The fact that Ohio State has failed to produce many quality offensive line prospects in the last 10-12 years was one of the worst-kept secrets of Jim Tressel. Former offensive line coach Jim Bollman was notorious for developing linemen with poor technique and at times looking lost and out of shape on the field.
Ironically, it was current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer that exposed Ohio State's poor offensive line play when he was the head coach at Florida during the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.
Now that Meyer has come full circle back to OSU, he is working to try to turn the position around after having only one lineman drafted in the first round since Tressel became head coach (Nick Mangold in 2006).
Part of the reason for Ohio State's offensive line woes has been the conditioning of the linemen up front. Thanks to new strength coach Mickey Marotti's new techniques as well as instituting a program-wise nutrition plan, the current crop of linemen are getting more acclimated to the type of linemen that Meyer wants to have: Big guys that can run.
Meyer's new blueprint for offensive linemen are reflected by the second thing that he has brought to try to improve this portion of the team: recruiting.
He signed Taylor Decker, Joey O'Connor and Kyle Dodson, three athletic linemen that each run very well, to his first class in 2012. Meyer also has a verbal commitment from Centerville (Ohio) OT Evan Lisle, highly considered one of the top prospects in Ohio, for the class of 2013.
While it's unlikely most of them will get significant playing time next season, it's pretty apparent that given the lack of proven playmakers on offense, the offensive line will have to be stronger to keep Braxton Miller on his feet.
New offensive line coach Ed Warriner is highly regarded as one of the top line coaches when he was at Notre Dame. He has his work cut out for him this season as he not only has to replace three long-time starters up front, but he has little proven depth to work with at this time. They will have to replace both starting tackles as well as the starting center, which are by far the most important positions up front.
Andrew Norwell is expected to be the left tackle this year, while converted TE Reid Fragel will likely fill the right tackle vacancy. Sophomore Brian Bobek, barring injury, will start at center.
Meyer will have to hope that they can do the job, at least adequately, so that the offense has time to grow this season.
It's been a while since Ohio State has had good offensive line play for a significant amount of time. And against good teams, mediocre line play isn't good enough. The Gator Bowl loss was proof of that, as well as losses to Purdue and Miami.
Plain and simple, the success of the Buckeye offense is reliant on two things: Braxton Miller and the offensive line.
If the front line holds up, Miller's job becomes much, much easier.
If not, he will spend this year much like last year—running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
And if Meyer is hoping to turn Miller into another Alex Smith/Tim Tebow superstar QB, he needs him to be upright and to have the time to make things happen. When he gets good, consistent offensive line play, that will help his growth tremendously.
As they always say, games are usually won or lost in the trenches.
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