Confidence Abounds as New OSU Offensive Line is Built
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Replacing a unit as successful and decorated as the 2013 Ohio State offensive line is no easy task.
This unit was one of the best in the country and was made up of both All-American and All-Big Ten players. In the not-so-distant past these same players once replaced their predecessors.
Heading into 2012, Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, and Corey Linsley had to fill the void left by three players who all found their way to NFL rosters after celebrated college careers. The Buckeyes more than managed then, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman believes the new unit is on the fast track.
“This group of offensive linemen, whether we like to say they're not, is much farther ahead than the group of offensive linemen our first spring,” Herman said. “You want to talk about some dudes that needed some molding and some culture.”
The man responsible for successfully filling the holes back then was offensive line coach Ed Warinner, and fortunately, Warinner is still a member of the staff.
“Ed Warinner basically took the weakness of the offense and within 24 months turned it into the absolute hands-down not-even-close strength and backbone of the offense,” Herman said.
“So the last I checked, Ed Warinner is still the offensive line coach and we're farther along in that room than we were this time two years ago.”
Ed Warinner with members of last season's offensive line.
Photo by Dan Harker
This is not to say that things will come easy. As Herman said, it took time for last season’s offensive line to reach an elite level, but OSU doesn’t have that long now.
Unlike in 2012, when the Buckeyes were ineligible for post-season play, much will be on the line for the Scarlet and Gray come fall.
After falling in the Big Ten Title game to Michigan State – losing the conference crown and a place in the BCS National Championship game – the Buckeyes expect to be back on top in 2014. To contend for another Big Ten title and be in line for a place in the new playoff format, this offensive line will have to be ready.
“I'd be a lot more concerned if I didn't believe the talent was there, and I didn't believe in Ed Warinner,” Herman said.
Having the talent is one part, but preparing them to play in games is the other. That is where the year’s line is behind those that preceded them.
“Is it frustrating a little bit that it doesn't look like it did in two-a-days last year? Yeah, it is,” Herman said. “But I think when you take a step back and have some perspective and understand the talent that's in that room and the guy that's coaching them, you're confident in the future.
“You're frustrated at the present but confident that the future will take care of itself.”
Herman is sure things will work out, but it will take hard work to get there. The next wave of linemen understand the culture cannot change just because the players do.
“[Those] guys were warriors,” redshirt junior Antonio Underwood said of the departed linemen. “As a whole offensive line unit, we’re just trying to keep that culture going from the time Coach Meyer and Coach Warinner came in, we’ve developed a warrior culture and I feel that’s very important.
“Coach Meyer always preached that we’re an offensive line driven team, so I think that’s really important for the whole starting five guys to really develop that culture, and by the time we start our first fall game we’re doing that.”
It is not as if these players are completely inexperienced. Junior Taylor Decker was a starter last season and Pat Elflein and Jacoby Boren each saw substantial playing time as reserves. Underwood was injured last season, but played in six games in 2012 and Darryl Baldwin has seen game action.
These players learned from the departed and from their brief playing experience, but most importantly they’ve learned from the coaches still present.
And based on the past, that should be sufficient.
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