Jamarco Jones didn't sugarcoat things.
"We didn’t have a year that was acceptable for an Ohio State O-line," he said earlier this spring, "so we’ve got to have a chip on our shoulder and get back to where we were before.”
And so began the journey to returning to the standard in which the Buckeyes expect of themselves up front.
Ohio State had issues along the offensive line against top competition in 2016. The Buckeyes allowed 28 sacks last season — 17 of which came against Penn State, Michigan and Clemson. That's simply not going to get it done and the Buckeyes knew that. There must be an improvement.
Ohio State returned four starters on its offensive line this spring: Jones, Billy Price, Michael Jordan and Isaiah Prince. Price slid over from right guard to center to replace the departed Pat Elflein, but the other three others all remained at their same positions: Jones at left tackle, Prince at right tackle and Jordan at left guard.
The only position on the Buckeyes' offensive line that was open this spring was right guard. And after the conclusion of last Saturday's spring game, there isn't a winner in that battle. It's going to go all the way through fall camp and probably up until Aug. 31 when Ohio State opens the 2017 season at Indiana.
The three names Urban Meyer mentioned most this spring in relation to the right guard spot were Demetrius Knox, Matthew Burrell and Malcolm Pridgeon. Knox began spring as the first-team right guard but a late surge by Burrell saw the redshirt sophomore running with the first team at the end of spring ball. Those two seem to have a slight edge on Pridgeon — with Burrell maybe out front right now — as the junior college transfer is still working to learn the playbook, Meyer says.
But there is more to Ohio State's offensive line than just the open guard spot. The other four returning starters must improve from the up-and-down season they had as a collective unit.
Price earned All-American accolades last season while Jones quietly had one of the more underrated campaigns among all Ohio State players. There don't seem to be many question marks surrounding those two seniors up front.
Jordan had a bit of an inconsistent season at left guard, which probably should have been expected considering he was a true freshman playing on the offensive line. Prince was the recipient of a lot of criticism at his right tackle spot, but a lot of it was justified after he struggled mightily in pass protection against top competition. Both must take the necessary step next season and if both do, the Buckeyes will be fine up front.
Depth remains a question mark, however, in Greg Studrawa's meeting room. Ohio State feels fairly confident in its first five, but the spring was also key in the development of the Buckeyes' second-team offensive line.
Josh Alabi moved over from defensive tackle to offensive line and ran with the second team at left tackle throughout spring. Branden Bowen is the second-team right tackle. The second-team guard positions belong to Knox and Pridgeon right now, but as mentioned above, both continue to battle for the starting job with Burrell. Brady Taylor spent the majority of spring ball as the backup center.
Of course, Ohio State is still waiting on the arrival of five-star guard Wyatt Davis. Davis could challenge for that guard spot if he's ready. Early enrollee Josh Myers also took some strides this spring and will fight for a spot on the two-deep in the fall.
However things shake out in the end, it's clear the Buckeyes need improvement up front. Ohio State's offensive line was instrumental in its national championship run back in 2014; it hasn't played up to that same standard in the two years since.
Players and coaches said spring practice was a step back in the right direction for this group. Now, the Buckeyes must carry it over to the fall.
"For the offensive line, it's [to] continue that education aspect," Price said. "You've got to be able to as an offensive line blow people off the ball. That's what we want to see here at Ohio State."