With the graduation of 60% of Ohio State’s 2015 starting offensive line, the Buckeyes will have some shuffling to do in 2016.
Tackles Taylor Decker and Chase Farris are off to try their hand at Sunday football. Right guard Pat Elflein will slide over one spot to take over for Jacoby Boren at center. Only left guard Billy Price will return in the same spot on the line for the Scarlet & Gray for Urban Meyer’s fifth season in Columbus.
That leaves a couple of positions unsettled entering 2016.
Elflein was one of the brighter spots on the offensive line the last couple of seasons and now that he’s moving into the middle, he will likely continue to be one of Ohio State’s better Slobs. But who will take his spot at right guard?
Meyer and new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa have some options when it comes to locating Elflein’s replacement. Herein, we’ll take a look at the choices Ohio State has when it comes to right guard.
“Meechy,” a four-star recruit out of Fort Worth All Saints Episcopal, just completed his redshirt freshman season. According to Ohio State’s official website, Knox played in 12 of the Buckeyes’ 13 games this season, appearing in all but the Illinois tilt. He played mainly on special teams, though he’s been pushing for playing time almost since arriving on campus.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound guard was a highly sought-after recruit, who originally committed to the Texas Longhorns. Ohio State eventually won the recruiting war for Knox over both Texas and UCLA. He was a top 100 prospect and the composite No. 6 guard in the 2014 recruiting class, and one of Ohio State’s top gets that year.
His strengths are his footwork and ability to get his explosive hands on defenders. He projects as potentially an elite run blocker. He’ll need to show he can pass protect to win a starting spot at the college level.
Centerville High product Evan Lisle seems to be one of the forgotten members of the 2013 recruiting class. This isn’t surprising when you consider that other members of his class include Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, J.T. Barrett, Tyquan Lewis, Gareon Conley, Vonn Bell and Darron Lee.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Lisle has the requisite size to move people off the line of scrimmage at the college level. The fifth commit in the 2013 class, Lisle held offers from the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan and others, but as a lifelong Buckeye fan, there was really only one choice.
He just completed his redshirt sophomore year, with his participation chart showing he played in all 13 games. Known as a good finisher, Lisle — like most linemen transitioning to the college game — must become a solid pass protector to get playing time at Ohio State. He could also figure in the battle for the tackle positions. He was an All-American at that position out of high school, but the former four-star recruit has yet to reach the lofty expectations of his recruiting rank.
Our Mike Young called Lisle one of the players with something to prove this past fall. His time to make his mark on the program could run out if he isn’t able to seize the opportunity coming in 2016.
A class of 2015 player could also push for Elflein’s vacant right guard position. The No. 5 composite guard in the 2015 class, Burrell is a 6-foot-4, 300-pound beast from C.D. Hylton High in Woodbridge, VA. The Buckeyes recruited Burrell for two years and finally landed him over schools like Alabama, Florida State, LSU and Penn State.
Burrell didn’t play in 2015, so he’ll likely be a redshirt freshman in 2016. But he’s been in Mickey Marotti’s strength and conditioning program and athletes like Burrell don’t necessarily need to wait until their junior years to get onto the field. His athleticism allows him to get out front on pulling plays and he can mash defenders in the run game. Scouts listed his lateral movement as an area that needed improvement, but that's because he played tackle in high school. He projects as a pure guard at Ohio State.
The battle at right guard may turn into a two-man competition between Knox and Lisle, but I wouldn’t count out Burrell making a run at the spot.
Although it’s possible for Ohio State to go in a completely different direction, particularly if the line is hit with some injuries in the off-season and preseason training camp, the above trio represents the most likely options for Meyer on opening day against Bowling Green.
If I had to handicap this race, I’d say that Knox seems to have the best shot at replacing Elflein at right guard. He’s big, athletic and seems ready to take over the spot. If healthy, Meechy is most likely the man. If so, he’ll become the first Eleven Warriors forum member to start for the Buckeyes.