Spring Rewind: What We Learned About Ohio State's Offensive Line

By Tim Shoemaker on April 20, 2016 at 10:10 am
Ohio State's offensive line remains a work in progress heading out of spring ball.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer often refers to his team as “an offensive line driven program.” It’s a phrase you’ve surely heard repeated, as it is done to put emphasis on the importance of the unit in Meyer’s offense.

The Buckeyes run a spread offense, but it’s a bit different than the traditional kind. Ohio State features a power spread attack centered around a running game that has been dominant over the last few seasons. Meyer says he wants the Buckeyes’ offense to be a bit more balanced this year than it was one season ago, but make no mistake about it: Ohio State is anchored by its running game.

And a large part of that success hinders on the play of the Buckeyes’ offensive line, which is going through a bit of transition after returning four starters prior to the 2015 season. Pat Elflein and Billy Price are the only returning guys this year, and Ohio State was hoping to find its other three starters up front during spring ball.

“It takes time and yeah, I’m concerned every day about it,” new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said earlier this spring. “We come out here every day and try to be the best that we can be.”

Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince ran with the first-team offensive line all spring — Jones at left tackle, Prince at right tackle — and for the second half of spring practice true freshman early enrollee Michael Jordan spent the majority of the snaps working with the first team at guard. Those, right now, appear to be the frontrunners heading out of spring ball.

After a strong spring, Jones seems to have solidified himself as a starting tackle for the Buckeyes. Meyer said he “needed to see more” from Prince during the spring game to earn the same status. Ohio State has a junior college tackle coming in June, Malcolm Pridgeon, and he is expected to compete for a starting job right away. As of now, it appears it will be Prince who will be involved in that battle with Pridgeon.

As far as guard goes, Jordan caught everybody by surprise when he was first noticed taking the first-team reps. The battle for the guard position opposite Price was thought to be between Evan Lisle, Matthew Burrell and Demetrius Knox, but Jordan came in and got involved right away. Now, it appears he has a real shot to earn the starting job.

Listed at 6-foot-7 and 316 pounds, Jordan isn’t the average looking early enrollee who should still technically be in high school.

“He’s a big man that’s really extremely talented physically. He can move and bend and do a lot of things so athletically he can over compensate for a bad step or a bad hand placement,” Studrawa said of Jordan earlier this spring. “That’s the thing that’s surprised me the most about him. And, he’s a really intelligent young man. You tell him things one time and he picks it up really quickly.”

Added Meyer: “He just loves it. He doesn’t know if it’s right or left sometimes, but at this point we don’t care. Come in for extra work, enjoys the game, enjoys the practice — he’s done all that. Really impressed with him.”

Elflein and Price were somewhat limited in spring ball due to being members of Meyer’s famed 2,000-rep club. Because of that, there was a bit of shuffling that allowed the likes of Knox, Burrell, Lisle and, at times, Brady Taylor to get some reps with the first-team offense. Right now, though, the second-team offensive line appears to be a combination of Lisle, Knox, Taylor, Burrell and Branden Bowen.

It’s a fluid situation, of course, as only three spots appear to be completely nailed down after spring practice. The offseason will be crucial for all of those still battling for positions and there will be jobs still up for grabs when the Buckeyes begin fall camp in August.

Meyer won’t expect any sort of drop-off from arguably the most important unit on his offense, even though the offensive line is still somewhat of a work in progress coming out of spring practice.

“We’re still trying to find that starting five,” Meyer said.

The good news for Ohio State? It has some time to figure it out.

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