Ohio State Spring Recap: Buckeye Offensive Line Taking Shape

Tate Martell Throwing Ohio State Spring Game

There are 52 starts returning from last season on the Ohio State offensive line, which doesn’t even include the 28 starts that Billy Price compiled in 2014 and 2015. There is still work to do here, however, and much of that work surrounds the situation at right guard. That position did not get settled this spring, which will remain a focus during the summer and into fall camp. What else happened with the OSU offensive line this spring? Let’s go over it all in a very roundabout way.

Depth Chart

Left Tackle
74 Jamarco Jones, Sr (6-5 310)
76 Branden Bowen, rSo (6-7 312)
58 Josh Alabi, rSo (6-5 300)

Left Guard
73 Michael Jordan, Soph (6-7 310)
61 Gavin Cupp, rFr (6-5 305) OR
71 Josh Myers, Fr (6-5 305)

54 Billy Price, rSr (6-4 312)
79 Brady Taylor, rJr (6-5 300)
64 Jack Wohlabaugh, rFr (6-3 293)

Right Guard
69 Matt Burrell, rSo (6-3 300) OR
66 Malcolm Pridgeon, rJr (6-7 315) OR
78 Demetrius Knox, rJr (6-4 308)

Right Tackle
59 Isaiah Prince, Jr (6-7 310)
76 Branden Bowen, rSo (6-7 312)
77 Kevin Feder, rSo (6-9 303)

Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa didn’t meet with the media at all this spring, but I wouldn’t read anything into that. Nobody ducks reporters because of an open job at right guard. The Buckeyes return four starters on the offensive line, which means they feel better about their situation than most other teams in the nation. It will be up to the recruiting over the last few years to fill out the two-deep, as well as find that fifth starter. The good news is that there are both veterans and very talented young players who could emerge in that role. One of those players — freshman Wyatt Davis — isn’t even on campus yet.

“Demetrious Knox is running with the ones, and Malcolm Pridgeon is still learning the offense, but Matt Burrell is probably one of the most improved offensive linemen at this point and the other guys are much improved as well. Very pleased with where we’re at with the offensive line. Still not where we need to be in the twos, nowhere close. You wish you could get a little more competition out of those guys but that’s not happening yet other than the names I said.” — Urban Meyer, April 4

Dotable (Which youngster should be doted on?)
True freshman Josh Myers enrolled in January and took part in winter workouts and spring football. Even before camp ever opened he was earning positive reviews from Urban Meyer, who himself was only relaying what strength coach Mickey Marotti was telling him. Once Myers reached the field, he had his ups and downs like all players, young or old. What his teammates and coaches like is that he hates making mistakes and wants to know what he did wrong and how to do it right. He wants to learn and he is accountable, and those are attributes that coaches can work with.

Fourth-year junior Demetrius Knox began the spring as the No. 1 at right guard, but left as the No. 2 left guard in the spring game. Part of the problem — if not the entire problem — was that Knox had to miss some time with an academic issue. It wasn’t much time — perhaps just one practice, but it doesn’t take much to lose ground when there are players just as hungry — if not hungrier — competing for the same spot. Can Knox bounce back with a strong summer? Even if he does, can he hold on?

For as much as Buckeye fans didn’t like Ed Warinner as an offensive coordinator, they rightfully loved him as an offensive line coach. It never really mattered if the Ohio State offensive line was going into a season with questions, because everyone knew that Warinner would get the situation ready in time. If that doesn’t happen this season, there will even more criticism aimed at Greg Studrawa than he received last year for the Buckeyes’ lackluster pass protection. While Urban Meyer has said there have been some misses in recruiting on the offensive line over the years, there shouldn’t have been enough to be unable to field five or six quality starters.

This spring, Urban Meyer was asked what he looks for in an offensive lineman when he recruits him. The first thing he said he looks for is toughness. Without toughness, there’s no point in continuing the evaluation process. The second thing he looks for is athleticism, which is why sometimes he won’t be convinced about offering a lineman until he sees him play basketball. You’ll be happy to know that after a couple years of misses, he believes the last two classes with Michael Jordan, Gavin Cupp, Malcolm Pridgeon, Jack Wohlabaugh, Josh Myers, and Wyatt Davis will show these traits more than those before it.

The second unit has yet to really solidify enough to be counted on. It could be washed away and replaced seemingly overnight throughout the spring. Granted, that’s sort of what the spring is for and the coaches have to find out who can be counted on and who cannot. The problem is that they are still looking for five reserves that they’re confident in. Former defensive tackle Josh Alabi may be the guy to finally give the Buckeyes a fourth offensive tackle for the first time in years, and there are a number of options inside, but how strong can this second group get? Remember when Jim Tressel would send out the second offensive line for entire drives in the first half?

Keep an eye on right guard Matt Burrell, who left the spring as the No. 1 at right guard. The issue with him has never been talent, it’s been the little things and a lack of focus. It appears that now in his third year in the program, the focus is where it needs to be. Center Billy Price couldn’t say enough good things about Burrell’s growth and maturity this spring, and we all saw the results. This could be the year where he finally begins to exhibit his full capabilities. He was pretty darn good in the spring game, and one of these days I’ll break out the clips and show you what I’m talking about.

Malcolm Pridgeon redshirted last year after being expected to come in from junior college and compete for the right tackle job. There was some thought that he might get a shot at it this spring as well, but he stayed at guard, and mostly as a No. 2. He is a guy who could find a role inside or outside this season, even though he was pretty stationary this spring. Third-year tackle Branden Bowen also fits here because as the team’s No. 3 offensive tackle, he could flip to the left or right side based on need.

Incoming freshman Wyatt Davis won’t be in Columbus until this summer, but based on the spring that I saw, he’s going to have a shot to come in and move up the depth chart somewhere on the inside. Michael Jordan earned a starting job, but he also did it in the spring. People forget, however, that it didn’t take Jordan long to start getting reps with the ones. He basically won the job in a matter of a week or two, and Davis will have much more time than that to make his impact.

Fifth-year senior captain Billy Price is going to be in line for all of the same accolades that Pat Elflein received one year before. He was completely comfortable this spring at a position that he has taken reps at since he was a redshirt freshman in 2014. Center isn’t new for him, just as it wasn’t for Elflein when he moved over. Price will be on plenty of preseason All-American lists.

It’s probably a good thing when you write an offensive line piece and get this far before talking about the starting left tackle. Jamarco Jones was fantastic in his first year of starting last season, and should be even better this year. Urban Meyer said he has gotten better and nobody I talked to during camp would disagree. There is a complete sense of confidence here. So much so that the position is almost an afterthought. If J.T. Barrett is a castle, then consider Jamarco Jones the moat.

Isaiah Prince had his struggles last year at right tackle. Everyone saw them. Urban Meyer says that Prince has improved, and that was apparent in the times that I saw him this spring. Last year was a learning experience and some people may forget that it wasn’t all bad. If it was, he wouldn’t have stayed in the lineup. Prince has the toughness and athleticism that Meyer wants. The talent is there as well. Not many guys can start on the offensive line in just their second year and look like world beaters. Look at what Jamarco Jones did in his third season. That’s where Prince is now, except he has an extra year of starting experience to look back on. I expect the Buckeyes to be just fine at right tackle. When Isaiah Prince is an All-B1G player this year, don’t be upset with me for gloating a bit at those who wanted his scholarship pulled numerous times over the last year.

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