Dodson, Elflein Could Give Buckeyes More Depth Up Front
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As securing as it is to have four starters back on the offensive line this season, it’s equally unsettling for Ohio State coaches to think about having to replace all of them next season.
It’s a thought head coach Urban Meyer and his offensive line coach, Ed Warinner, would rather save for another day, but the Buckeyes know they were fortunate to have all five starters in the lineup for every one of their 12 wins last season.
The emergence of converted tight end Reid Fragel at right tackle gave Ohio State one of the better offensive lines in the Big Ten, if not the country, during Meyer’s first season in Columbus. They will need to replace Fragel between now and August 31, but the Buckeyes feel like they are in a better place now than they were at the end of last spring.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It’s pretty close right now, but we’ll see how that goes,” Warinner said of the battle between sophomores Taylor Decker and Chase Farris.
“It will sort itself out, but I feel like we’re in good shape compared to last year. Last year we were still battling all the way up to the week before the first game. I feel like we’re a head of that.”
Decker certainly appears to be the front-runner to replace Fragel on the right side of the line, which is good news for the Buckeyes moving forward. He almost certainly has to be the favorite to replace senior Jack Mewhort at left tackle in 2014, but if Decker can win the right tackle job in 2013, it give the Buckeyes a solid sixth man on the line im Farris.
A converted defensive lineman, Farris would be the next guy into the game at either guard spot, especially now that Antonio Underwood is out for the year with a knee injury. Along with Farris, the Buckeyes have also developed some depth at canter, with sophomore Jacoby Boren and redshirt freshman Pat Elflein battling for the No. 2 spot behind senior Corey Linsley.
“I feel real good about those two guys,” Warinner said at the end of spring ball.
“The emergence of Elflein has been good because he’s going to be a really good player for Ohio State. So we liked what we saw out of him because he’s a freshman that had redshirted and started off slow with injury last year.”
A three-star prospect out of Pickerington North, Elflein was considered an afterthought in Ohio State’s class of 2012, especially after Meyer went out and landed commitments from a number of high-profile offensive linemen.
One of them was Decker, and another was four-star guard Joey O’Conner, who recently transferred to Colorado State. His absence opened the door for Elflein, who actually emerged as a darkhorse candidate for the open starting spot on the line this spring.
“He has great physical toughness. He has great power, explosion. He’s very competitive. He goes hard for four to six seconds,” Warinner added.
“I mean he has a high motor and he’s strong and powerful so just having to teach him the position, that’s what he lacks is experience in there and kind of understanding how things work there.”
Elflein can play any of the interior positions on the line, and the Buckeyes do have some flexibility with both Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall. The team’s two starting guards both have experience playing tackle at Ohio State, but Warinner would like to develop some better depth behind Mewhort and the two sophomores battling on the right side.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Mewhort’s backup, Darryl Baldwin, actually played right tackle for the Gray offense during the spring game.
“This was the second spring for Baldwin at offense, so we’re trying to get the most out of him,” Warinner said of the converted defensive lineman.
“He’s got a lot of measurables that are really good. He’s strong, fast, tall, long, and he’s learning how to play the position. He’s a confident guy that’s smart.”
Baldwin had been the No. 2 left tackle for most of the spring, but Warinner and Meyer wanted to get a look at redshirt freshman Kyle Dodson in the final practice of the spring. He was one of the high-profile recruits Meyer landed after taking the job in November of 2011, but inexperience has kept him from really cracking the two-deep thus far.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Dodson probably isn’t a guy who will provide much real depth for the Buckeyes on the offensive line this season. He is still too raw to be a guy they can depend on if something happens to one of their top six guys, but it’s easy to see why he was a highly-coveted guy coming out of Cleveland Heights.
“(He) got a ton of reps in the spring game, played left tackle and did a nice job,” Warinner said of the 6-6, 320-pound tackle.
“He performed better than I thought he might in the spring game. I was pleased with him, so I see that his future a year from now could be someone that could help us.”
That’s good news for Ohio State, because the Buckeyes will need at least four guys like him to replace the core group of Mewhort, Linsley, Hall and Norwell next season.
Projected Post-Spring Depth Chart: Offense
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