For an offensive lineman, knuckles are merely a suggestion for which way fingers should bend. And knee braces are guardrails to keep ligaments from being driven off the road.
There’s a reason “in the trenches” is part of football vernacular. It is organized chaos carried about by 300-pounders who are trying to move other 300-pounders. It’s a ballet of violence held in a mosh pit of brute force and it requires a level of toughness that weeds people out very early on.
For any offensive lineman to get through that weeding-out process and end up at Ohio State, toughness isn’t second nature, it’s first.
Endearingly known as the Slobs, the Ohio State offensive line prides itself on being tough enough to thrive in a very difficult environment.
“The Big Ten is the most physical conference in college football, so you’ve got to bring your lunch pail every day,” left tackle Jamarco Jones said in the spring. “You’ve got to go to work. It’s going to be a physical battle every game no matter who you’re playing against. Whether it’s a team below .500 or a team competing for a Big Ten championship. Every game you’ve got to bring it.”
But it’s not just physical toughness that is required.
“We can go on and on about this one,” center Billy Price said. “As a program, we have to be the forefront of this program. As you saw in games that we struggled as a team, the offensive line struggled. Games that we absolutely dominate and blow people out, the offensive line is dominating and blowing people out. You have to be tough.
“Any generation that is coming in is physically going to be more soft. Kids don’t understand about the accountability aspect thing. People have to be accountable about things, and people have to be accountable here. Accountability is tough. You have to be smart. You can’t come in and play offensive line and be the quarterback of the offense essentially up front without knowing the playbook. So we’re seeing a lot guys put in their time and have that accountability and that maturity growth to really be able to demonstrate what it means to be an offensive lineman.”
Accountability for an offensive lineman means that on any given play, they can be responsible for the quarterback getting blindsided and potentially ending a very promising season. To keep that from happening, an offensive lineman has to be as tough or tougher than his opponent. They have to win many more battles than they lose, because one lost battle can lose the entire war.
That’s a lot of pressure, and it takes an incredible amount of work. It’s certainly not for everybody, but it can be cultivated.
“It’s kind of you do or you don’t (want to be tough),” Price said. “It’s something that Coach Warinner and Coach Vrabel when I was first here, kind of helped instill that and helped me continue to develop and grow. But again, it’s a choice. Do you really want this or do you want to take the easy route out?”
The easy route can sometimes get a bad rap. It works for water, after all. For an offensive lineman, however, “the easy route” will eventually become his nickname if he isn’t tough enough to stand up to the defensive linemen across from him.
That’s why toughness isn’t optional. It is coached, preached, taught, and empowered by offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Without it, the rest is just wishful thinking, and wishful thinking doesn’t really do much when it comes to opening a hole on fourth-and-one in overtime against the team up north.
“We all love coach Stud and he preaches toughness and technique,” Jones said. “Toughness and effort a lot of times overcomes bad technique. You can make a mistake, but as long as you’re giving effort and you’re tough out there, he’s all for it. He can help you fix your technique.”