Offensive Line Still Has Questions

The Ohio State offensive line has shown major improvement since the loss to Virginia Tech, but until they have a chance to prove themselves against a stout defense, the questions will continue.

After losing four starters from their front five and transitioning Taylor Decker from right tackle to left tackle in the offseason, there were plenty of questions about the Ohio State offensive line entering the season.

Following a Virginia Tech loss in which the entire team performed poorly and the offensive line allowed seven sacks and pushed forward for just 108 rushing yards on 40 carries the questions grew louder. Now after three strong offensive performances, games the Buckeyes won by a combined 168-52 margin, the questions keep coming.

“Last year we did lose a lot of great guys and it takes a while for us to build that bond together and just keep playing,” starting center Jacoby Boren said. “So I think every game has helped us grow and now I feel like we’re all on the same page and we’re doing pretty well up there. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”

Since the disastrous performance against the Hokies, one exacerbated by the fact that Ohio State was put in obvious passing situations in the second half and quarterback J.T. Barrett was prone to holding the ball too long, the line has allowed four sacks in three games while powering a rushing attack that has averaged 311 yards a game.

Kent State, Cincinnati and Maryland have not been lauded as defensive juggernauts this season and until the line can prove itself against what is thought to be a formidable front the questions will continue. That probably won’t happen until their Nov. 8 game against defending conference champion Michigan State.

Against those teams the coaching staff has used more rotations along the offensive line. Boren has started at center with Billy Price at left guard and Pat Elflein at right guard. Darryl Baldwin has been the starting right tackle while Decker mans the left side. At times, however, Elflein has slide to center allowing Chase Farris to take some reps. Joel Hale continues to push for playing time at guard as well.

“Chase has been doing real well in practice and so has Joel Hale, so I’m sure you’ll see a little more of him too,” Elflein said after the Cincinnati game. “We got us seven guys. We can all go in and perform well, so I’m sure you’ll see all seven of us in there.”

Boren has been dealing with a high ankle sprain and though he hasn’t missed a start he said the open week should help him get to 100 percent. When he is in there, his line-mates trust their anchor.

“We all trust Jacoby. Jacoby’s one of the smartest guys on the whole team, so we feel real comfortable with him in there making all the calls,” Elflein said. “If they were to switch up we’re comfortable with that too, (we) showed Saturday that we can play with a lot of different guys in there. We have a good rotation going and we’ll be alright.”

Boren said he has always been confident in his ability to make the proper protection calls from his center position. Now that the unit and the entire offense has more chemistry things should only get easier.

“I’ve always felt pretty confident in there making the calls and everything else,” Boren said. “That’s never really been a problem I don’t think personally with me. Just our unit cohesion, we’ve come together. We’ve started to play some pretty good ball so we just keep building on it and getting better.”

The Buckeyes are idle this Saturday, meaning the line won’t have a chance to show that progress on the field. Games against Rutgers, Penn State and Illinois follow and despite how well the offensive line plays in those contests, expect the questions to continue. Answers likely won’t come until Nov. 8 in East Lansing.

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