Jacoby Boren, Ohio State's captain and starting center, has had some issues getting the ball to the QB this year. His performance against Western Michigan was than the two prior games, but his continued improvement is what to watch for as Ohio State keeps fine-tuning its offensive machine.
Weight: 285 lbs
Stat line: (I'll be honest, I haven't been counting his snaps specifically, but I'm betting its damn near all of them). he was just recently short-listed for the best football scholar-athlete in the country.
Boren took over starting duties at center last year and was part of the offensive line renaissance that propelled Ohio State to its national championship. The year, Boren is still the centerpiece of Ohio State's vaunted offensive line, he's a captain of the team, and (evidently? hopefully?) enjoys a nice rapport with Urban Meyer.
What happens when @OSUCoachMeyer parks in @Jboren50 parking spot pic.twitter.com/08loWll0fv— Taylor Decker (@TDeck68) August 4, 2015
The game situation
The Buckeyes' offensive line played admirably in their opener against Virginia Tech before breaking down in the next two games. The coaching staff places part of the blame for that breakdown on the odd defensive fronts Hawaii and NIU trotted out against Ohio State, but there's more than that at play here. Odd defensive fronts don't cause repeated bad snaps each game, though, which was an affliction that plagued Boren in Ohio State's first two home games. High snaps, wide snaps, there were all manner of defects in the way the ball got from Boren to Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.
Certainly Boren's job is made more difficult when he has to repeatedly adjust to a different sized QB behind him. Snapping to the towering oak that is Cardale Jones is different than flicking it back to Barrett, who's several inches shorter. Whether its a lack of preparation, practice time, nerves, or that humid September air that's settled over Ohio these past few weeks, something has been causing snapping issues for Boren. And in an offense that is based on timing and tempo, an extra split-second bobbling the snap can really cause issues.
What to watch for
Boren seemed to have fixed his snapping issues for the most part. Cardale Jones played the vast majority of snaps last week against Western Michigan, as both Barrett's mop up duties were limited and Braxton Miller took far fewer direct snaps. That wasn't the only thing holding back the Ohio State offensive machine, but to my eyes it helped the offense flow and click along better. Short passes were on time, handoffs were crisp, and there were no sacks related to Cardale Jones juggling a high snap. Eventually Ohio State's will be up to full-power and a few botched offensive plays won't be as big a problem, but for now, where points are still at a premium, the simple parts of the offensive game need to be perfect.
Watch for Boren's performance to continue to improve, along with the rest of the Ohio State offense.
Indiana isn't well known for their defensive line, their defensive coordinator did call it his most reliable and deepest group in late summer. The numbers are there, too: IU has notched 9 sacks through four games. Facing a hostile environment (even if it is converted into Horseshoe West), the offensive line will need to be focused and sharp. Jacoby Boren is the leader of this offensive line, and he must continue to improve his leadership and his individual performance of simply getting the ball to Cardale and fronting the pocket. This offense isn't broken, it just needs to be tidied and tightened up. Snapping issues are at the top of that cleaning list.