Urban Meyer knows the offensive line he wants to see at Ohio State come this fall. It must be tough, have depth and be on par with what the Buckeyes enjoyed the last four seasons.
"Whoever plays that position, we can't drop off," Meyer said Tuesday. "Went from (Andrew) Norwell, Marcus Hall to Billy Price and Pat Elflein. We're not going to drop off."
As things stand at the midway point of spring drills, however, the big guys in the trenches lag behind what Meyer, new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and their teammates expect.
"There's a lot of work to be done," fifth-year senior center and team captain Pat Elflein said Saturday. "I think guys need to be comfortable with each other."
Elflein is one of two returning starters on the unit along with junior Billy Price. Neither played much during Saturday's student appreciation practice, which isn't much of a surprise. They're established veterans who don't need as many reps as the young guys behind them fighting for a job.
“There's a lot of work to be done. I think guys need to be comfortable with each other.”– Pat Elflein on the OL
So without two starters working in much and a constant onslaught from the other side of the ball Saturday, quarterbacks J.T. Barrett, Stephen Collier and Joe Burrow were under siege most of the morning.
"The thing about it is right now is when you want those type of things so you'll be able to adjust to them right now so it's not something that's new later," Barrett said. "It's good for our offensive line for sure, but good for our defense too because then I think it gets them comfortable in order to apply that pressure when it comes to the season."
Barrett is the only player on the entire team wearing a black non-contact jersey this spring. Burrow and Collier each where red, and each took some tough hits Saturday from a host of defenders that got by the offensive line.
"I've been there. My first spring, believe me," Barrett said of getting hit. "I think it's one of those deals that you try to show your teammates you're tough. Because it's not like you can run somebody over. I mean you can, but oftentimes it’s spring ball so you're passing. So you gotta stand there and make a throw even though you know you're going to get hit."
Burrow and Collier are battling for the right to back up Barrett in 2016, knowing full well they are one play away from Meyer, Tim Beck and Ed Warinner turning to them to lead the offense if Barrett can't go.
Barrett knows that too, and does his best to stress to them the importance of improving on at least one thing each day.
"I think Joe and Stephen are getting better at that," Barrett said. "If you do get hit and miss a throw or something happens, you just gotta tell your linemen A. I'm going to try to get the ball out faster and B. please help me out. Make sure you get back up fast and make them know you're tough."
Sooner or later, though, the line must improve. Studrawa bellowed at his group often Saturday, removing his cap and rubbing his bald head in stress. The blitz packages were persistent from the defense, but it isn't an excuse.
Fortunately for Ohio State, five months stand between it and its season opener against Bowling Green.
"You'd like to have a set five guys that can play and gel together and when you throw some other guys in there it kind of mixes that up a little bit," Elflein said. "I think it's going to calm down and just gain confidence for the guys that were in there. It was chaotic today, but it was supposed to be. Stuff was hectic."