Setback Sets Up Success

Urban Meyer is fond of saying his program is now testimony and not theory, and the offensive line recruiting is starting to reap the benefits of that transformation.

It's perhaps because of his lowest low that Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warinner, now also the team's offensive coordinator, is so highly regarded.

In 2014, when he had to replace four starters on the offensive line – three of which went on to start in the NFL as rookies – Warinner watched on the sidelines as his players wilted under relentless pressure from Virginia Tech. Allowing six sacks in the fourth quarter alone did enough to seal Ohio State’s fate, but the icing on the cake came when a three-man rush still pressured J.T. Barrett into a throw that turned a potential game-tying drive into a game-clinching pick six.

“It’s hard because it seems like there’s always going to be one extra guy that nobody’s blocking,” right tackle Darryl Baldwin said after the game. “It just felt like that all night for us.”

Four months later, the transformation of the offensive line reached inconceivable status. The Buckeye trenchmen bullied Alabama and bossed Oregon en route to a CFP national title. Running behind left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Billy Price, center Jacoby Boren, right guard Pat Elflein and Baldwin, Ezekiel Elliott racked up nearly 700 yards in Ohio State’s three postseason games.

“They’ve been maturing and growing and buying in and every week getting better,” then-offensive coordinator Tom Herman said of the offensive line after the title game. “If there is a better O-line coach in America than Ed Warinner you are going to have to prove it to me, because I don’t think there is. They love him, they play hard for him and they play for each other.”

Half a year later, that sentiment abounds not just among the Ohio State coaching staff but also in the players Ohio State is recruiting. Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit three-star center Jack Wohlabaugh was at Ohio State’s camp on June 13. Wohlbaugh received a scholarship offer at the Ohio State spring game and committed on the spot, but he still came to a one-day camp in Columbus because he wanted to get a taste of what it was like to work with Warinner.

Wohlabaugh said he took notice of the fact that Ohio State was able to eventually thrive in the trenches despite losing almost its entire group of starters from the previous season.

“They approach it differently than any other school,” he said. “Everyone wants to compete and everyone’s trying to get better. They lose four starters and they came back and were the No. 1 O-line in the nation. They’re doing something different here.”

It’s easy to understand why a guy who committed to play for Warinner would be excited about the chance to work with him at a camp, but virtually every offensive lineman interviewed after the two camps over the past week has thrown praise Warinner’s way.

It all keeps coming back to one thing – the improvement since the Virginia Tech game. What was once an unfathomably low moment for the position group is now a selling point.

“Last year, I think we can all agree in the Virginia Tech game his O-line looked average, and nothing at Ohio State is average,” said Blaine Scott, a 2018 prospect out of Portsmouth (Ohio) Sciotoville East. “They came to practice every single day, got on the grind and by the end of the year they were the best freaking O-line in the nation and won a national championship. That definitely stands out.”

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