coach Beck together in the box," Meyer said in January. "So keeping those two in place during games is something I think our offense will benefit from as we move forward."

Two games is a small sample size, but Ohio State's rushing attack operated on all cylinders against the Wolverines and Fighting Irish. It also helped to have the future No. 4 and No. 16 overall picks in the 2016 NFL Draft involved in the offense: Running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Taylor Decker.

Center Jacoby Boren and right tackle Chase Farris also graduated — Farris signed as an undrafted free agent in Detroit, joining Decker — leaving the Buckeyes and Studrawa with three holes to fill up front. Pat Elflein returned for his senior season and moved from right guard to center, while Billy Price flipped from left to right guard to replace him.

"Based on what I've heard from Coach Meyer and Ed since I got here, those two guys—I'm talking about Pat and Billy—have performed at a high level," Studrawa said in February. "What they've done has been amazing."

Two all-Big Ten caliber performers are bound to make Studrawa's job a little easier as he and Meyer iron out the rest of the starters up front (Meyer named Jamarco Jones the guy at left tackle in April as well) but depth remains an issue — especially after injuries to junior college transfer Malcolm Pridgeon during camp and Kevin Feder this spring. Additionally, redshirt freshman Grand Schmidt transferred to Cincinnati this summer.

Here is a breakdown of Ohio State's offensive linemen and where they fall on the hunt for playing time.

The No-Brainers

This section is reserved for those guys Ohio State knows will play significant roles this season, whether it be in a starting capacity or some form of rotation. Remember: The Buckeyes plan on naming starters at left guard and right tackle sometime next week, at least according to both Meyer and Studrawa.

Elflein shifts one spot over to center in what is set to be his third year as a starter, provided his shoulder holds up as expected following surgery this spring to remove a cyst. He is practicing, though Ohio State is not eager to risk any sort of setback by pushing him too much in camp. There simply isn't a need to; Elflein will have himself ready to go.

The same goes for Price, the man strength coach Mickey Marotti said is "easily the strongest" player on the team. A redshirt junior who blossomed into an excellent run blocker during Ohio State's 2014 title run, Price teams up with Elflein to form one of the toughest interiors on an offensive line in not only the Big Ten but the entire country.

Ohio State Offensive Linemen
Player No HT WT YR Hometown
BRANDEN BOWEN 76 6-7 315 RS-FR Draper, UT (Corner Canyon)
MATTHEW BURRELL 56 6-4 305 RS-FR Woodbridge, VA (Hylton)
GAVIN CUPP 61 6-5 300 FR Leipsic, OH (Leipsic)
PAT ELFLEIN 65 6-3 300 RS-SR Pickerington, OH (North)
KEVIN FEDER 77 6-9 305 FR Ramsey, NJ (Don Boscoe Prep)
TYLER GERALD 72 6-5 310 FR Portsmouth, OH (IMG Academy)
JAMARCO JONES 74 6-5 310 JR Chicago, IL (De La Salle)
MICHAEL JORDAN 73 6-7 310 FR Canton, MI (Plymouth)
DEMETRIUS KNOX 78 6-4 308 RS-SO Fort Worth, TX (All Saints)
EVAN LISLE 75 6-7 308 RS-JR Centerville, OH (Centerville)
BRANDON PAHL 69 6-2 295 SO Cutler, OH (Warren)
AARON PARRY 62 6-5 290 SR Zanesville, OH (Bishop Rosencrans)
BLAKE PFENNING 60 6-5 290 SO Wapakoneta, OH (Wapakoneta)
BILLY PRICE 54 6-4 315 RS-JR Austintown, OH (Fitch)
MALCOLM PRIDGEON 66 6-7 315 JR Central Islip, NY (Nassau CC)
ISAIAH PRINCE 59 6-7 310 SO Greenbelt, MD (Eleanor Roosevelt)
BRADY TAYLOR 79 6-5 300 FR Columbus, OH (Bishop Ready)
KYLE TROUT 71 6-6 310 RS-SO Lancaster, OH (Lancaster)
JACK WOHLABAUGH 63 6-3 290 FR Cuyahoga Falls, OH (Walsh Jesuit)
KEVIN WOIDKE 63 6-6 295 SO Cleveland, OH (St. Ignatius)

Jones is penciled in as the starter at left tackle for the first time in his career, a true junior who patiently waited his turn behind Decker. Isaiah Prince figures to be the guy opposite of Jones at the other tackle spot, but Meyer said more than once he "needs to see a little more" from the sophomore before gracing him with that honor.

True freshman Michael Jordan continues to lead at left guard after enrolling in January. That is the reason he finds his name in this section — Meyer and Studrawa both intend on using him up front this fall.

"Michael Jordan for sure is playing," Meyer said Sunday. "That's done."

On The Fringe

As stunning as it is to think a true freshman could start from the get-go on the offensive line at Ohio State — the last guy to do that was Orlando Pace in 1994, who just received a spot in the Hall of Fame — we are not far from figuring out if it really is going to happen. Behind Jordan sits Demetrius Knox, Evan Lisle and a host of others.

Studrawa also mentioned at Media Day that Lisle and Branden Bowen were the first two guys in his mind to try and fill the void left by Pridgeon's injury.

"Obviously, it's a blow to the depth but we got guys in there," Studrawa said. "We got Bowen getting some more work in there, Evan Lisle's going to go out there and play a little bit."

Whether that means on a rotation basis remains to be seen but Meyer and Warinner showed over the last four years they liked to have a set five in place and roll with them unless an injury popped up. Count Studrawa as someone in the same camp.

"I think obviously you want to get the best five out there playing and it's important to play those guys enough that they gel together because that's critical," Studrawa said. "Not just having five good guys, but them gelling and playing together. I think that's why on offensive lines you don't see much substitution because it's getting used to the guy next to you."

That doesn't exactly bode well for Knox, Lisle, Bowen, Brady Taylor, Kyle Trout, or Matt Burrell in terms of immediate playing time. However, it is on them and Studrawa to establish some much-needed depth behind the starters — especially considering we still don't know who will run out with the first team offense at left guard and right tackle.

"You'd like to be able to, and not by a series-by-series rotation on any means, but in the game get a few of those young guys in to develop them too," Studrawa said. "Have confidence in them that they can go in there and there's not a big drop off so they can be developed as well."


The names mentioned above are all at least in their second season with the program. Some of the older guys — namely Trout, Lisle and Taylor — are in their third or fourth years and risk getting passed over yet again if something major doesn't change soon.

But with three starters from the 2015 season gone and spots available, now is as good a time as any.

Likely Redshirts And The Future

Because it is so rare for a true freshman to start on the offensive line not just at Ohio State but anywhere, the bulk of the names in this section are from the 2016 recruiting class. Except for Jordan.

Simply because of the guys ahead of them, expect Jack Wohlabaugh, Tyler Gerald, Gavin Cupp and Malcolm Pridgeon to redshirt. Pridgeon has three years to play two seasons and since his knee injury is set to keep him out for three months it seems likely he won't see the field this fall.

"You feel bad for him. He was doing well and playing well," Studrawa said of Pridgeon. "The good thing is he can still redshirt. So we'll get him fixed up, get him back and going and then move forward."

Wohlabaugh is the heir apparent to Elflein at center, Gerald enrolled in January and Cupp is a small-town hero from Leipsic, Ohio, that should see time beyond the 2016 season.

Kevin Feder redshirted last season and then missed essentially all of spring drills with a foot injury. He began camp on crutches, so his contributions appear to lie beyond the 2016 scope as well.

Walk-ons Aaron Parry, Blake Pfenning, Brandon Pahl and Kevin Woidke fill out Studrawa's offensive line room.


Regardless who starts at left guard and right tackle, Ohio State's starting offensive line should again be among the strongest in the country. That is the expectation and standard Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren and Chase Farris continued after Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley and Andrew Norwell established it upon Meyer's arrival in 2012.

Studrawa is familiar with Meyer having worked with him at Bowling Green in 2001-02. Meyer wanted to bring him with him to Columbus but Studrawa did not want to uproot his family and kids from Baton Rouge, Louisiana when he coached at LSU.

Expect to get some answers in the next week on the remaining vacant starting positions up front — that is what everyone within the program is saying anyways.

Ohio State no longer has an established horse at running back but leans on its running game both with J.T. Barrett's legs and the speedy guys like Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson. Mike Weber looks the part early in camp too. As long as the starting five guys can stay healthy, the Buckeyes should be in good shape in the trenches. Beyond that, things get interesting.

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