Today’s “Future of Ohio State Recruiting” brought to you by the offensive line. These guys up front give quarterbacks enough time to make throws and open up holes for running backs to run for big gains. Over the past two seasons, Ohio State has enjoyed arguably two of the best offensive lines in college football, and it all boils down to recruiting the right guys and developing them into quality starters. The Buckeyes lost Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren, and Chase Farris from the 2015 roster, and the team hopes to replace them with the abundance of young talent that have been waiting on the sidelines. Regardless of talent, replacing 3/5ths of an offensive line unit is a challenge. Luckily the line will have early home games against Bowling Green and Tulsa so the young guys can get meaningful playing time in a friendly environment before what’s likely to be a prime-time night game showdown in Norman. The earlier they can develop a rapport and get into a rhythm, the faster they can grow together and develop as a unit.
The only certainties going into this season are Pat Elflein at center, Billy Price at left guard, and recently-named starter Jamarco Jones at left tackle. The other two spots are up for grabs, and the battles will continue up until fall practice finishes. Isaiah Prince and freshman Michael Jordan have stood out in spring ball and have a slight edge heading into the fall camp. However, guys like Malcolm Pridgeon, a former JUCO standout, and redshirt freshman Matthew Burrell may come in and push for immediate playing time. Demitrius Knox, Brady Taylor, Branden Bowen and whoever loses out on the RG/RT battle in fall camp should see some playing time this year on the second unit. It seems like Evan Lisle and Kyle Trout have been recruited over, so their chances at playing time are looking bleak. It should be interesting to see who lines up where when the Buckeyes take the field against Bowling Green the first weekend in September.
2016 Projected Depth Chart:
LT: Jamarco Jones – Junior
– Kevin Feder – Freshman (RS)
LG: Billy Price – Junior (RS)
– Demetrius Knox – Sophomore (RS)
C: Pat Elflein – Senior (RS)
– Brady Taylor – Sophomore (RS)
RG: Michael Jordan – Freshman
– Malcolm Pridgeon – Junior
RT: Isaiah Prince – Sophomore
– Branden Bowen – Freshman (RS)
Unless Billy Price decides to leave early after this season, we should have 4/5ths of our line returning in 2017, which will be nice for cohesiveness in front of JT Barrett – assuming he returns as well. You can never have too much depth at any of those spots, however, so Urban Meyer has been recruiting offensive linemen heavily. Let’s see what the future potentially holds for the Buckeye offensive line over the next couple of years.
The 2017 class got off to a big start with commitments from consensus top 10 player Josh Myers and high-four star Jake Moretti. Myers hails from Miamisburg, OH and has been committed to the Buckeyes since January 2015. Moretti is an out-of-state recruit from Arvada, CO who committed to the Buckeyes on July 4th of last year. It seems like both guys are finished with the recruiting process and have made their final decisions, so I believe that they’ll both remain part of the Buckeyes’ 2017 class. As I’ve discussed before, Ohio State is short on scholarship space in this class – with the number of players already in the queue for the Buckeyes, I can see maybe one to two more guys becoming a part of this class. Some names to keep in mind are Isaiah Wilson and Robert Hainsey, and Joel Honigford. The first two guys are long shots at best, but Honigford is definitely one to keep an eye on. He hasn’t received an offer from Ohio State yet, but he seems willing to wait for one before making any sort of decision. I can see him camping at Ohio State this summer and pulling in that much-coveted offer … and possibly even committing on the spot. If he doesn’t get one for some reason, I think he heads north to Michigan State, but when all is said and done, I say he earns his offer and becomes the third member of the offensive line class of 2017.
Bringing back almost the entire offensive line in 2017 will be big because the unit will have a full year of experience behind it, almost like the 2015 season when Chase Farris was plugged in to replace Darryl Baldwin. In 2017, I see Brady Taylor taking over for Pat Elflein at center, with Jack Wohlabaugh being his backup. Again, Malcolm Pridgeon could very well start this season, which means he would be again next year, but for now I have him listed as a co-starter for 2016 and 2017.
2017 Projected Depth Chart:
LT: Jamarco Jones – Senior
– Kevin Feder – Sophomore (RS)
LG: Billy Price – Senior (RS)
– Demetrius Knox – Junior (RS)
C: Brady Taylor – Junior (RS)
– Jack Wohlabaugh – Freshman (RS)
RG: Michael Jordan – Sophomore
– Malcolm Pridgeon – Senior
RT: Isaiah Prince – Junior
– Branden Bowen – Sophomore (RS)
The Buckeyes are be poised to lose three of these starters due to graduation after the 2017 season, so Urban Meyer and Greg Studrawa will have some big holes to fill during recruiting. Offensive line recruiting for 2018 hasn’t taken off yet, and the Buckeyes currently only have offers out to four players. Jackson Carman is the one to watch – he hails from Fairfield, OH and seems to be one of the Buckeyes’ biggest targets for 2018. I thought he might commit at the spring game, but that didn’t happen; however, a commitment could come at any time, and Carman would instantly become a leader of the class of 2018. Two others with offers are Nick Petit-Frere out of Tampa, FL, and Will Lawrence from Memphis, TN. Yesterday Matt Jones out of Brooklyn Erasmus received an offer, and it was one he was coveting. He can either play defensive line or offensive line so it is uncertain if he would fit into the offensive line discussion yet. With potentially four guys’ eligibility running out at the end of 2018, the Buckeyes will look to add three or four offensive linemen in this class. I think Carman will be the only current offer to be in the class, but I expect more and more linemen will receive offers as recruiting for the 2018 class gets rolling over the next few months.
2018 Projected Depth Chart:
LT – Kevin Feder – Junior (RS)
– Josh Myers – Freshman
LG – Demetrius Knox – Senior (RS)
– Matthew Burrell – Junior (RS)
C – Brady Taylor – Senior (RS)
– Jack Wohlabaugh – Sophomore (RS)
RG – Michael Jordan – Junior
– Tyler Gerald – Sophomore (RS)
RT – Isaiah Prince – Senior
– Branden Bowen – Junior (RS)
The offensive line is always a hard one to predict. Case in point: I didn’t see Michael Jordan becoming a starter after spring ball, but it’s looking like that might happen unless Malcolm Pridgeon comes in and takes his spot. Projecting farther than this season is even more of a guessing game because so much can happen between now and then. What I know for certain is that we have two of the best coaches in America in Greg Studrawa and Ed Warriner. Hopefully their talents will lead to great development and a consistently strong unit from year to year. The offensive line has been a strong suit for the Buckeyes since Urban took over, and I fully expect that to continue with top notch recruiting and player development.