Evolution of a Slob

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osuHelmetLooking back on Urban Meyer’s Monday afternoon press conference after the debacle that was the Virginia Tech game makes sense now. The head coach of the Buckeyes kept the mood light while cracking jokes with members of the local media and overall was in a shockingly upbeat mood. Everyone in attendance seemed to be caught off guard, expecting a surly head coach after an upset loss at home to an unranked opponent. Where was the coach who retired due to stress at Florida? Where was the guy eating pizza alone in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium? Did he know then what we all know now?

The Slobs, as they are affectionately known, have gone through one hell of a transformation since that gruesome late summer night in The Horseshoe. Seven sacks (six on 11 snaps!!), countless pressures and three interceptions were all that most people would take away from the loss to Virginia Tech. Despite the abysmal performance, Urban remained wholeheartedly positive and stuck with his young and inexperienced big boys upfront. Many of the questions he faced after the loss were directed towards the interior of his offensive line and their struggles against VT’s vaunted and unexpected bear front. Urban stayed true to form; “I have a lot of confidence that some of these young people (on the offensive line), now they’re veteran guys, that are going to get better and better each week.” Most fans and journalists alike took that as typical coach speak – don’t throw anyone under the bus, improve, don’t overreact, be positive blah blah blah. Looking back now, that statement would prove to be prophetic. The unit did in fact improve each week, leading the way up front for the explosive Buckeye offense to average over 270 rush yards and 6.4 ypc during the final 8 games of their historic national title run. Those numbers include an astronomical 565 yards on the ground during the inaugural College Football Playoffs against the top two ranked teams in the country. How was Ed Warinner able to use his wizard like sorcery (again) to turn the Buckeye offensive line into one of the most dominating units in the country? The key was the transformation that took place along the interior of that line with Billy Price, Jacoby Boren and Pat Elflein.

These three were not highly celebrated coming out of high school, unlike many of their counterparts on the offensive line. All three hail from the great state of Ohio, but only Billy Price garnered 4-star status by any of the recruiting services. Boren was oft labeled as undersized and not strong enough to compete at the highest of levels. Elflein was the lowest rated recruit at his position under Urban Meyer. In fact, Elflein has Kyle Kalis to thank for even being enrolled at The Ohio State University. Elflein was rated near the 1000th player in his class. He was only offered after Kalis flipped from the good guys to the bad guys. Billy Price was always known for his strength, but perhaps better known for his prowess on the other side of the ball, where he shined in high school and many saw him starting for the Buckeyes. After September 7th 2014, the fears of many Buckeye fans were realized. The re-built offensive line under Ed Warinner was leaky. It was disorganized. Confused. Lacked depth. Urban Meyer knew it would take time. Warinner knew it would take time. Even the players themselves knew the task of replacing one of the best offensive lines in football would be a process. Not many expected the transformation to happen so quickly.

Fast forward to Fall Camp 2015 and Pat Elflein is a First Team All-Big Ten performer and attracting the attention of many NFL scouts. Jacoby Boren has been labeled as one of Urban’s favorite players on the team and an unquestioned leader upfront. Billy Price may have taken the furthest strides of any offensive lineman last season. He was abused during that Virginia Tech game, often looking like a defensive tackle filling in across the line of scrimmage. By the time the college football playoffs had begun he was a new player. Price now understands how to utilize his herculean strength to move and turn defenders in the run game and how to remain stout against the interior pass rush he struggled with early in the season. These three epitomize the term “Slobs”. They embrace the dirty work, and whoever starts at QB for the Buckeyes this year will undoubtedly give them the appreciation they deserve.

Quick Hits: Individual Interior OL Highlights

Boren (Sr.): When Urban first met the youngest Boren he thought maybe he could be a blocking fullback. Let’s just say Urban had his doubts based on Boren’s squatty stature and slight frame. Hell, you couldn’t blame him. Boren is one of the smaller O-lineman you will see at the power five level. He is listed on the official roster at 6’2 285 (realistically he plays around 6 even) but his low center of gravity and bulldog like mentality allow him to match up against the much larger nose tackles lined up across him. He also may be one of the smartest players on the team, as he is a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar for having a GPA above 3.70 for the prior academic year. After the Sugar Bowl, Urban was showering Jacoby with praise, “He’s tough, a very good player. Great leader, great team guy. I love Jacoby.” No longer a fullback, huh coach?

Elflein (rJr.): Only member of the Slobs to garner 1st Team All-Big Ten honors. Stepped in admirably for Marcus Hall during the end of the 2013 regular season against Michigan and in the B1G Title game against the Spartans. Good size for a guard and moves extremely well while packing a punch at the point of attack. The most consistent of the interior lineman – he rarely makes mistakes. Buckeyes will pull Elflein regularly to get him to the next level and take advantage of his surprising athleticism. Ranked as the number one OG in his class according to nfldraftscout.com, he may have a decision to make at the conclusion of the season.

Price (rSo.): He skrong. Price is the strongest player on the team and the most improved of the o-line group since the loss to VT. His bench maxes at nearly 500lbs and he’s done 34 reps of 225, which would have placed him 6th at this year’s NFL Combine. Oh yea – he’s only going to be a sophomore. Great size for a guard at 6’4 315. Developed into a Freshman All-American by the time the season concluded. Price will be playing on Sundays if he progresses at his current rate. (5th among OG in his class according to nfldraftscout.com)

Lisle (rSo.): Make or break season for Lisle. Entering his third season with the Buckeyes, Lisle has yet to make any significant impact. Started out at Tackle and has a fantastic frame at 6’7 and 310 allowing him to be one of the more versatile players along the line. He has not seen any game action but was able to receive a load of reps this spring at RG while Elflein was nursing an injury. Lisle will be pushed by the freshman below him for time and this is his year to prove he belongs.

Knox (rFr.): The consensus four-star out of the Lone star state battled through injuries during his freshman campaign resulting in a redshirt year. Reportedly he was having a solid spring before he was again slowed by injuries, and is just now nearing 100%. Has all the talent in the world to succeed, just needs to find a way to stay healthy and remain aggressive in practice. Big opportunity for him this fall camp to impress the coaches.

Burrell (Fr.): Last but certainly not least we have the top-100 recruit out of Virginia. The Buckeyes recruited Burrell extremely hard and it’s easy to see why. Big and athletic frame at 6’4 300, he has already lost some 20lbs since stepping foot on campus this summer which has allowed him to gain quickness off the snap and increased stamina. Most of the o-line recruits in Burrell’s class (Feder, Prince, Bowen, and maybe even Schmidt) project early on at Tackle, so I see a great opportunity here for early playing time. I would be shocked if Burrell redshirted and wouldn’t be surprised to see him push Lisle/Knox for a spot in the two-deep. My prediction: You see Burrell a good amount this season.

Predicting the 3-Deep
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
T. Decker B. Price J. Boren P. Elflein C. Farris
J. Jones D. Knox P. Elflein E. Lisle I. Prince
K. Trout M. Burrell B. Price M. Burrell B. Taylor

Redshirts
K. Feder, G. Schmidt, B. Bowen

Comments

  1. Awesome job writing about some underappreciated folks. Kudos

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