"Is there a [Chase] Farris, one guy who comes in regardless of who goes down? Or does Ohio State finally have the bodies for a true two-deep?"
- Bill Landis, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Last September, Ohio State fans watched in horror as an inexperienced offensive line failed to contain Virginia Tech's "Bear" front, putting new quarterback J.T. Barrett into the turf over and over again. It was Barrett's only loss as Ohio State's starter, and a wake-up call for a unit that had lost several key starters to the NFL in the draft several months earlier.
What a difference a year makes. Heading into the 2015 season, the defending national champs have (according to Phil Steele) the fourth-best offensive line in the country. It's a line that returns almost all its key personnel, and sees a new starter, Chase Farris, who is ready-made for the role he's stepping into. It was Farris who stepped in against Alabama on the goal line when center Jacoby Boren was sidelined with an ankle injury, adding a push on a play that saw Ezekiel Elliott fight his way in for a score.
There is no shortage of talent on this year's offensive line, and though the starting spots are essentially locked up, the big question (posed here by Landis) is what happens if an injury to one of the slobs occurs. At the moment, there are a few pretty plausible scenarios. If Boren were to get injured again, Pat Elflein would slide from right guard to center. That would open up a space for redshirt freshman Demetrius Knox, true freshman Isaiah Prince, or sophomore Jamarco Jones, depending on how Urban Meyer and line coach Ed Warinner shuffled the remaining starters. Prince was the first freshman to have his black stripe removed this season, while Jones is the putative number two at either guard spot. Whatever the case, there's a lot more to be confident about regarding the o-line heading into this year than last.
"Winning the right to fill in for Joey Bosa in the opener also could put a young player on the path to contributing significantly both off the bench this season and as a future cornerstone."
-Austin Ward, ESPN.com
While most of the (starting) offensive line questions have been answered, bigger mysteries abound on the other side of the ball. Since April, the Buckeyes have been tasked with figuring out who their guy is at one defensive end spot, with Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier now gone. But with the news of Joey Bosa's suspension for the opener against Virginia Tech, Urban Meyer and his staff became tasked with filling in both ends of the defensive line.
The first spot looks like it belongs to Tyquan Lewis, as things stand now. The other? There are several options that the Buckeyes could pursue. The most radical plan would involve moving do-it-all outside linebacker Joshua Perry (who quietly led the team in tackles last season) into a Von Miller-type role for the VT game, as a sort of hybrid linebacker-defensive end. We already know that Perry can rush off the edge, so it could be a fit, especially with Ohio State's depth at outside linebacker -- finding someone to put behind him wouldn't be much of a challenge.
The more traditional approach (and the more likely) would see Perry stay put, while either Sam Hubbard or Jalyn Holmes jumps in at defensive end. Neither have much in the way of in-game experience, but the coaches are big fans of what each brings to the table, and have a lot of confidence that they can get the job done up front. Neither is as good as Joey Bosa, of course. But being good enough is all that will count in the season's first game.
"God didn't make your body to pull a hamstring. So something happened in the weight training, in the hydration, in the too many reps."
- Urban Meyer, via Tim May (The Columbus Dispatch)
Last year, Urban Meyer spent several days with Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly. One of Meyer's biggest takeaways from the time spent with one of coaching's foremost analytical minds? The need for more player tracking data. Now, in concert with the team's director of sport performance, Mickey Marotti, Meyer gets all the information about players that he could possibly want.
The team tracks everything from calories burned to distance run during training to how many snaps a player sees between games and practices. They use all of this information to, first and foremost, take better care of the student-athletes under their tutelage. "We get all that information, and we use that for the safety of the player," Meyer told May. Heart rate monitors ensure that no one is dangerously over-taxing himself. Gauges of force input and output give coaches information about how hard players are hitting, and being hit. Rep trackers give coaches a sense of when a player might need to take a few snaps off. The list goes on and on.
The Buckeyes suffered a few notable injuries last season -- you may remember a brace of talented quarterbacks dealing with those -- and are hoping that by aggregating as much data as possible, they can better prevent those injuries from occurring. They can also help players rehab from injuries more effectively using that information, as players like Ezekiel Elliott return from offseason surgery. May does point out that last year, as these ideas were first being piloted, the Buckeyes suffered very few soft-tissue injuries, a trend that will likely continue given that this program is designed to prevent (or at least mitigate) them.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- Brady Hoke may not be coaching football anymore, but his Ohio State (err, "Ohio") hatred still burns bright.
- Five Republican presidential candidates have descended on Columbus for a "Defending the Dream" summit.
- Toxic algae blooms have reached the Ohio River! Summer fun!
- Ohio's 5% unemployment is the lowest since 2001. THANKS, OBAMA.