Ohio State began spring football practice on March 8th. Heading into the 2016 college football season, Ohio State will have 44 players on its roster designated as either a redshirt freshman (21 of the 25 players signed in February 2015), or a true freshman. For a roster that can have only 85 scholarship players, Ohio State will have around 52% of its roster with no playing time experience. As former Ohio State Head Coach John Cooper used to say, “If a dog is going to bite you, it will bite you as a pup.”.
For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 16th, 2016. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.
2nd – Offensive Line
Players Lost – Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren, Chase Farris. Boren was undersized for the offensive line, but as tough and tenacious as any offensive lineman Ohio State has ever seen. Decker was a three year starter at left tackle, and will be difficult to replace. Farris was a converted defensive lineman who played well at right offensive tackle in his last year of eligibility for the Buckeyes. Best of luck to all of these young men in their respective futures.
Returning Players/Incoming Players – Pat Elflein (Redshirt Senior), Billy Price (Redshirt Junior), Jamarco Jones (Junior), Isaiah Prince (Sophomore), Michael Jordan (Freshman), Branden Bowen (Redshirt Freshman), Matthew Burrell (Redshirt Freshman), Kevin Feder (Redshirt Freshman), Tyler Gerald (Freshman), Demetrius Knox (Redshirt Sophomore), Evan Lisle (Redshirt Junior), Grant Schmidt (Redshirt Freshman), Brady Taylor (Redshirt Sophomore), Kyle Trout (Redshirt Sophomore).
A few things to keep in mind as it relates to this position group…
· If Pat Elflein or Billy Price had entered the 2016 NFL Draft, this position group would rank as my number one concern heading into the 2016 season.
Urban Meyer paying close attention to OSU's o-line this spring: "We can't drop off. We're not going to drop off." https://t.co/WEZHUabwLd— Austin Ward (@AWardESPN) April 5, 2016
Fortunately for Ohio State, Elflein is not only staying, but will move to center, allowing Ohio State to focus on the other three open spots that have emerged along the offensive line. Price has played predominantly left guard, but has experimented at the right guard spot this spring at times.
Just finished #OhioState OL/RB player/coach interviews. Billy Price said his spring move to right guard is just springtime experimentation.— Bill Rabinowitz (@brdispatch) March 31, 2016
· Early enrollee Michael Jordan has emerged as a possibility at left guard. It is highly unusual for an offensive lineman to start as a freshman, but Jordan could win a spot. Jordan was running with the first team offense on April 2nd…
The Buckeyes had two true freshmen running with the ones on offense the entire time we watched practice: LG Michael Jordan, WR Austin Mack.— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) April 2, 2016
· On the flip side of Jordan’s development, what does that say about all of the returning offensive linemen? Are these players behind?
Michael Jordan has impressed, but if a true freshman starts on Ohio State's 2016 offensive line, something's wrong https://t.co/SsBw2fraTh— Doug Lesmerises (@DougLesmerises) March 31, 2016
· Perhaps it is just me, but I was surprised that Jamarco Jones was listed at left tackle, and Isaiah Prince was at right tackle. I would have guessed it would have wound up the opposite. JUCO signee Malcolm Pridgeon arrives this summer, and could force his way into the lineup at one of the tackle positions.
· Something to keep in mind is that this spring is not only important due to the loss of three starters, but this is the first spring with new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Developing a sense of chemistry with the players is important for the coaching staff also.
These questions, among others, have been on my mind, as Ohio State resumed spring practice on March 22nd.