It was roughly midway through Ohio State’s spring last year when Michael Jordan started running with the first-team offense.
Jordan, a true freshman, was the starting left guard on the Buckeyes’ offensive line. It was a unique development and one that certainly signaled a couple different things.
The first is Ohio State’s staff clearly thought highly of Jordan. He was an early enrollee starting on the offensive line for one of the best programs in all of college football. His size — 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds — and athleticism were rare for someone at his age and position. Jordan held onto that starting spot throughout the rest of the spring, throughout fall camp and then started all 13 games in the fall for the Buckeyes at left guard.
But while it was impressive for Jordan to earn that spot, it also spoke to the lack of depth on Ohio State’s offensive line. A true freshman starting up front for the Buckeyes doesn’t happen often because it shouldn’t. There are supposed to be enough quality players on the roster that a player like Jordan can’t just come in and start instantly.
Ohio State’s latest move is another one that signals there might be some depth concerns.
Josh Alabi has been moved from defensive tackle to offensive line this spring in an attempt to add another body to Greg Studrawa’s meeting room. The Buckeyes are trying to find some way to develop some depth beyond their starting five.
“Josh Alabi’s killing it right now,” fifth-year senior Billy Price said Thursday. “We switched him over to the offensive line from defense and kid’s just going. He’s playing hard.”
Price, of course, came to Ohio State as a defensive lineman himself so he knows firsthand what that transition is like. Darryl Baldwin, the Buckeyes’ starting right tackle during the 2014 national championship season, also started his career on defense. There is evidence that switching from defensive line to offensive line can work.
So while moving Alabi may eventually work out for both sides — he hasn’t played much at defensive tackle his first two seasons at Ohio State — the change feels like it was done simply to try and solve some depth concerns.
The Buckeyes return four of their five starters from last year up front in Price, Jordan, left tackle Jamarco Jones and right tackle Isaiah Prince. Price is slated to move from right guard to center to replace the departed Pat Elflein which means the only vacancy currently sits at right guard.
After Ohio State’s first practice of the spring last week, Meyer mentioned Demetrius Knox, Malcolm Pridgeon, Branden Bowen and Matt Burrell as candidates for that open spot. Alabi wasn’t mentioned — he appears to be working solely at tackle — but at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, there’s potential he could be a fit down the road, as well. After all, the Buckeyes have only had two spring practices thus far.
Once Ohio State settles on a starter for its open guard spot, the Buckeyes will almost certainly feel confident about their starting five group of offensive linemen. The questions come with the second team and if something were to happen to a starter, how would that change things for Ohio State. This was a very similar situation to last season.
Moving Alabi from defense to offense won't completely solve the Buckeyes' lack of depth along their offensive line. But if they can turn the Detroit native into a dependable player, it's certainly a change that would benefit Ohio State.