Reserves Emerge For Ohio State's OL

Ohio State returns four starters on its offensive line, but the Buckeyes knew they would need other linemen to step up in reserve roles. Head coach Urban Meyer said Monday that several players have done so, including junior Darryl Baldwin, sophomore Jacoby Boren and redshirt freshmen Pat Elflein and Kyle Dodson.

The Ohio State football team did not have much to worry about when it came to its starting offensive line entering the 2013 season.

Four of five of its members were senior returning starters with plenty of game experience. The fifth member happened to be a highly-touted prospect who looked ready to emerge into a starter's role in his second year with the Buckeyes.

After that top unit, however, there were concerns heading into preseason camp. Left tackle Jack Mewhort, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Corey Linsley, right guard Marcus Hall and right tackle Taylor Decker – the latter a sophomore and the lone non-senior – provided Urban Meyer and his staff with a group that could be one of the best starting offensive lines in the country. It was the players backing up that quintet needed to step up in August.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes and their fans, that mission appears to have been accomplished. Meyer was asked Monday is if he felt the offensive line was a deeper position group than he thought it would be heading into the season.

"Much deeper," Meyer said.

Several players caught the eye of the second-year Ohio State head coach during the preseason. Four earned specific mentions on Monday: redshirt freshman center/guard Pat Elflein, sophomore center Jacoby Boren, redshirt freshman Kyle Dodson and junior Darryl Baldwin.

Meyer said Baldwin, Elflein and Boren have earned playing time Saturday in the season opener against Buffalo, with Dodson among players that have "really come on" during preseason camp.

"Those are all players that a year ago, to think you would ever let them on the field in a situation where it counts, that's not going to happen," Meyer said.

Elflein (6-3, 295) and Boren (6-2, 290) both dealt with injury issues last season. Elflein had a foot injury that kept him on the sidelines in his first year after a prep career at Pickerington (Ohio) North. A three-star member of OSU's 2012 recruiting class, Elflein was a first team OHSAA Division I all-state pick and a standout wrestler prior coming to OSU.

"He comes out every day and works his butt off," Mewhort said of Elflein. "I think he's going to end up being a good player. He's got an unbelievable motor. He's a tough kid."

Boren, another three-star 2012 recruit, has already become known among teammates as a workout warrior – the first person taken during the Buckeyes' 2013 winter workout team draft – and played in two games last season (vs. Miami (Ohio) and Illinois) after missing time because of shoulder surgery in spring 2012. Like Elflein, Mewhort described the third Boren to play for the Buckeyes as a tough guy.

"He's a high-motor, high-energy guy," Mewhort said of the Pickerington (Ohio) Central product.

Dodson (6-6, 310) took a red shirt last season after midseason shoulder surgery ended his campaign. A four-star player out of Cleveland Heights, Dodson was said to be close to reaching the level of Elflein and Boren as a player who has earned the right to play on Saturdays.

Baldwin perhaps earned the highest praise from Meyer. The Solon, Ohio, native is in his fourth year in the program but only his second on offense. The 6-6, 310-pounder moved from defensive line to the offensive line in spring 2012 and played in all 12 games last season – mainly on special teams. The two-time letter winner is practicing at both right and left tackle and making a good impression on his head coach.

"He's one of the most improved players on the team," Meyer said. "I don't know if I've even mentioned him. What a great kid, no maintenance, no nothing. (He's just) a hard-working guy that gets great grades and is a wonderful player. Great, great representative of Ohio State. He's a guy that you could see going into the game.

"I have no problem putting him, Pat Elflein and Jacoby Boren in the game. And Kyle Dodson is getting close."

Linsley and Norwell missed time during camp with minor injuries, and while they appear to be good to go against the Bulls on Saturday, Meyer sounded relieved to know he has more options behind the five starters at offensive line.

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