After a decisive 34-10 victory over Michigan State last Saturday night in easily the most physical test for the Buckeyes to date, Ohio State is set to enjoy a well-timed open date this weekend.
While the Buckeyes won't take the field on Saturday, Ryan Day held his typical Tuesday press conference yesterday. Considering his team ran all over a Michigan State defense that entered the contest ranked No. 3 in the land in stopping the run, the head coach had plenty to say about his offensive line's ability to win the line of scrimmage, opening massive holes for Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague.
Q. With the offensive line, when you put it together you never know exactly how tough it’s going to be at crunch time and stuff. Did you learn something about that group on Saturday night again that tells you it’s not just a bunch of great athletes out there, but they can step into a Big Ten football game?
COACH DAY: I think we learned a couple things about the O line. One, when it was tough sledding early on they didn’t panic; they kept swinging away. And the second thing, like you said, that’s a real defensive line that has some really good players there. And I thought they were physical, finishing guys downfield again. And they took a lot of pride in that.
To run over 300 yards against that outfit is saying something. I think they do, I think it shows what our O line is and what it’s capable of. All that means is just more expectation moving forward.
Q. Offensive line, just your thought — it was a group that had never played together. You insert Jackson at the absolute last minute, wasn’t there in the spring. Seems like that group has played pretty well today?
COACH DAY: I would say Jonah’s as close to a man and pro as I’ve been around in a long time. He’s a great young man who really has immersed himself in this program. The guys really have taken to him. And he’s got a great way about him.
And like you said, for a guy to come into that room with a lot of pride and a lot of history, it’s not easy. We’ve got a strong culture in that room.
And for a fifth-year senior to come in that room and embrace and do it the way he’s doing, it says a lot about who he is. But it says a lot about the culture of that offensive line room, which is I think one of the best cultures we have in the whole staff, and that’s a tribute to what Stud has done with that room. I think it’s tremendous right now. They’re playing with great passion and they’re solving the problems, they’re playing with great energy. So all positive there.
But again the challenge is can we keep it up now, because if we come out, don’t do that, don’t finish don’t play with that edge, then obviously we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Through six games, Ohio State ranks No. 3 in the nation averaging 288.5 rushing yards per game and slots No. 5 with an average of 6.18 yards per carry.
The schedule will get tougher and therefore the numbers could possibly dip a bit over the length of the season but for now, those numbers compare incredibly well to last year's disaster of rushing attack that ranked No. 76 nationally with 4.21 yards per carry in what was forced to be a pass-heavy offense.
With Justin Fields coming in as a dual-threat guy, the belief even in spring ball was the running game would bounce back but with four starters to replace in the trenches, it was far from a given that the group would be dominant.
That said, dominance is exactly what we've seen from returning starting left tackle Thayer Munford, graduate transfer left guard Jonah Jackson, first-year starting center Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, who logged two starts late last season, and right tackle Branden Bowen, a man who battled a major leg injury for a year and a half.
If we're being real, the trio of Munford, Jackson and Myers have carried the load and you could make a reasonable argument that any of them have been Ohio State's most dominant run blocker. That said, Davis and Bowen seem to have raised their already-solid level of run blocking to even greater heights in recent weeks.
|SEASON||ATTEMPTS||RUSH YDS||RUSH YDS/G||NATL RANK||RUSH YPC||NATL RANK|
With the line in sync in the trenches, J.K. Dobbins is enjoying a spectacular season averaging 137.7 rushing yards per game on an impressive 7.1 yards per carry. His backup, Master Teague, is averaging 6.3 yards a pop thanks to the line's ability to frequently get those guys to the second level unimpeded.
Through the first six games, Ohio State ranks No. 3 in the nation in running plays of 10+ yards with 49 while the Buckeyes rank No. 1 in running plays over 40 yards (7) and 50 yards (4).
In fact, the Buckeyes have peeled off at least one run of 40+ yards in five of six games thus far.
Not only do all of those numbers crush last year's output, they rank very favorably against full seasons since Urban Meyer's arrival with the closest comparison being the 2013 squad that went for 308.6 rushing yards per game on a national-best 6.80 yards per carry.
That juggernaut featured Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller in a devasting read-option rushing attack doing work behind NFL talent like Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley and Taylor Decker along with right guard Marcus Hall. Of course that offense wasn't anywhere close to as balanced as the 2019 Buckeyes.
There's still a long way to go before the story can be written on Ryan Day's first squad in Columbus but at present, he's got to feel real good about how his offensive line is setting the tone for an attack generating 49 points per game on the strength of a sturdy running game.