Four starters return from last year’s Ohio State Offensive Line, which ranked 68th in the nation in allowing 28 sacks on the season. While there were moments of frustration — largely due to inconsistent play — the fact that a majority of the unit returns will prove to be the key piece in measuring the success of the offense.
Senior captain Billy Price moves to Center after starting 41 consecutive games at Guard for the Buckeyes. He has a chance to break the school record for most games played in a career (55) should the Bucks run the table. That record currently belongs to Rimington Award winner Pat Elflein, who has since departed for the NFL. Price will follow in Elflein’s footsteps and slide over to Center for his Senior campaign.
Price’s reps in the Spring Game proved there will be no drop-off at the Center position as he showed the ability to execute a wide range of blocks, including pulling to help against the edge rusher and working ACE blocks in unison with either Guard. As you will see in the video below, Price’s agility and awareness will play a prominent role in the offensive protection scheme in 2017.
The void at Right Guard will be heavily contested throughout Fall camp, and is one that could even fluctuate as the season rolls along. Redshirt Sophomore Matthew Burrell used a solid Spring to propel himself into the conversation, and displayed a well-rounded skill set in April’s Spring Game.
Burrell uses good hand timing and placement, as well as the ability to independently use his arms and legs to anchor versus opponents. Furthermore, Matthew uses good lateral agility and footwork to match defenders in pass protection and is most successful when he utilizes good pad level at the point of contact. This is something Burrell will have to execute consistently if he hopes to win the starting spot.
An intriguing piece to the Right Guard battle will be Redshirt Junior Malcolm Pridgeon. At 6’7” and 315lbs, Pridgeon certainly looks the part, but more indicative of his impact was his play in the Spring Game.
Pridgeon showed he is superb in run blocking. He maintains good hand placement and strength while driving his feet through the defender. The JUCO transfer showed surprising agility in reaching the second level. He also did a nice job of lining up his blocks versus Linebackers in space.
The true wild card will be the arrival of incoming Freshman Wyatt Davis. Some think he will be a “plug and play” player at Right Guard the moment he steps onto campus. Surely, Davis will have to prove his competence within the offensive playbook, as well as his ability to process the speed and complexities he will face at the next level. Regardless of who wins the starting position, the right side of the line appears to be in good shape heading into this coming season.
Josh Alabi – A standout defensive line prospect from Detroit Cass Tech, Alabi transitioned to offensive line this Spring. He enters his third season for the Buckeyes. Alabi showed natural ability at Left Tackle in the Spring Game. He executed difficult “Reach Blocks” in the Zone running attack and handling the speed of the Buckeye edge rushers well. Alabi will likely back up Jamarco Jones before pushing for a starting spot in 2018.