That culminated, of course, with a national championship last season, but the Buckeyes did it without much of an on-field contribution from Chase Farris.
He was the team’s No. 6 offensive lineman by the end of the season, taking the field when Jacoby Boren was dinged up for a few plays in the Sugar Bowl and helping lead the way for a touchdown, but by and large he was a reserve as the Buckeyes’ starting five solidified into one of the best units in the nation.
Four of those players return while right tackle Darryl Baldwin graduated, and Farris, now a senior, is in his last chance to earn a starting role at Ohio State.
Now, The Chase for Chase is on.
“I just went into the spring with the mind-set that I have to get the job done,” he said this spring. “I just have to do it. There is no other way, there are no other options. This is the last year I got, I’m trying to make the best out of it.”
Farris seems to be locked in a battle with true sophomore Jamarco Jones for the spot, and the two come from differing backgrounds, though most observers agree each has the talent and disposition to handle the position.
A native of Elyria, Ohio, Farris arrived as a four-star defensive lineman before moving to the offense when Urban Meyer and line coach Ed Warinner arrived in 2012. He then moved back to defense in 2013 and returned to offense last season. Jones, meanwhile, is from Chicago and entered as the top tackle in the Midwest in the class of 2014; he was rated the No. 63 player in the nation overall in his class and was viewed as the kind of player who could step in right away.
Warinner said either could win the spot, noting that Jones “isn’t by any means just going to let (Farris) have it,” but that the age and experience difference means it could be Farris’ time to become a starter.
So what has stood in Farris’ way so far? A lack of opportunity and bad timing, it would appear. In 2012, he was a pleasant surprise in his first year on offense, becoming the No. 6 lineman and earning praise from Meyer and Warinner during his redshirt freshman season.
He went into 2013 with momentum and expected to battle Taylor Decker for the lone open spot – at right tackle, just like this year – but lost the competition. Soon, the defensive line was beset by injuries, including one to Tommy Schutt, and Farris was needed there, so he swapped over. Once Schutt was healthy, Farris was essentially a man without a country.
He returned to the offensive line for 2014, but not after undergoing surgery that kept him out all of spring ball. That put Farris behind in the battle for playing time, and again he was the No. 6 lineman – good enough to play but not at the expense of the chemistry the line was developing.
“A year ago at this time he didn’t practice,” Warinner said. “So we got him in the summer and it took a while for him to get his rhythm. He hit a stride where we thought he was really playing good by the middle, toward the end of the season but you’ve got a starting lineup, we’re on a roll, Darryl Baldwin is playing his butt off, so we spot played him here and there. Just didn’t really shake up the rotation, but he was ready to be a starter toward the end or middle of last year.”
Now, he could very well be a starter. Farris has earned most of the reps at right tackle, with Jones spelling the veteran Decker when he rests, and it appears it’s his spot to lose.
“I’ve been really impressed with Chase,” Decker said. “He had a great offseason I thought. I’ve always liked the kind of work ethic he had, and I think – especially at the end of last year – with guys getting a ton of game reps he got a lot of practice reps. He started to come on, and I think that snowballed into his offseason.”
Nothing will be given, though, so the fifth-year senior will have to continue battling Jones likely through training camp. In other words, The Chase isn’t over, but things could just be beginning for Chase.
“I’m not going to say I view myself as a starter,” Farris said. “I view myself as a vet, I’ve been around the block a few times. Offense and defense. Guard and tackle. D-tackle and D-end. I’ve been around the block a few times so I just know what it takes and I’m just trying to get there.”