Skipper’s Arkansas Commitment Clouds Future OSU Line
By Brandon Castel
Dan Skipper wasn’t going to make or break Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class. In many ways, it’s already been made.
The Buckeyes will finish among the top 5-6 recruiting classes in the country, and if a few more pieces fall the right way they could be in the running for the top spot in the country.
One of those pieces went the wrong way on Monday, with 6-10 offensive tackle Dan Skipper’s commitment to play for Arkansas. If you haven’t heard of Dan Skipper, don’t be alarmed.
According to Rivals.com, Skipper is a 3-star offensive lineman out of Ralston Valley High School in Arvada, Colo. He recently visited both Ohio State and Ole Miss, but Skipper had been committed to Tennessee since early in the process.
When the Volunteers fired head coach Derek Dooley, Skipper decided to take a look around. He quickly became one of Ohio State’s top remaining targets in the 2013 class, as Urban Meyer and his staff looked to fill one more spot with an offensive lineman.
They made a run at Skipper, along with California native Cameron Hunt, but Skipper ultimately decided to stick with the SEC and play for new Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. Or more specifically, for his staff.
Bielema certainly developed a strong reputation for developing offensive linemen during his seven years at Wisconsin, but he also went out and hired two of the coaches that helped land Skipper’s verbal commitment to UT in the first place.
Jim Chaney had served as the Vols offensive coordinator for four years before he was hired for the same position at Arkansas. He was an offensive line coach in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams when Steven Jackson put together back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Bielema also hired Sam Pittman, who oversaw the offensive line for Chaney last season at Tennessee, when the Volunteers led the SEC and ranked fourth in the NCAA in fewest sacks allowed per game.
All of that led to Skipper’s decision to play for the Razorbacks, which won’t exactly derail Urban Meyer’s quest for a national championship. It does, however, cloud Ohio State’s future offensive line, at least a little bit.
Meyer came in and realized right away that his new team had a glaring deficiency on the offensive front. He went out and landed signatures from three high-profile recruits in Taylor Decker, Kyle Dodson and Joey O’Connor, all of whom had been committed elsewhere.
The thinking was he would probably want to another 4-5 guys to that group in the class of 2013, but here we are with less than two weeks to National Signing Day and Meyer is still searching for one more guy up front.
Cameron Hunt is still in the mix, but he has to be considered a longshot at best right now. He committed to play for Cal back in July, but he is also strongly considering Oregon. After that, the Buckeyes don’t really have anyone else on the radar as they close things out in 2013.
The thinking then becomes that Ohio State will likely hold those spots for 2014, when they will likely need to land 4-5 offensive linemen to replace the guys they are losing after this season. The Buckeyes have four starters back from the 2012 line, but all four of them will be seniors in 2013.
That includes left tackle Jack Mewhort, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Corey Linsley and right guard Marcus Hall. They already have a commitment from Glenville’s Marcelys Jones for next year, but there is no doubt Meyer is going to be looking for some more big names along the offensive front.
Assuming Meyer doesn’t pull another rabbit out of his hat with a late commitment, the Buckeyes will sign just two offensive linemen in this class. One is Timothy Gardner, a massive guard out of Indianapolis. The other is Army All-American tackle Evan Lisle out of Centerville.
“He's not quite at the same level of (2012 signee) Taylor Decker. He's not there yet, but he will be,” longtime Ohio talent scout John McCallister told The-Ozone.
“Evan is big, and he's gonna fill out. He's got good feet and he's a competitor down the road. He's got long arms, so he can pass block. He's got a lot going for him, but that still has to take its course. He's athletic, he's got the feet and he's got the frame, so he's got a chance to be pretty good.”
Donovan Munger and Billy Price are both coming in as defensive linemen, but could end up flipping over to the other side of the ball if Ed Warinner is short on numbers after this year.
“He wants to play defense first, but I think when it all shakes out, he's an offensive lineman,” McCallister said of Price, a 4-star kid out of Youngstown.
“He's got a good first step. I think he's going to surprise people. He's a tough guy. I saw him the second week of the season and was better than I thought he would be. He was listed at 6-4 and 312 pounds. He showed really good footwork. He's a good lead blocker who bends well. He's just an overpowering run blocker and a solid pass protector. Always looking to block a defender. Goes to the whistle. An ideal center for the Buckeyes.”
Chase Farris and Darryl Baldwin were guys who made that switch from defense to offense last season and it sounds like Farris, in particular, could be in Ohio State’s plans for 2013. He is only going to be a redshirt sophomore this year, and Warinner called him the most athletic guy they have on that group up front.
The real question is who else they have to build on. Decker, Dodson and Lisle should give Warinner a good foundation to work with at offensive tackle. Baldwin should be around for a few more years, if he can develop as a tackle, but there are major questions about the interior of the line.
Jacoby Boren, younger brother of Justin and Zach, has been tabbed as the center of the future – though it sounds like Price could also be in the mix if he moves over to offense. The only guards on the roster will be Gardner, Antonio Underwood, Tommy Brown, Pat Elflein and Farris.
Looking Ahead to 2014
Seniors: Antonio Underwood, Ivon Blackman (walk-on transfer)
Juniors: Darryl Baldwin, Jacoby Boren, Tommy Brown, Taylor Decker, Chase Farris
Sophomores: Kyle Dodson, Pat Elflein, Evan Lisle
Freshmen: Timothy Gardner (if he redshirts), Marcelys Jones
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