First-Year Offensive Lineman Has Warinner Beaming
By John Porentas
Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall.
Those four players combined for for 55 of a possible 56 starts along the offensive line in 2013. It would have been 56, but Marcus Hall did not play in the Michigan State game after letting the crowd in Ann Arbor know just what he thought of them with a commonly-recognized hand gesture. Were it not for his effective but unappreciated foray into the world of non-verbal communication, those four would have started every game.
What they had in common last fall was they were four big, tough, talented and experienced offensive linemen.
What they have in common now is that they are gone, having exhausted their eligibility.
It's what happens in college football. It's the nature of the beast, but when the beast takes not just one or two of your players at a position group, but four of a possible five, there is a definite void that the coaching staff has to address.
Such is the case for OSU co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner. Warinner is looking for four new starters, and while there are a lot of things he likes among the candidates to replace the four missing faces from last year's line, he also sees a common weakness in them.
"We have some some good young players and some of them are older that haven't played much, but what we lack is experience," said Warinner.
Photo by Dan Harker
"I think we're going to have enough talent. I know we have a good work ethic. I know they're tough, they train hard so they had a really good off-season in terms of their training and their development, so we've just got to get them up to speed."
Getting them up to speed in this case means getting them some experience, the missing ingredient at four positions in this year's offensive line group. Aside from the experience component, Warriner likes what he sees and is definitely not in the panic mode.
"Experience comes from playing, but do they know what they're doing? Do I feel like we're where we were two years ago when I first got here and we were starting with a new group? No, I think we're way ahead of that, because mentally they know where they're at, they're in good shape, we don't have anybody that has a ways to go, so their weights are good, their strengths are good, the demeanor, so it's a fun group to coach, we just lack experience, but we'll be OK."
Warriner was resigned to coaching an very inexperienced group this season when something unexpected happened. He suddenly had a first-year player in his group with starting experience when senior defensive lineman Joel Hale, who started eight games at nose guard last fall, asked if he could move to the offensive line. It was a windfall for Warinner that he neither expected nor lobbied for, but is definitely excited about.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"He came to us as coaches and he wanted to see what my impression was (about moving from offense to defense)," said Warinner.
"When he looked at me and said 'Hey, what would you think of me playing O-line?' I said 'I would love for you to.'
"We went in and talked to Coach Meyer, and Coach Meyer thought it was a great idea because Joel can help us there. That gives us a veteran guy that's tough, that works hard, that has energy. He's an energy guy. He gives us a little juice over there too."
If you're thinking it's an odd move for a senior starter, you're right. It is, but it is all Hale's idea, and Warinner is thrilled. The question that has to be asked is whether one off-season is too short a time for Hale to become an effective offensive lineman. Warinner had a quick answer for that question.
"Absolutely not, unless you thought that Reid Fragel, it was too late for him, or Darryll Baldwin, didn't he play D-Line when I came here, so yeah, we're OK, we'll get him ready," said Warinner.
Hale has now had all of two days as an OSU offensive lineman, and though the sample is small, Warinner loves what he sees in Hale.
"Joel is a high-energy tough guy. He just doesn't know all the fundamentals yet, techniques, but he's really good right now in the run game.
"He just has a little development to do in the passing game, but it's really fluid. He and Tony Underwood will battle there at right guard," he said.
"What I've seen in two days , it would shock me if he wasn't a significant contributor. Whether he plays the first snap of every game, I don't know, but that will be earned, but he physically, I haven't seen anything that makes me think this is going to be a long process. It will happen pretty quick for him."\
As far as tools go, Hale has them. At 6-6, 310 he has the size to compete along with the maturity to be confident. He also has the advantage of four years in the OSU weight program, so as first-year linemen go, he is not going to be lacking for strength or endurance like a younger player might.
He is also a tough hombre. Hale has been to the wars, albeit on the defensive side of the ball, and will bring a toughness and attitude to the offensive line group. Warinner sees that as a huge plus for Hale.
"If you're looking for guys to get into your foxhole with you'd want him in your foxhole," said Warinner.
"He's a tough guy and he's a high energy guy and he's a leader."