The play of the Offensive Line will be the determining factor during this Playoff Semifinal Game as both teams have very disruptive personnel on their respective Defensive Lines and Linebacker corps. The game within the trenches will determine who advances or who survives to reach the big dance, the Playoff Championship Game. Both teams will look to maintain the line of scrimmage and dominate the other unit as they both collide. The talent is evident and during this part of the series, I will be previewing the Offensive Lines for the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers.
Per ncaa.com, the edge on the Offensive Line goes to the Clemson Tigers and it isn’t even remotely close in relation to sacks allowed. Clemson ranks #10 in the NCAA in this statistic category with 14 opponent sacks given up by their unit in 13 games. They surrendered 72 yards to those sacks and are averaging 1.08 per game. The Ohio State Buckeyes on the other hand have surrendered 25 sacks in 12 games, which doubles what Clemson has allowed. In the Penn State loss and the Michigan win, the Buckeyes gave up a total of 14 sacks when faced with a disruptive front seven, and guess what Clemson has? An athletic, disruptive and blitz happy front seven. The Buckeyes have given up 127 opponent sack yards and they are giving up 2.08 sacks per contest. Not what Buckeye Nation wants to see or hear, but you have to accept it for what its worth. There has to be a lot of improvement from the Offensive Line, especially with Right Tackle Isaiah Prince being suc a liability for this offense. If they want to come out on top, Prince needs to play his best game of the season because he will have a huge target on his back after giving up a ton of pressures to opposing defensive units.
Mitch Hyatt, LT:
Mitch Hyatt is one of the recruits that Urban Meyer did not get during the 2014 recruiting cycle, and that is one of the biggest misses during his tenure as Head Coach at Ohio State as Hyatt has grown into a monster at the Left Tackle position for Clemson, as he has allowed one sack during his tenure at Clemson. Hyatt comes from Suwanee, Georgia and after visiting Clemson during the recruiting cycle, he chose the nearby Tigers. Hyatt is the image of consistency that the Tigers boast on their roster and he will be looked at and leaned upon by his teammates. Hyatt is 6-5 295 lbs and like a had mentioned he is a beast on the Offensive Line. He play with an edge and a degree of nastiness, and he always finishes his blocks. Hyatt is in his second year at Clemson and he has improved a lot during his time there. It should be a matchup to watch as he will see a few combinations of Defensive Linemen when going up against Ohio State.
Taylor Hearn, LG:
Taylor Hearn is the starting Left Guard for Clemson. Hearn is 6-5, 325 lbs and he is the second heaviest Offensive Lineman on the roster. Hearn looks and plays like a bull as he uses his weight and his size to bully opposing players to help Watson move the ball. Hearn has spend three years developing his skill within the Clemson program and early-on, he took a redshirt. Hearn played high school in Williston, South Carolina as he is living his dream in his home state. Last season, Hearn registered 8 knockdown blocks in 180 snaps in 14 games in 2015, so he shows his ability to seek and destroy defenders on blocks.
Jay Guillermo, C:
Jay Guillermo is a Redshirt Senior out of Maryville, Tennessee. Guillermo is 6-3, 310 lbs and is the starting Center for the Clemson Tigers. Last season, Guillermo earned Second-Team All-ACC honors. For this game he will face a Buckeye Defensive front seven that will attempt to give his unit fits on offense. Guillermo has the experience edge because he has faced a supremely talented defensive front in last seasons Playoff Championship Game in the Alabama Crimson Tide. He and his quarterback will be looking to take care of business for another berth in the big game, but for now the Buckeyes stand in the way of that. Guillermo is the glue of the Offensive Line and he is a road grader on offense. He will look to keep the interior defenders and any linebacker who are willing to blitz in check.
Tyrone Crowder, RG:
Tyrone Crowder at Right Guard, is the heaviest of the bunch, weighing 340 lbs. He is 6-2, but his size will be a major concern for Buckeye defenders as he outweighs them all. The closest defender is Michael Hill at 307 lbs. Crowder is a Redshirt Junior and last season he earned Third-team All-ACC honors. He also has big game experience, as he played against Alabama last season in the Championship Game. Crowder is a run blocker who plays much bigger than he is listed as. He play with a chip on his shoulder and he is very nasty. He will be the focal point on offense as he will be utilized primarily as a run blocker. At least that’s what I would do because he outweighs the entire defense that he is facing. Watson and Gallman will be looking to run behind their big man as Clemson looks to shred the Buckeye Defense on the ground first, then eventually through the air.
Sean Pollard, RT:
Sean Pollard is the youngest member on the Offensive Line for Clemson. He is a true Freshman, who is starting on one of the most prolific offenses this season. Pollard is 6-5, 315 lbs and he hails from Jackson Springs, North Carolina. Pollard was the 129 overall player on the Scout site, 173 by ESPN and 177 by Rivals, so he is no slouch. Although he is young, he has found a role within the Offensive Line and he will look to develop against Ohio State. Ohio State will likely attempt to test Pollard throughout the contest, for being the youngest and most inexperienced lineman on the Clemson roster. It will be a stretch to undermine the 14 sacks given up, but whatever edge they can attempt to find is added motivation for Pollard and his teammates.
Jamarco Jones, LT:
Jamarco Jones is the starting Left Tackle for the Ohio State Buckeyes out of Chicago, Illinois. Jones stands at 6-5 and 310 lbs and he will be facing the most dangerous front seven, rivaling arch rival Michigan’s. He will be facing a lot of former Buckeye targets as Coach Meyer has lost more than a few prospective defensive players to Clemson. Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, who were both major needs/wants for Urban Meyer, but the prospect of playing near family won out in the end as both players chose Clemson over Ohio State. Jamarco Jones is one of the better Offensive Linemen on the roster behind upperclassmen Pat Elflein and Billy Price. He will look to keep J.T. Barrett upright against a blitz happy Clemson Defense. Jones has a knack for being up for the challenge and he will look to continue his pursuit of a National Title berth. Jones has been one of the most consistent member of the Slobs, he earned Second-team All-Big Ten honors last season and he has gained valuable experience that helped him develop into the player he is now. He will be looked upon the entire game.
Michael Jordan, LG:
Michael Jordan is the starting Left Guard who hails from Canton, Michigan. He is one of the four Michigan players that chose the Scarlet and Gray over the Maize and Blue. Jordan is massive, standing at 6-7, 310 lbs and he, as a true Freshman, has exceeded expectations as he earned a starting spot over Redshirt Freshman Matthew Burrell. Jordan is the first Buckeye since Orlando Pace in 1994, who had started a season opener and he has started all 12 games so far this season. He beat out a ton of talented Offensive Lineman and that speaks volume to the depth that Coach Meyer has created within his program. Jordan has quietly pieced together a great season. He has grown into the consistent road grader that this staff loves to see and produce. Being on the interior, Jordan will face an athletic and rangy defensive front that blitzes a lot. He will face his biggest test during this game, but there isn’t a better way to grow. He will use this as a test to gage where he stands and how he can improve because they will need his consistency. The Buckeyes love to pull the guard and the center so look for them to try to isolate the edge defenders when the need arises.
Pat Elflein, C:
Pat Elflein is the Ohio State starting Center and one of the team captains on the roster. Elflein is one of three offensive starters from a season ago. A Redshirt Junior, Elflein looks to potentially finish out his career as a Buckeye as a National Champion, but prior to that he and his unit need to do their jobs against a stout Clemson Defense. Elflein is 6-3, 300 lbs and make no mistake, he is the outright leader of the Slobs. Elflein was a little known Offensive Line prospect that has grown and flourished with the Buckeyes. He was selected for and received the Rimington Award for the top Lineman of the year and the Big 10’s version, the Rimington-Pace Award. He stands out and he will be leaned upon to make the proper shifts and callouts during the game. Clemson loves to blitz and they will likely do so, but I feel like they will try to catch the Buckeyes off guard with some zone blitzes, but we will see. The offense moves quicker when Elflein is on top of his game and making the proper reads on the line. Look for him to motion out to seal the edges because the Buckeyes will look to run the ball a lot with the many questions at Wide Receiver looming. He has the most experience out of the entire line and he knows what it takes to succeed as he was a starter for the 2014 National Champion Buckeyes at Left Guard.
Billy Price, RG:
Billy Price is another under-the-radar recruit out of Ohio who developed into another nice player for the Buckeyes. Price is one of the three returning starters for the Buckeyes from a season ago and he looks to finish his Redshirt Sophomore season on top of the College Football mountain, but first he has to take care of business against the Clemson Tigers. Price has been inconsistent lately and this is a concern for the Buckeyes because he has the experience. Price is 6-4, 315 lbs and he is the heaviest Slob of them all. With the body and strength of a wrestler and a interior Defensive Lineman out of high school, he will look to punish the Clemson Defenders when they look to break through the line of scrimmage. He has the ability to become the nastiest Slob of them all this season and he earned First Team All Big Ten honors this season. He and Elflein will look to pick up the younger player if they are beginning to doubt their abilities, during moments of adversity. That is what Price and Elflein have been doing the entire season and I don’t see anything changing. Price helped pick Prince up after the loss to Penn State and for the entirety of the season, he will not leave a fellow Slob behind.
Isaiah Prince, RT:
The biggest liability on the Offensive Line, Isaiah Prince will start once again as the Right Tackle for the Buckeyes as he looks to redeem himself against a dangerous Clemson front seven that loves to blitz. He stands at an imposing 6-7 and he weighs 310 lbs. He is a true Sophomore with a ton of upside and potential. Unfortunately, Prince has been the weakness of the Slobs for the entirety of the season and although as a fan it is easier to talk from the outside in, he hasn’t done that bad of a job for his first year starting. People need to quit going after him, but he will use the criticism to motivate him. Since the Buckeyes began bowl practice, and since Conference Championship Week, Prince has been getting extra reps and working on his craft. He shows the want and the determination to get better. Will his work pay off? We won’t know until game day, but his confidence has been up and down and his fellow Slobs have been there through it all. The staff still trusts him so until he stops trying, I would expect to see him out there instead of Malcolm Pridgeon, who recently had his black stripe removed. The Buckeyes will looks for Prince to improve on pass protections scheme’s and they will look to make an impact in the run and pass game. There is a reason why Alabama wanted when he was coming out of high school. He is a balanced Offensive Lineman who is capable of blocking and when he grasps success, he will be a threat. Growing pains are necessary and I have this odd feeling that he will exceed expectations during this game. He has been under fire a lot this season and this might be his coming out party.