Let’s just get this out of the way up front. Redshirt sophomore center Josh Myers is not mean.
“A mean person? No,” said Myers, laughing.
The question about his demeanor made sense, though, since Myers has spent most of this fall being… well… not very nice to opposing defensive linemen. Myers is at the center of a rebuilt and revitalized OSU offensive line, which has produced incredible results on the ground this fall.
The Buckeyes rank No. 3 in the nation in line yards, which is basically a measure of how often the line gets enough push to get ball-carriers a few yards downfield.
They’re No. 7 in the country in power success rate (how often they convert 3rd or 4th-and short plays), and No. 3 in the nation in stuff rate (how often backs are stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage).
Those numbers are remarkable on their face, but even moreso when you consider where Ohio State ranked in those areas a year ago. OSU ranked 65th in line yards in 2018, 109th in power success rate, and 66th in stuff rate.
The line almost completely turned over after last season. In addition to Myers, LG Jonah Jackson transferred in from Rutgers, RG Wyatt Davis took over for the last two games of 2018, and RT Branden Bowen returned from injury.
They’re all entertaining during interviews, and see like pleasant enough humans. But nice guys don’t move piles the way this team’s offense line is.
“That’s a key thing of offensive line play is being a different person on the field than you are off the field,” Myers said.
It took a while for Myers to get to the point where he could run a line this good. He famously played his high school ball for a team that ran the wing-T and almost never passed the ball. That meant he came out of high school highly-touted as a run blocker, but with basically no clue how to pass protect.
“I had so many bad habits that were just natural in that aggressive offense that I had a break and it took a long time. And you know, I’m still working,” he said. “It’s not something that I’m ever going to have to stop working at. But it took a long time, and I wasn’t comfortable with my pass pro until probably about halfway through last season.”
Myers spent the summer of 2018 locked in a battle with redshirt senior Brady Taylor for the starting center job, before the coaching staff decided to move junior Michael Jordan over from guard instead. That was frustrating for Myers, but he says in the end, it was probably the right decision.
“Not winning that starting spot, I was upset and angry, just because I wanted it so bad. But looking back on it now, I probably wasn’t ready for it,” he said. “I had a full year, my redshirt freshman year, to develop. And that year was huge for me.”
When Jordan left early for the NFL Draft, the position was open again this season. This time, Myers left no doubt.
“I just approached it like I had something to prove and something to earn every single day. And I did. And that’s how I approached it every single morning. It was on my mind before practice and I want to make sure I didn’t let it slip,” he said.
Center requires more from players than any other spot on the line. Myers is in charge of making line calls before each snap to ensure all five blockers are on the same page.
“His responsibility is huge,” said RG Wyatt Davis. “If he’s not clear, then we’re all not clear, because the role that he’s playing he has to be concise with his calls. Otherwise, half the line is not going to know what they’re doing. And then without the line, you can’t really have much of an offense.”
Those line calls have to happen quickly, in the short window between when the Buckeyes get up to the offensive line and see the defense, and before they snap the ball.
“Basically he comes out and he looks for the backer that we’re going to,” said Davis. “You don’t want other teams knowing what’s going on. So he just goes and kind of points some guys out and from there, he’s making certain calls and whether who’s blocking who.
“It’s crazy because he does all this in the short couple seconds we have in order to snap the ball. He comes up, we all figure out what the play is, we look at the defense and he just starts guiding us.”
That’s a lot of pressure on Myers, but he’s started to make his peace with the fact that it’s not always going to go exactly right.
“Things happen so fast in the games. I think one of the hardest things about center, and about me as a player, is I always want to get it so right, which is one of the things I struggled with,” he said.
The line has to function as a unit. If they’re off, with one guy doing the wrong thing, it can blow up an otherwise perfect play. But functioning as a unit means that if they’re all wrong together, sometimes that means they can be right.
“We had a play in the Cincinnati game where one of us saw the signal wrong, but we were all on the same page,” said RT Branden Bowen. “It was a run play, we ran it the wrong way completely, and I think it was a 4th-and-2 or 3rd-and-3 or something like that, and we ended up getting like seven yards on it. It just goes to show, as long as we’re on the same page, good things will happen.”
Experiences like that have helped Myers back away from his quest for perfection.
“I think accepting that it’s not always going to be perfect and going fast and living with the call I make and what I do has helped me come a long way, especially even in this last month,” Myers said. “In a game it’s not going to be perfect. I’m not gonna have time to say what I want to say all the time. I just gotta go with it.”