Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Spring forward: Guards, center analysis
By Austin Ward
Corey Linsley is expected to continue to add stability on the offensive line.
With national signing day in the books, the next big date on the Ohio State calendar as it continues working toward an encore for an undefeated season in 2013 is spring practice. Before those workouts begin, BuckeyeNation will take a look at each position to see where the roster is at -- and where it's going.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Who's back: The central nervous system of the offense returns completely intact, starting with the anchor who will be looking to build off a banner year in the middle of everything. Corey Linsley's transition to center went perhaps more smoothly than anybody at Ohio State could have expected, and in addition to limiting himself to a handful of errant snaps, his ability to handle the mental load was critical for an attack that wants to push the tempo. With both guards returning on either side of him with Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell also trying to take their games to a higher level, the Buckeyes are loaded in important spots up front and capable of putting up even more points than they did in Urban Meyer's first year with the program.
New face:Jacoby Boren isn't new to the rotation after backing up Linsley at center last fall and his name is certainly familiar to the Buckeyes given the success of his older brothers, so he doesn't really qualify as a fresh face. But in his second season with the program, Ohio State will still be monitoring his development both as insurance for Linsley in the short term and to make sure he's ready to handle the load on a full-time basis down the road. The only two linemen the Buckeyes signed in 2013, Evan Lisle and Tim Gardner, won't be practicing with the team until August.
Projected spring depth chart: Heading into the 15 workouts starting in March, the two-deep roster figures to look almost exactly like it did in November when the Buckeyes closed out the perfect season with a win over Michigan. Linsley will solidify the line at center with Norwell on his left and Hall on his right, with Boren snapping for the second-team group with Antonio Underwood and Chase Farris likely backing up at the guard spots.
Numbers game: In case anybody had forgot, Meyer offered no shortage of reminders that he would be aggressive with his offense on the field. And with a physical, hard-blocking group of linemen capable of consistently winning battles up front when it needed to pick up a couple yards, he showed no hesitation to roll the dice on fourth down and wound up finishing No. 1 in the country last fall in terms of conversion percentage. The Buckeyes shared the top spot with Clemson, picking up first downs on their last chance nearly 78 percent of the time -- one season removed from posting a mark of just 50 percent.
One to watch: There are seniors returning at both guard spots and neither did much to give ground away last season when it came to playing time. But on more than one occasion, Meyer went out of his way to recognize the push Farris was making to try to steal some away, an effort that will once again pick back up with invaluable reps in spring camp for the converted defensive lineman. The rising sophomore didn't have the benefit of working on his blocking mechanics or competing against Hall or Norwell at this time a year ago, when he was still on the other side of the ball and left those practices on the two-deep at defensive end. But his transition progressed well enough to routinely catch the eye of Meyer in practice last fall, and at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds with good mobility, he'll be watched closely again next month.
He said it: "I see development. Chase Farris right now is on fire. You don't know Chase Farris, but some day we're going to talk about him, because his development has been great." -- Meyer in October