Coach: Ed Warinner (fourth year)
2014 BSB Final Grade: A-
Even for a man viewed as a maestro of coaching the offensive line, this was Ed Warinner’s masterpiece.
The OSU coach – who earned a promotion to offensive coordinator after the season – took a unit with four new starters and turned it into a bullying front that dominated in the postseason. It wasn’t always pretty (the six fourth-quarter sacks allowed against Virginia Tech showed how much work had to be done), but by January the Buckeyes were punishing other teams in the trenches.
Warinner’s work can be summed up in one anecdote. Against Alabama, center Jacoby Boren was injured and had to exit. Right guard Pat Elflein moved to center and Chase Farris came off the bench to fill in at right guard. On the next play, Elliott ran behind the two for OSU’s first touchdown of the game.
Despite the early struggles, the departure of three rookie NFL starters wasn’t even noticeable by the end of the season. In 2015, Warinner will have four seasoned returning starters to mold into an even more ruthless blocking machine.
- Starting right tackle
68 Taylor Decker (6-7, 315, Sr.)
- Started at left tackle; second-year starter; second-team All-Big Ten
54 Billy Price (6-4, 312, Soph.)
- Started at left guard as a redshirt freshman; came to OSU on defensive line
50 Jacoby Boren (6-1, 285, Sr.)
- First-year starter at center in 2014
65 Patrick Elflein (6-3, 300, Jr.)
- First-team All-Big Ten choice as a first-year starter at right guard
57 Chase Farris (6-5, 300, Sr.)
- OSU’s sixth man on OL in 2012 and ’14; can play guard or tackle
75 Evan Lisle (6-6, 300, Soph.)
- Did not play after suffering a knee injury in 2014
64 Marcelys Jones (6-4, 325, Soph.)
- Earned spot duty at guard in 2014
74 Jamarco Jones (6-4, 306, Soph.)
- Earned spot duty at tackle
78 Demetrius Knox (6-3, 308, R-Fr.)
- Redshirted in 2014
71 Kyle Trout (6-6, 312, R-Fr.)
- Redshirted in 2014
79 Brady Taylor (6-5, 295, R-Fr.)
- Redshirted in 2014
Grant Schmidt (6-6, 275, Fr.)
- Three-star tackle prospect from Sioux Falls, S.D.
76 Darryl Baldwin
Finding a right tackle to replace Baldwin is an obvious one, but the Buckeyes will want to see depth emerge as well. Farris is the only scholarship upperclassman among the players who were reserved a year ago, and Lisle is the player other than Farris and the starters to have been in the program more than a year. So despite the four returning starters, who seem to have their spots set in stone, this is a very young group that Warinner will have to keep molding in order to get it ready for 2015 and beyond.
Player On The Spot
Farris. The Elyria, Ohio, product has been on the cusp of playing time before – he was the Buckeyes’ top line reserve in 2012 and ’14 – but with an opening at tackle, this is his last chance to bust through. While he seems to be better suited to guard – where he played when pressed into duty against Alabama – Farris can play tackle, the staff believes, and he’ll have to fend off challenges from Jamarco Jones and a healthy Lisle for the starting job.
Spring Is A Success If…
The Buckeyes leave confident in the play of the underclassmen. This space isn’t worried about finding a right tackle – Warinner’s already made a converted tight end (Reid Fragel) and a converted defensive tackle (Baldwin) into standouts at the position – but the Buckeyes need to feel confident in the reserves leaving spring. Not only are they key depth, but those players are on the clock as a number of starting jobs will come open in 2016. Getting to the point that those players are ready when that happens is job No. 1 for the Buckeyes this spring. Losing Knox, who reportedly just had surgery and is out for spring, won’t help, but now is the time for such players as Lisle, Jamarco Jones and others to show their stuff.
Spring Is A Failure If…
Anyone gets injured. We’ll keep the same answer we gave at tight end here because of the youth among the backups. The four players returning this year developed a ton of chemistry during the 2014 season and there’s no reason to think that’ll change in 2015, but a significant injury would not only dull the line’s momentum, it would press another inexperienced player into duty. That’s not something the Buckeyes couldn’t overcome – see 2014 if you have any concerns about Warinner’s ability to develop players and do it quickly – but it would cast uncertainty over a critical position.