Final Post-Spring Overview — The Offensive Line

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Last updated: 05/07/2012 10:37 AM
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Final Post-Spring Overview — The Offensive Line
By Tony Gerdeman

The key to any successful offense always starts up front, and a talented offensive line can make any average offense quite a bit above average. A below average offensive line, however, can drag down an offense like five lumbering anchors.

The Buckeyes will have the daunting task of replacing three veteran starters on the offensive line, and they'll be doing it with a patchwork unit, but one with quite a bit of potential.

More than the players, however, a new scheme and new offensive coaching staff seems to have the program renewed. A move to more zone blocking has been received well, and fits the more mobile offensive line that the Buckeyes are looking to showcase in 2012.

The tackle situation at Ohio State is going to tell much of the tale of 2012. With Jack Mewhort at left tackle and Reid Fragel at right tackle, the Buckeyes will be starting a pair of bookends who will each be playing their first significant time at the tackle position.

Jack Mewhort
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jack Mewhort
Mewhort has always been versatile, and has worked at tackle before, but now he will have to be the cornerstone of this offensive line. Fragel certainly looks the part at right tackle, and has the mobility that Urban Meyer and offensive line coach Ed Warinner like, but he still has to prove he can handle his new duties.

Guards Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall have more experience at their respective positions than Fragel and Mewhort, and both have also gotten time at tackle. Overall it's a versatile group, and the staff seems to like where everyone is right now.

Brian Bobek was thought to have the upper hand at center prior to the start of Spring practice, but that was quickly corrected when Corey Linsley opened Spring working with the first unit.

The bench has work to do, but there are possibilities.

Preconceived Notion
Mewhort has shown himself to be a very solid lineman, starting every game at right guard last year, and with his mobility and size (6-6 310), he sure looks like a capable tackle. In fact, it could be argued that he was only playing guard because there were already solid starters at both tackle spots ahead of him.

Reid Fragel
Photo by Jim Davidson
Reid Fragel
Fragel, on the other hand, is a question mark. The coaches have high hopes for him, and they have them for a reason. There is a ton of potential here, but he has to max out that potential in just one offseason of preparation as an offensive lineman.

The interior should be fine, provided Linsley can handle his chores.

Much of the faith in this offensive line is focused on the belief that Warinner will be able to do with this line what he has done with others throughout his career. Also, a quicker offense will only help the line, as will a lack of third down play-action passes with just two receivers running routes.

After watching the Spring, it is hard to really peg where the tackles stand, because defensive end John Simon had his way with both of them all Spring long.

However, this offense won't be facing a player of Simon's caliber every week. Fragel still has his issues with pass protection, but as a whole the unit provided the quarterbacks with enough time to throw the ball. One of the positive aspects of this new offense is that the passes come out quicker, and there are more rollouts, which makes pass protection even easier.

The running game, while rarely going to look good in the spring against an Ohio State defense, looks to be in good hands. Meyer on more than one occasion expressed great confidence in his team's ability to run the ball, and do so apparently at will.

The Spring Game was evidence of this, as Meyer and Tom Herman were more interested in seeing the passing game, because they already know how the running game will perform.

In other words, if they were worried about the running game, they would have worked on it more.

The starting five seems to be set, which is exactly what Urban Meyer said would happen at the end of the Spring. It would take somebody making a drastic move to change things now, but with an offensive line that is almost completely new, even though it's unlikely, anything is possible.

The interior of the line had its moments this Spring, and it should be a strength come the regular season. This will be a power running team, and the offense's success will be based on the interior's ability to take control of the point of attack.

The tackles will only get better through Fall camp, as well as the season. By the time Big Ten play starts, everybody on the offensive line should be completely comfortable.

There even seems to be a little bit of a bench developing. Warinner said back in the winter that he's more interested in finding eight linemen who can play, as opposed to a backup at each spot. Basically, he's looking for a backup tackle, guard and center.

As of now, they found a backup tackle with freshman Taylor Decker and a backup center in freshman Jacoby Boren. The third guard is sophomore Antonio Underwood, who got a good bit of time last year.

Overall, it appears that the eight linemen that Warinner wanted to find have been located, and with three more linemen hitting campus before the season starts, there's a chance to improve the overall talent level of the offensive line, and perhaps even improve their top eight.


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