Ohio State Buckeyes: Kyle Trout

Big Ten Friday mailbag

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
4:30
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I'm taking your questions for a third time this week, filling in the Friday time slot for the vacationing Rittenberg. I'll be gone myself next week, so this will be the last time I talk to you for a bit.

What do you got?

Doc from Scottsdale, Arizona, writes: What is your best case scenario for the Big Ten brand next season in regards to the Playoff? Assuming just one team gets into the Playoff, does it matter which school is there "representing" for the BIG or should just having a presence in the game be considered a victory for the league?

Brian Bennett: Best-case scenario, naturally, is winning a national title. Nothing enhances your brand quite like that. But the second part of your question is the important one, Doc. I think it's vital for the Big Ten to get a team into the Playoff this season. Conferences that don't take part in the four-team event will basically be irrelevant. I don't even think it matters if a Big Ten representative wins its semifinal as long as it is competitive (nightmare scenario: a blowout loss to the No. 2 SEC team in a semi.) Makes no difference which team from the league gets there, but the conference needs to make sure its champion is involved most years.


JR from Winchester, Virginia, writes: What signs or trends from the first few nonconference games will you be looking for that will telegraph what kind of year Nebraska will have? (Turnovers? Ability to pass the ball? Defensive line play?) Thanks.

Brian Bennett: You picked three good ones there, JR. Nebraska should have little to no trouble with its first two opponents, Florida Atlantic and McNeese State. Fresno State on the road in Week 3 could prove a bit dicier, but the Huskers should still win that game if they are a legitimate Big Ten contender. I want to see dominance, especially in the trenches and on that defensive line, in those first three games. I want to see Tommy Armstrong take care of the ball and show that he can make plays down the field. And mostly, I want to see Nebraska avoid some of the extreme mood swings and fluctuations we've witnessed in the past.

A great nonconference performance doesn't guarantee anything, because an injury or other adversity can strike any time. But it would be nice for the Huskers to avoid drama early on.


@TimShay17 via Twitter writes: The Badgers' passing game is their biggest question mark this season. Which is more of a concern: QB race or the unknowns at WR?

Brian Bennett: Good question, and I say it's the wide receivers. Joel Stave, at the very least, is a known quantity. The team won nine games with him as its starter last season, and an extra year of experience can only help him. If Tanner McEvoy beats out Stave, then it's because McEvoy is playing well in practice and offering an improvement. The receivers are still a giant question mark. It's anyone's guess who will lead this team in receiving this year after Wisconsin relied so heavily on Jared Abbrederis the past two seasons.


PurpleCatResurgence from Northbrook, Illinois, writes: Look I get it, Northwestern was sub-.500 last year, and the team still has some holes to fill, but the Cats are getting NO love in the national publications. This is almost the same team that if they get what, 5-6 plays go their way, they are a 9- or maybe even a 10-win team. They have a tough schedule this season, no doubt, but how many wins do you see this team achieving? In your view, what has to break right for this team to play in Indy this fall? Love the blog- Go Cats!

Brian Bennett: It is funny how quickly things can change. Northwestern was 4-0 and rising toward the top 15 heading into October last season. Then came the loss to Ohio State, the first of seven straight defeats, and now the Wildcats are basically off the national radar. Still, this is a team that won 10 games in 2012 and had been to five straight bowl games. As you said, Northwestern dealt with some serious bad luck in 2013, not only late in games but also with a ridiculous rash of injuries.

So Pat Fitzgerald's team could easily be one of the most improved in the Big Ten in 2014. Venric Mark is healthy again, and the offense has a solid identity behind Trevor Siemian. Plenty of talent returns on defense. The schedule is not easy, as the Wildcats drew Michigan and Penn State from the East Division and play at Notre Dame in November. On the other hand, the West does not appear to have any truly dominant teams. I definitely see the 'Cats getting back to a bowl. For them to truly contend for a division title, the offense needs to rediscover its explosiveness, and Fitzgerald will have to figure out how to get over the hump in some of those close games.


@mort_c15 via Twitter asks: Urban Meyer has said repeatedly that this year's freshmen will play will for OSU and few will redshirt. How many will, in your opinion, RS?

Brian Bennett: Meyer told me this spring, as he said often, that he made a mistake by not playing more true freshmen last season. He plans to avoid that in 2014. At the same time, he's not going to play freshmen just to play them. Barring injuries, it's safe to say that Raekwon McMillan, Johnnie Dixon, Curtis Samuel and Jalyn Holmes will play. Erick Smith could get a look at safety. Guys like Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker could force their way onto the field on special teams, at the very least. The more likely redshirt candidates are offensive linemen, like Kyle Trout and Brady Taylor, and quarterback Stephen Collier. Expect to see a lot of true freshmen on the field for the Buckeyes, but if a whole bunch of them are in key roles, that's probably not the best sign.


Dave from Columbus, Ohio, writes: There seems to be more time travelers here predicting how their favorite team (who has never shown the ability to win out) is going to just absolutely BEAT everyone, go undefeated and win the national championship. Yet you restrain yourself from laughing at them. Is it ever hard to do so?

Brian Bennett: I may have to hold back a chuckle or two. But that's the beauty of the preseason in college football (or any sport, really). Everybody's undefeated, and optimism abounds. Why punish that? The actual season will do that on its own.

Top position classes: OL 

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Not only did Alabama put together the best offensive line class in the 2014 cycle, but it's also one of the best in recent memory. The Crimson Tide inked early enrollee and five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe) and also got top-ranked junior college offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo). On the interior, the nation's top two centers, No. 168 overall Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal) and No. 190 J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) signed, as did No. 3 guard Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls). A second guard in the class is three-star Montel McBride (Plant City, Fla./Plant City), who could also play nose tackle at the next level.

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best offensive line class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer is always chasing the sizzle. What the Ohio State coach needed more than anything this time, though, was some steak.

Like usual, Meyer had skill players with speed in his recruiting class, a prerequisite for his spread offense and perhaps the type of target he annually covets above all else. But on the heels of a class that was light on linemen and with four senior starters walking out the door after last season, Meyer had no choice but to load up on big guys with his third class since taking over the Buckeyes.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer and Braxton Miller
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesWith four senior starters on the O-line leaving, Urban Meyer knew he had to sign some linemen to help protect Braxton Miller.
And he did exactly that, signing more offensive linemen than any other position. When all the paperwork was filed on Wednesday, Meyer had a group that might not be as flashy as the burners on the perimeter but ultimately figures to be the foundation for Ohio State’s future.

“Last year was a [recruiting] disappointment in the offensive line,” Meyer said. “I’d say two of the five this year have to be in the depth, and we recruited as such.

“Typically you don’t put freshmen in there early, but these guys have got mature bodies and they’re fairly mature men.”

Certainly the newcomers aren’t as physically developed as the veterans who just graduated, and obviously they don’t have anywhere near the experience competing at the Big Ten level. But based on the numbers and the talent on hand, the Buckeyes may have no choice but to plug a couple true freshmen at least into the two-deep depth chart as they rebuild the unit almost from scratch.

Taylor Decker is the lone holdover, and Meyer confirmed that the junior is set to move from right tackle to left as part of the transition. Pat Elflein handled himself well at guard in place of Marcus Hall late in the season, and he’s a safe bet to lock down another starting job. Jacoby Boren has played in reserve and impressed on the practice field, and he will move into the lineup at center. The rest of the rotation is currently written in pencil, which if nothing else at least leaves the possibility open that a fresh face could make a push for playing time.

With such precious cargo at quarterback, though, the Buckeyes would surely prefer to plug in a player who has at least been through a season with the program to help protect Braxton Miller. Their options, however, are somewhat limited after signing just two linemen a year ago, losing one of them before the season and ultimately moving a defender to the other side of the ball to help make up for it.

“I think last year’s smallness in numbers certainly led to an increased urgency to have to go sign those guys,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “But with last year, at Ohio State we’re not just going to sign a guy just to fill a spot. If we don’t think he can help us win a national championship, we’re not going to sign him. Those guys weren’t out there towards the end of recruiting last year, so that put us in a dire need of urgency this year.

“Really the entire staff did a great job coming through with five offensive linemen, and all five of them, none of them are guys who you would think would be reaches at Ohio State.”

Out of that bunch that earned their offers, Jamarco Jones had his name pop up most frequently as a crucial signee and possible option to lend a hand early, with Demetrius Knox not far behind him. Brady Taylor, a late flip from Virginia Tech, caught Meyer’s eye as well after getting up to 295 pounds and could emerge as a guy he said “could sneak in the depth fairly quickly.”

On top of that, the Buckeyes also have a pair of true freshmen linemen already on campus in Marcelys Jones and Kyle Trout, potentially giving them a chance to acclimate quickly and make an impression during spring practice as the Buckeyes sort through the candidates on hand. But even if none of them wind up as regulars by the end of the season, the day surely isn’t all that far off when all those speed-burners Meyer is stockpiling are counting on the latest group of beefy blockers to give them room to work.

“Our toys are very useless,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said, “until we take care of that front.”
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Either way, Urban Meyer admitted he was going to put on a smile.

After going down to the wire with one of his most important targets, the Ohio State coach made it clear that the one he was sporting on signing day on Wednesday was genuine and not the fake one he thought he might need if Jamarco Jones spurned his program.

Instead Jones delivered some good news on the phone, and the rest of the committed recruits all faxed in signatures without incident, Ohio State tacked on one unexpected addition and Meyer didn't need to force any grins after again putting together the best class in the Big Ten.

Jamarco Jones
Jared Shanker/ESPNGetting Jamarco Jones to sign with Ohio State helped make it a winning day for the Buckeyes.
"I think we won today," Meyer said. "I made it clear to our guys, I'm very pleased with their efforts. That was a good class."

Missing out on Jones after he flirted late in the process with Michigan State might have changed Meyer's tune, though there still would have been plenty of talent coming to campus even if the talented offensive lineman hadn't decided to stick with his pledge to the Buckeyes.

But in the end, Meyer had little to complain about after putting the finishing touches on his third batch of signees with Ohio State. Now the real work begins for the Buckeyes, but not before taking a look at what they accomplished on national signing day.

Biggest need filled: Offensive line

  • The Buckeyes notably came up short on the recruiting trail last year in an effort to add depth to the offensive line, and with four senior starters departing after the Orange Bowl, they couldn't afford to miss out on big bodies again. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman got exactly what they needed to bolster that critical position group, and they're expecting at least two of the five linemen they signed this year to at least be in the two-deep by the fall. Kyle Trout and Marcelys Jones are already on campus, but it was Jamarco Jones who drew the most mentions from Meyer on Wednesday and was hailed as the make-or-break player in the class. Throw in Demetrius Knox and Brady Taylor and the future should be in good shape again up front.
Late surprise: Darius Slade

  • Around noon, Meyer left the door open to potentially add one more player to the class, despite coming up short in a head-to-head battle with Michigan State for Malik McDowell and already having signed letters from the rest of the anticipated class. A couple hours later, Meyer once again unveiled a late surprise, swooping in for defensive lineman Darius Slade, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who had been committed to the Spartans before his change of heart. Meyer gave all the credit to new defensive line coach Larry Johnson for that final addition, and an already deep, talented group added one more talented piece.
Deepest position: Linebacker

  • The crown jewel of the class was already on campus for the Buckeyes, and after catching a glimpse of Raekwon McMillan working out on Wednesday morning, Meyer suggested he could easily be confused with an upperclassmen given how mature he already appears physically. But he's not the only linebacker Meyer is counting on to lend a hand as quickly as possible at the thinnest position on the roster, and the other three options all seem to be just as appealing for the Buckeyes. Sam Hubbard, Dante Booker Jr. and Kyle Berger won't have the benefit of going through spring practice like McMillan, but the foursome collectively had praise heaped on them -- and Meyer vowed there were "no redshirt plans for those players at all."
Instant impact candidates: Offensive skill players

  • The handy guide for predicting the likelihood of a freshman making a big splash, per Herman: The further away a player lines up from the snap, the better the chances. Given both the need for more playmakers on the perimeter and the speedy guys they signed, the search for new Buckeyes who might leave the biggest mark this fall starts with the wide receivers and another potential hybrid weapon. Noah Brown, Parris Campbell Jr., Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin all bring the kind of game-changing athleticism Ohio State covets so desperately, and there should be playing time to be had at receiver. But it's the dual threat Curtis Samuel could pose as both a target in the passing game and as a rusher that really seemed to have the coaching staff fired up, and like Dontre Wilson a year ago, he could become a factor in a hurry.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's no shortage of talent in the bunch, and Ohio State has several holes on the roster where it might be able to use the influx of talent.

But no spot matches up a pressing need with an elite newcomer quite the way five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan does, and his official confirmation as a member of the program looms largest out of a group of seven unveiled by the Buckeyes on Friday.

Raekwon McMillan
Courtesy of IntersportRaekwon McMillan is ranked No. 13 in the ESPN 300 and is the No. 1 inside linebacker.
Ohio State has two starters returning at the position in Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, and both were solid in their first seasons in full-time gigs. But there was little depth behind the first unit, and with Ryan Shazier skipping his senior season to declare for the NFL draft, there will be a noticeable sense of urgency to identify both a new starter and to fill out the second unit when spring practice rolls around.

Having the No. 1 inside linebacker in the ESPN 300 on campus in time for that competition should be a benefit, particularly if it allows McMillan to get a jump on a transition that can be difficult at his position as the coaches try to find a way to tap into a combination of size and speed that made him so coveted as a recruit.

He's not alone in bringing impressive measurable athleticism to Urban Meyer's third recruiting class, and McMillan isn't the only one of the early enrollees who the Buckeyes could find a use for quickly. Offensive linemen Marcelys Jones and Kyle Trout might find their way into the two-deep chart quickly. Wide receiver Johnnie Dixon and hybrid Curtis Samuel don't have many veteran players to try to hurdle for playing time. Kicker Sean Nuernberger could leave camp with the starting job. Quarterback Stephen Collier has generated excitement from the staff as well, but Braxton Miller is back along with two other quarterbacks, and that depth will allow him some time to develop.

McMillan probably won't have that same luxury, though Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson both were brought along slowly by the Buckeyes after their heralded signings a year ago. Now that McMillan has officially arrived, the Buckeyes can judge for themselves how long it will take to get him and the rest of the newcomers on the field.

But at least for the moment, McMillan's reputation and Ohio State's needs appear to match up perfectly.

Midyear signings: Ohio State

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
1:49
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According to ESPN's Tom VanHaaren, the following players have enrolled at Ohio State:

Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County
HT: 6-foot-2 WT: 249 pounds
Position rank: No. 1
Stars: 5
ESPN 300: No. 13

Johnnie Dixon, WR, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer
HT: 5-11 WT: 197
Position rank: No. 5
Stars: 4
ESPN 300: No. 34

Curtis Samuel, ATH, Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus
HT: 5-11 WT: 186
Position rank: No. 20
Stars: 4
ESPN 300: No. 153

Kyle Trout , OT, Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster
HT: 6-6 WT: 301
Position rank: No. 26
Stars: 3

Marcelys Jones, OT, Cleveland/Glenville
HT: 6-4 WT: 325
Position rank: No. 49
Stars: 3

Sean Nuernberger, K, Buckner, Ky./Oldham County
HT: 6-2 WT: 220
Position rank: No. 9
Stars: 3

Stephen Collier, QB-PP, Leesburg, Ga./Lee County
HT: 6-3 WT: 205
Position rank: No. 41
Stars: 3

The Big Ten Conference never rests. The proof is in another week full of headlines as Illinois and Wisconsin prepare for big official visit weekends.

Iowa is all over the recruiting trail on its bye week and Ohio State -- as it usually does -- is bringing news on almost a daily basis.


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It’s called the Big Ten Conference for a reason.

From big offers, to big official visits to big commitments, the Big Ten has been abuzz with activity.

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18-0 going a long way for OSU in 2014 

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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Urban Meyer said Ohio State has to seize momentum when it has it in when it comes to recruiting during a bye week.

Coming off two big wins over then-nationally ranked Wisconsin at home and currently ranked Northwestern on the road certainly doesn’t hurt. Then again, neither does having the nation’s longest winning streak at 18 games.

[+] EnlargeStephen Collier
Tom Hauck for Student SportsLeesburg, Ga., quarterback commit Stephen Collier was drawn to the winning ways of Urban Meyer and Ohio State.
While the computers haven’t taken notice and writers are skeptical of a weak conference and not-too-strong nonconference schedule, the future is buying in and it’s buying in big time.

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Big name visitors set to invade Ohio State 

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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Urban Meyer doesn’t miss an opportunity to impress.


The two-time national champion did it last year when Nebraska played Ohio State in The Horseshoe under the lights and he’s not missing the opportunity this year.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger names scheduled to make the trek to the banks of the Olentangy River for the Buckeyes-Badgers game Saturday evening.

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Best Big Ten classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
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Each class within the Big Ten has its strengths and weaknesses, but there is a lot of talent joining the conference. Here is a look at the top classes in the Big Ten by position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Penn State


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There are still big holes to fill in recruiting for the 2014 class and top targets still on the board. A lot of position groups are being addressed in recruiting, but not many have been completely filled.

Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the most important position for each Big Ten team in the 2014 class.


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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
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It’s time to dip into the Big Ten recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions. We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered. We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter to @bbournival or @TomVH. Feel free to email us as well at brad.bournival.espn@gmail.com or TomVHESPN@gmail.com.

@UMKirwin12: Which teams are in place to pull in the best group of recruits at each position?

Tom VanHaaren: If I can use my own criteria, then I’ll give you a few answers. Right now Michigan has the No. 1-ranked cornerback in Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) and is still in the conversation with three ESPN 300 defensive backs, so I would give the secondary narrowly to Michigan because of Peppers.

Ohio State is right there with the commitment of Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) and the potential to add Cleveland Glenville teammates Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith.

I think Ohio State takes the cake for offensive linemen, but I’m going to throw a few curveballs for a few other groups. I like Northwestern’s running back haul with the 31st- 36th- and 51st-ranked backs already in the class. That’s two four-star running backs and one who's close.

I also like Penn State’s wide receiver haul led by No. 6 ranked athlete De'andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro) and Chris Godwin (Middletown, De./Middletown), the No. 21-ranked receiver.

Michigan’s wide receiver class is also very good, so I’d include the Wolverines on the list.

There is a reason Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern are all ranked higher than the other Big Ten teams, though. They have the best classes in the conference, which means they have the best players.

@buckeyfan686: If a highly rated offensive tackle commits to Ohio State, do you think they still go after Chad Mavety since he is more likely ready to play next year?

Brad Bournival: That is an excellent question and one that really depends on the numbers. If the Buckeyes can grab ESPN 300 tackles Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) or Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon), that would give them a force up front for the next four years with ESPN 300 guard Demetrius Knox (Ft. Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal) and ESPN 300 tackle Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle) in the mix already.

Add Marcelys Jones (Cleveland/Glenville) and Kyle Trout (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster) and the 2014 class is versatile as well. That said, if Ohio State can massage the numbers and still stay under the NCAA sanctions, getting an attractive piece like Mavety might be too good to pass up. He’d essentially have three seasons to play two, so yes if the piece is there and the Buckeyes can work some magic, they could still take six offensive linemen in this class.

@MeechignAdbug1: Who is winning the recruiting battle right now (for 2014), Urban Meyer or Brady Hoke?

VanHaaren: If you are judging strictly by which team gained a commitment from a prospect that held an offer from the opposing school, then it’s a tie. Both teams have seven commitments from prospects that held offers from the other team.

If you look at the rankings of those players, then it’s Michigan. Peppers is the biggest at No. 2 overall.

Ohio State has seven ESPN 300 commitments, but five of them held Michigan offers. Michigan has nine ESPN 300 commitments and six held Ohio State offers. There are still some prospects out there who have yet to make commitments, which could swing it in either direction. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) still has Michigan in it, and could very well end up a Wolverine. We’ll have to wait until signing day for the final answer, but right now I would say Michigan is leading the race.

stevejeffers@comcast.net: Who rounds out Ohio State’s recruiting class?

Bournival: First let’s go through the locks, who I believe to be four-star athletes Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus) and Lattimore. After that, I really think inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) is part of this class, as is Erick Smith. Then you have to start looking at the numbers crunch. I think they miss on Prince and Bookser and nab Mavety. That leaves room for maybe two more, though I don’t know if the Buckeyes will use them. I still think defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Abraham Lincoln) picks Ohio State, and the Buckeyes could take either tight end Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) or wide receiver Noah Brown (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII) to round it out, though don’t be surprised if either comes to Ohio State.

@bmartinez51: Peyton Newell is deciding Aug. 30. Does he seem Nebraska bound?

VanHaaren: As you mentioned, the defensive tackle is announcing his decision on Aug. 30 and will be deciding at his high school at 2:30 p.m. local time.

The finalists on his list are Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska and South Carolina. Nebraska fans think they have a good chance, but a few other schools have put up a good fight.

South Carolina would be a tough school to say no to, but Nebraska would be a good fit for Newell.

Position preview: Offensive line

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
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Breaking down the Ohio State roster as training camp heats us and the program turns its attention to the opener on Aug. 31 against Buffalo.

OFFENSIVE LINE

[+] EnlargeJack Mewhort
Kirk Irwin/Getty ImagesAn Ohio State offensive line that returns four starters is anchored by Jack Mewhort.
Top of the depth chart: From left to right, Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall and Taylor Decker

Next in line: The backup spots don’t have to be quite as precise given the flexibility of some reserves capable of playing multiple spots, with Chase Farris likely the first man up if injuries strike at either guard or tackle. Darryl Baldwin has impressed during training camp and provides depth on the edge, and Pat Elflein has emerged as a viable option on the interior. Jacoby Boren spent time filling in for Linsley when he was injured during spring practice and early this month, and the sophomore’s work ethic and family history with the program is well documented.

New faces: The Buckeyes didn’t do much to restock the cupboards with the most recent signing class, and a class of blockers that only included two names dropped to one this season when Tim Gardner was sent home following an off-the-field incident. That leaves just Evan Lisle, who has shown some potential but would likely benefit from a year to develop on the sideline before getting thrown in the mix.

Recruiting trail: With four seniors set to move on from the program after this season, coach Urban Meyer made it clear since signing day in February that he has to bring in a strong class of linemen to pave the way for the future. He would have liked to have done that in 2012, obviously, but he’s off to a strong start with the next group after getting pledges from ESPN300 picks Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle) and Demetrius Knox (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal). The Buckeyes also have commitments from tackles Kyle Trout (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster) and Marcelys Jones (Cleveland/Glenville), reinforcing the importance of targeting the line in the 2013 class.

Flexibility: Returning four senior starters doesn’t leave much room for movement on the first unit, and the strong start to camp for sophomore Taylor Decker erased the only real question mark heading into the opener. Farris and Baldwin have each been able to push for work at times at right tackle, but Decker’s brute strength and knowledge of the game has given him a leg up and given line coach Ed Warinner little to worry about with his starting unit.

Notable numbers:

• The work hasn’t all come at one spot, but one way or another, the Buckeyes have been able to count on inking Mewhort’s name in the starting lineup for quite some time now. The season opener against Buffalo will mark his 26th consecutive start, a string that has included appearances at left guard, right guard and the position he locked down for all of last fall, left tackle.

• For all the hype about the spread offense and what it would do for the passing attack in 2012, the Buckeyes ultimately relied much more on power and a smash-mouth ground game thanks to the nasty attitude and physical approach up front in Meyer’s first season. Ohio State rushed twice as often as it passed, turning those 559 total carries into an average of 242 yards per game and finishing the season as one of the top running teams in the nation.

• The offensive line wasn’t necessarily on the hook for all the sacks on Braxton Miller last season, but given the quarterback’s mobility and the experience returning, they should be able to cut down dramatically on the 30 takedowns they allowed in 2012. Miller is a better decision-maker moving into his junior season and that should get the ball out quicker and provide some help for the line. But the big guys also appear capable of establishing a more comfortable pocket.

Big question: Is Taylor Decker ready?

The Buckeyes weren’t ready to pronounce the sophomore a starter leaving spring practice, and Decker himself admitted that he hadn’t earned the right after 15 workouts in March and April. The coaching staff has already seen enough in August to trust him with that responsibility, though, and it comes with expectations that could hardly be higher. From a broad perspective, the Buckeyes are planning to contend for a national title. From a position-specific angle, Meyer has made it well known that everything starts in the trenches, and he wants nothing less than the best offensive line in the Big Ten -- for starters. With four proven commodities from an unbeaten team returning, the focus will be on the new guy to meet the standard.
Jamarco JonesJared Shanker/ESPNESPN 300 lineman Jamarco Jones believes Ohio State's line could be the best in the country.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's no secret Ohio State missed on the offensive line by only grabbing tackles Evan Lisle (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) and Tim Gardner (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central) in the 2013 recruiting class.

Gardner won't be part of the program this season after some off-field issues, and the Buckeyes are losing four senior starters after this season.

Urban Meyer has said his offensive line might be the best in the Big Ten this season, but what about the future?

One 2014 pledge's view is just as optimistic, despite the fact the Buckeyes would have only 13 scholarship linemen if next year was now at Ohio State.


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