Any time an offensive line returns four starters from the year before, you have to feel pretty good about your chances. That's where the Buckeyes find themselves this spring, but that doesn't mean they are without question marks.
Urban Meyer has repeatedly said that the pass protection a year ago was not up to the standard expected at Ohio State, and nobody who was part of the offensive line would dispute that claim. So while there are four starters returning, those four starters have plenty of room to get better.
Currently, it looks like there is only one major battle on the line for a starting position, and that's at Billy Price's vacated right guard spot as he slides over to take over for All-American Pat Elflein. The competition to fill that slot is going to be a heavyweight battle, but there are also competitions going on up and down the line to fill out the rest of a two-deep that has only been about eight players deep for the last couple of years.
One of the first players mentioned by Meyer last week in regards to the right guard position was redshirt junior Demetrius Knox, who got some time in a tough situation against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl last year. His baptism by fire did not go well as he struggled to keep up with the speed of the game.
"He did, he did," Price said last week. "To that point I got mine against Virginia Tech (in 2014) so it always happens."
There's only ever been one or two offensive linemen in Ohio State history who have never had a couple of bad moments, so to judge Knox for those moments against a very talented Clemson defensive line would not be an accurate gauge of what he is capable of, especially now after another offseason of work.
"Demetrius Knox, the transformation you see, because he and I have been very close over the past three or four years that he’s been here, to see his transformation has been absolutely incredible," Price said.
Knox isn't the only player getting a good, long look at right guard, as Meyer has also mentioned Malcolm Pridgeon as a possibility, and Price isn't the only player getting good reps at center, as veteran Brady Taylor continues his run as the team's backup center.
"Some other guys you’re starting to see, you’re starting to see pushes from Malcolm," Price said. "Isaiah (Prince) is working his craft. Jamarco (Jones) is doing his thing as normal. Brady Taylor, those kinds of guys."
There is also one surprise in this group, and that is redshirt sophomore Joshua Alabi. Alabi is a surprise because until a couple of months ago he was a defensive tackle with a bunch of other defensive tackles in front of him. Moving to the offensive line wasn't the surprise, however. The surprise is how well he has taken to the move to left tackle.
"Josh Alabi is killing it right now," he said. "When he switched over to the offensive line from defense, the kid is just going. He’s just playing hard."
Price isn't the only teammate to notice how well Alabi is doing, as his work has also been commended by a former linemate, who now finds himself going against Alabi in practice.
"Man, Josh always goes hard," said senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis. "I really think Josh has found his niche. The offensive line, he’s doing exceptionally well right now. Coming from the d-line and moving to o-line, as a d-lineman you have to be capable of moving fast in short areas. O-line, they’re all on this rhythm. Josh is a quick twitch, and you can tell when he reaches someone. It’s just come to him naturally. He’s doing very well at it."
Still, being the captain that he is, Price has to remind everyone to slow down a bit on all of the positive vibes, and for good reason.
"It’s the first two days and everybody is fresh," he said. "So it’s kind of hard to see who’s really making that push and who’s making those strides because we all look good right now."