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Ohio State’s offensive line is putting in the hours to improve their game

They didn’t take Urban Meyer’s recent criticism lightly.

Ohio State v Penn State

“After the spring game, coach Urban Meyer said that seven of the team’s nine positions were up to standard. He didn’t name the laggards, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to speculate that the offensive line was one. The linemen have taken their charge seriously. ”

- Bill Rabinowitz, Dispatch.com

Last season, while Ohio State ranked 11th nationally in rushing offense, with 245.23 yards per game, they were also tied for 71st in sacks allowed, giving up 28. This fall, the offensive line is projected to return four starters: Billy Price, Jamarco Jones, Michael Jordan, and Isaiah Prince, with Price moving from guard to center.

Despite a measure of statistical success, for much of last season it felt like quarterback J.T. Barrett was constantly under pressure, and offensive line penalties derailed drives at the most inopportune times. If the Buckeyes are going to contend for a conference title and a second-straight College Football Playoff berth, the line will need to improve enough to where it can be mentioned in the same conversation as the 2014 unit.

In pursuit of that goal, strength coach Mickey Marotti is putting the slobs through their paces, and they are spending increased hours on the mental side of the game, breaking down film and preparing for all possible defenses that could be used to combat their tried-and-true formations.

Fortunately for the unit, they will be protecting the most seasoned quarterback in the conference, who has shown an ability to elude pressure in the past. However, play-making H-back Curtis Samuel is now a member of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, so a larger portion of the carries will likely go to sophomore running back Mike Weber, as well as the newly re-positioned Parris Campbell at H-back.

While both players have experience in the offense, they will be each taking on slightly different roles; Weber without Samuel’s big play ability to rely on, and Campbell adjusting to a new position. Their success, along with that of Barrett, will be fundamentally impacted by how well the offensive line congeals before the season kicks off.

“To say the head coach is off to a fast start would be an understatement. Just take a look at what has transpired since he was formally introduced as the new leader of the basketball program.”

- Charlie Lockhart, ScarletAndGame.com

When you unceremoniously fire the winningest coach in program history more than two months after the season ended and in the middle of one of the busiest recruiting periods of the year, the assumption is that the team is automatically placed behind the 8-ball for at least the next season.

However, things have moved quickly since Chris Holtmann was introduced to succeed Thad Matta as Ohio State’s men’s basketball coach, and now, all signs are seemingly pointed up. As Lockhart notes, from his introductory press conference to the assembling of his staff, nearly every move that the new coach has made has been well received by the media, Buckeye fans, and basketball insiders alike.

That being typed, those things do very little to immediately impact the on-court product of a team that has severely underachieved over the past two seasons, and is facing significant deficiencies at multiple spots on its roster. But with the commitment of four-star forward Kyle Young, who had previously signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Butler, enthusiasm for the 2017-2018 season is again on the rise. With a number of open roster spots, it will be interesting to see if Holtmann is able to parlay this momentum and convince any other players to join the Scarlet and Gray for his first season.

“Ohio State is going to be good. It's an obvious favorite in the Big Ten and a reasonable preseason playoff pick. But it also has to play Oklahoma, Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan. Those last two will both be on the road. So are two losses within the realm of possibility this season? I have to say yes.”

- Tom Fornelli, CBSSports.com

While one can argue with the over/under projections that Fornelli lays out for all of the Big Ten teams (and I would), what the Vegas numbers underscore is that, for the umpteenth year in a row, Ohio State is the king of the conference’s hill. While enthusiasm has been high for Michigan since Jim Harbaugh returned to Ann Arbor, and the likes of Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State can occasionally land a solid punch outside its weight-class, OSU continues to be the Big Ten’s bellwether.

The Buckeyes have won or shared the division title in each of Meyer’s five seasons, and since Jim Tressel’s National Championship season of 2002, have finished outside of the top-10 in both major polls only twice: OSU was 20/19 in 2004, and unranked in Luke Fickell’s season as interim coach in 2011.

It goes without saying that no other school in the conference (and, save Alabama, no one in the country) can rival those results. So before we get caught up in the pomp and circumstance (and stress and nit-picking) of the college football season, take a few minutes to reflect on just how lucky we are to root for the Buckeyes.

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