Effective Offensive Line Unsung Heroes of OSU Offense
By Patrick Murphy
After the Buckeyes’ explosive offensive outputs against San Diego State and California, the talk surrounded backup quarterback Kenny Guiton.
After the win against Wisconsin, the focus was on an apparently healthy Braxton Miller and his four touchdown passes.
Carlos Hyde’s 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns were justifiably credited as the key to the come-from-behind win at Northwestern.
None of those guys got it done alone.
What has fueled Ohio State’s offensive production has been the play of the offensive line.
Photo by Dan Harker
In only one game did the offensive line come close to struggling, in the season opener against Buffalo and specifically first-year starter Taylor Decker at right tackle.
The line gave up four sacks and Decker was the main culprit in his career-first start as a Buckeye.
“I've talked to former head coaches who wander around in this building about guy's whose first game in the 'Shoe sometimes can be very stressful and they can get worked up,” offensive line coach Ed Warriner said of Decker’s performance. “I think he was just a little too excited.”
Since then, all five players have played well.
The line, which returns four starters from last year’s team, was an assumed strength coming into the season, and the success of Miller, Guiton, Hyde, and others like Jordan Hall all amounts to the offensive line’s success.
Miller and Guiton were able to put up the numbers they did because they offensive line kept them upright. Hyde and Hall have had big rushing games this year because the line has opened gaping holes for them to run through.
Urban Meyer has stated that this is a run-first team. In order to do this, they need talented running backs, but the offensive line also has to be very good.
After their best individual rushing performance of the season, the Buckeye coaches gave credit to the line for allowing Hyde to move the ball on the ground.
“I was happy for him and I was happy for the O-Line,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
“We knew very early on what the O-Line was capable of doing. Then it was just a matter in the second half saying 'We're moving them up front. He's playing well and seeing things very well, so let’s continue to feed him.’”
Meyer also recognized what the offensive line has done for the run game.
“We're in the top-10 in the country in rushing and that's without one of our running backs for three games,” Meyer said last week.
“They block people. They do a good job. The first game wasn't that good, I was really disappointing, but since then they played well.”
“They're who we are on offense, and that's a good place to start,” Meyer praised the unit.
Ohio State is averaging 492.8 yards per game so far this season, including 280.7 on the ground, and though the offensive line hasn’t produced one of those yards, those yards would not be there without them, yet they often are overlooked or taken for granted when they are playing well.
Photo by Jim Davidson
For example, there was a lot of talk about suspensions and injuries to vital offensive contributors such as Hyde, Miller, and Hall, but senior center Corey Linsley’s injury was essentially glossed over.
Some of that had to do with the play of Jacoby Boren filling in, but the loss of a center can be devastating to the offensive line.
“Your center for your offensive line is kind of your quarterback of that position,” Warriner said.
“He calls out the starting point for what we are going to do, identifying defenses, identifying protections, making adjustments.”
Like a quarterback, this requires a special type of player, but the level of hand-wringing over his injury was minute compared to that over the absences of Hyde, Miller and Hall. .
Linsley and his offensive line are never going to get the acclaim of the skill position players, yet the work they do allows everyone else to get the glory.
That's the way these linemen like it though. If they are talked about too much, they are usually doing something wrong.